Halloween Costumes You Can Throw Together At Thrift Stores

My favorite Halloween costume is Toilet Paper Mummy, which is probably the least expensive get-up you can cobble together outside the ghost-bed sheet motif. All you do is wrap yourself up in toilet paper and duct tape yourself together. The TP mummy is always good for laughs at parties, and the costume only gets better as the night goes on, making you look more and more authentic as the paper tatters and drags behind you.

Money Funk is also into finding cheap costume ideas, and offers up 10 ideas you can patch together with grungy rags you’ll find at a thrift store. Among the concepts: A Bride of Frankenstein, using a formal gown; a pirate with a striped shirt and cutoffs; and a zombie with tattered clothing and a bunch of makeup.

What’s your favorite go-to ghetto Halloween costume idea?

10 Thrift Store Halloween Costume Ideas [Money Funk]


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  1. Phineas says:

    I once wrapped myself in aluminum foil and sprayed glitter glue all over my body. With one flashlight around my neck, I was a disco ball.

  2. SecretAgentWoman says:

    You could also do the Hobo clown, like old vaudeville and Judy Garland.

  3. Tunacrab says:

    Best costume I ever did was Pee Wee Herman. Gray suit, one size too small, five dollars. Found a red bow tie there too. I think I spent more on makeup from the Halloween store.

  4. SaltWater says:

    Was a TP Mummy one year when I was around 9 or 10. Was staying with my Grandma and insisted that to make my mummy costume as gruesome as possible the mummy needed a bloody mouth (blood added to anything back then was always scarier). So she took bright red fingernail polish and dabbed the TP around my mouth area with plenty of polish.
    I think the fumes caused me to have minor brain damage. Seriously.

  5. OnePumpChump says:

    I covered myself in fake blood, especially around the hands and mouth, and got a pair of baby shoes (which I also covered in fake blood) from a thrift store.

  6. Mulva says:

    Black pants, black blazer, hair in high, tight ponytail (sprayed blond), bustier + two party cones (covered in paper or fabric to match bustier) = Madonna

  7. richcreamerybutter says:

    My costumes usually begin with a hot glue gun, a 99-cent store, and a dream.

  8. kimdog says:

    Wear a blue shirt. Stick on bunches of cottonballs here and there. Carry a water gun or bottle. When people ask what you are, tell them “Partly Cloudy with a Chance of Rain”, and give them a squirt.

  9. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    eh, someone needs to watch the movie again. bride of frankenstein doesn’t get a dress. it’s two sheets and some gauze wrapped up your arms.
    although zombie bride/prom queen/hooker is a great thrift store costume – get the dress at least a couple of weeks in advance and either bury it outdoors or put it in the road/driveway and drive over it a lot. slap on some zombie makeup [your choice, freshly dead or long buried] and you’re good to go.
    i did zombie snow white one year. that was fun

    the most common thrift store costume i see on guys is hunter s thompson

  10. Cantras says:

    Survey: Possibly I am remembering this wrong because I was a kid, but is it just me, or did people tend to *make* their costumes more often, say, 15 years ago?
    I feel like when I was a kid, you might buy *pieces* of a costume — a pirate hook or eyepatch, an antenna headband, plastic pitchfork — but the rest of it was cobbled together from stuff you had, found or made.

    I tended to be a doctor (Lab coat, bottle of something borrowed from medicine cabinet, that mirror-headband thinger made with cheap fabric/cardboard/tinfoil… and for some reason we had a real stethoscope) or a bumblebee (hideous black and yellow oversized sweater, your own black pants, tinfoil stinger thing with a safety pin) or a cat (tail with safety pin, kitty ear headband, your own black clothes, some makeup).
    Never, ever, from as early as I can remember up through being too “old” to go trick or treating — did my mom ever buy us a whole costume. I remember at some point she bought a purple and yellow clown suit to wear while handing out candy, but she already had the nose and wig from previous years.

    Was it because she was cheap/thrifty? Or because this is a newish phenomenon?

    Raaa, back in MY DAY… *grumble*… You kids get offa my lawn.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      yeah, my mom made all our costumes. but we also seriously decorated the house too and scared kids so badly they often wet themselves on our walkway.
      but i was a cat, a tiger, a bat, a mermaid, a sorceress, a witch. one year my sister and some of her friends were a caterpillar.


      my mom even made the mermaid tail [and yes i could walk in it, but barely] wig, and seashell bra but she bought the flesh tones leotard for under it.

    • leprechaunshawn says:

      15 years ago there generally were not stores that popped up in September that sold only Halloween stuff until packing up shop after Halloween.

    • Heresy Of Truth says:

      We made all of ours, too. When I got to middle school I made my own.

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      ha, ha, the lab coat… memories…

      My father was an engineer and in one of his jobs he was required to have a lab coat. He rarely wore it, and after he changed jobs, that lab coat got turned into a number of hilarious costumes.

      First Mom used it to give out candy. She got herself up to look like Doctor Frankenstein’s first failed attempt… I think she was trying to be his (zombie? grave robber?) lab assistant Igor, with her hair disheveled into a mop with Aqua Net and greyed into a dirty-looking brown with baby powder, face and hands caked in makeup and dappled with green, brown, and blue eye shadow to look diseased, unevenly blacked out teeth, scars drawn in with eye pencil and lipstick, my dad’s old worn-out gardening pants, and a pair of Dad’s rain boots filled with rocks to give her a painful, labored gait. She was absolutely repulsive. The old family pictures scare me more with every passing year.

      Then I used it for a mad scientist costume. Dad got a bunch of stuff from work that was going to get thrown away and we soldered it together in the basement to make evil… uh, evil… uh, electromechanical apparatuses… kind of like Nylon-age steampunk. But it worked.

      The next year my brother dressed up as a state executioner who had been driven insane by the hideous job. He wore a reflector and stethoscope, carried a syringe with a fake needle, had an “evil electromechanical apparatus” leftover screwed to a couple pieces of scrap wood and strapped to his arm (as though he had destroyed an electric chair), and he kept pretending to see psychopathic tendencies in everyone. It was funny. After that I don’t know what happened to the lab coat.

    • ajlei says:

      We did a lot of the same stuff, too. Or I’d rotate through costumes every few years (witch, cat, I had one of those hoods where you can’t see the face and everyone would think I was a boy :/ ). My mom’s always been pretty thifty, though, and probably wouldn’t have dreamed of buying those $30+ costumes. One year my sister was a Native American so we took a big t-shirt, cut strips on the bottom, strung beads on it, made her a little feather headband, and voila!

      This year I’d probably be trolling Goodwill, I want to be the Wicked Witch of the East (pre-house-smash).

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      We mostly made ours, except when we were little and then Mom would buy us those cheap, jumpsuit-type dime store costumes with the mask that had the elastic string.

      I had one costume with a bloody skull mask and a zombie-ish thing on the front of the actual costume that scared me so bad I couldn’t even look at it! Ah, those were the days.

  11. gearguy says:

    I was a masking tape mummy for a few year running. My favorite part was trying to get all the tape back off, but all that ended when I had an unfortunate bathroom related incident one year.

    After that, Thriller zombie was more my thing.

  12. slappysquirrel says:

    Thrift store prom dress in light color + sugar free strawberry kool aid dumped over self in shower+ Carrie.

  13. AuntieMaim says:

    My favorite was the year a friend and I went as two drunken, feuding women from a 1960s society cocktail party. Vintage outfits cobbled together from our own closets and thrifting, bunches of big jewelry also thrifted or cheapo stuff from Claire’s, ’60s hair and makeup done with stuff we already had, and a couple of martini glasses from the cabinet to drink from. Done! We spent the night pretending to argue about having stolen each other’s husbands, etc, and people started following us around just to see what we would do. Best Halloween ever.

    It also satisfied a salient Halloween costume requirement issued by a good friend: if you’re going to drink, take into account your progressive drunkenness when planning a costume. Drunk hobo? Amusing. Drunk clown? Disturbing. Drunk 1960s cocktail party lady? Amusing. Drunk Dora the Explorer? Disturbing.

    This year my husband and I are planning to dress as Katy Perry and Russell Brand. I tried to convince him to be Katy Perry, but that didn’t fly. Funnily enough, I should be able to put together most of both our costumes from stuff I have in my closet. A couple of cheapo wigs and some black skinny jeans for him and we should be all set.

    • Big Mama Pain says:

      Hahaha, it’s funny that you pointed out the “state” you’ll wind up in, because I was thinking how clever your idea was for that very reason. I “fell off the wagon” one year for Halloween (as the costume), so obviously I became more in character the more I drank. It was awesome!

  14. JixiLou says:

    My favorite Halloween costume was a Christmas tree. I found a green dress at the thrift store, along with some dingy Christmas decorations- a small fake tree, and lots of garlands. I fashioned a weird hat out of the fake tree, and then wrapped myself in garlands.

    Only problem was I kept walking into doorways all night- the tree made me way too tall. And at the end of the night, I had to cut myself out of the garlands.

  15. xredgambit says:

    get a blue outfit then blue yourself. Instant Tobias Funke. Then just spout out rand homoerotic things that could be said another way. Also get an Analrapist business card if you want to be authentic.

    Or or, just go around narriating what others are doing. Then you can be a really annoying guy.

  16. JulesNoctambule says:

    My cheapest Halloween costumes ever were when I worked in a costume shop that did a haunted house event every year; whether behind the counter or pretending to rise from a coffin I was in a work-subsidized costume. I’d just not bother changing out of whatever I’d been dressed in all day.

    Other than that, I stick to whatever I can create out of my collection of vintage clothes and huge selection of makeup. I think my favourite was when I went as a woman from a black-and-white photograph. Not a hint of anything but grey, black and white on me except my eyes!

  17. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    I went to a party of art students where the hostess and her boyfriend went as Adam and Eve. He wore a miniscule Speedo covered with silk ivy leaves (you know, the ones from silk flowers… they don’t sell silk “fig” leaves) and carried an apple that he munched on all night (he kept getting them out of the kitchen, and confessed to me later he couldn’t stand the sign of an apple the next day). She wore a practically imperceptible bikini bottom covered in the same silk ivy leaves, and an immensely long stuffed snake draped over her neck and torso so it… well, I was going to say kept her from being indecent, but there was no making that costume decent. I’m proud to say I invented and made the snake top, LOL.

    “Trailer trash” is also another fun frugal costume.

  18. antifox says:

    Years ago got thermal underwear on my kids then wrapped in torn sheets/pillow cases and bandages black eyeliner, they were scary, about 10dollars for 2

  19. pixiegirl says:

    crazy cat lady. you can dress like a hobo and then strategically glue some stuffed animal cats to you and carry around a basket with more stuffed animal cats and randomly throw them at people at the party!

    • Cantras says:

      True story: I found a black kitten on halloween once. I set him into the front of my dress to carry him, and he was part of my witch costume until we got to some people who wanted him.

  20. Jedana says:

    The morning after the night before.

    Did my makeup like I was going out partying, then smeared the left half of it pretty badly. Did the hair up, then mussed the left half up. Dressed up nice, left off the left shoe and tore the panty hose on that side. Then I misbuttoned the shirt and had my panties sticking out of the top of the back of the skirt.

  21. Muscato says:

    For a party the theme of which was “Hollywood on the Moon” I found a great old 30s crepe-de-chine evening gown and paired it with silver shoes, turban, and gloves. With that, lots of metallic makeup over a pale green base, and a spark-spitting toy ray gun, I was The Intergalactic Norma Shearer.

    Would have won it if hadn’t been a for a very, very hot man who came wearing nothing but a silver G-string and an enormous hat that was an elaborately detailed diorama of the Hollywood hills (complete with little mansions that lit up and the H O L L Y WO O D sign), into which a crescent moon had crashed. The damn thing was about three feet around and, even without the hot-man-in-g-string under it, spectacular.

  22. superml says:

    I still say going out as yourself is the best costume.
    And cheapest too.

  23. thebt1 says:

    In college, I dressed up as a toilet paper mummy cowboy (I took one of my friends cowboy hats). The dorm had toilet paper, so it didn’t technically cost me anything, which just meant more beer :) I don’t think I’ve ever actually bought an actual costume, just thrift store stuff.

  24. SilentAgenger says:

    ‘guess I’m the only fan of Adam Sandler’s old SNL cheap Halloween costume ideas.

    “Look at me, I’m crazy protractor beard!”

    “Look at me, I’m crazy newspaper unicorn man!”

    I dunno why, but that skit always made me laugh.

    YouTube it.

  25. speaky2k says:

    One year I was wearing a t-shirt that said “Beer Delivery Guy” and taped 3 empty beer cases together and using a coat hanger & some string attached them to my back. I was very popular until the party goers realized my boxes were empty.

  26. gman863 says:

    My best two ( under $20 total) thrift store costumes so far have been:

    * Janet Reno (or, more specifically, Will Ferrell’s Janet Reno on SNL). I got a few strange looks in Goodwill buying a plus size skirt, silk blouse and fake pearls and a ton of laughs for three Halloweens in a row.

    * Broken mannequin parts, including a head hollowed out to hold a 12-ounce drink. White t-shirt and jeans with a dash of fake blood. If you haven’t guessed yet, I was singing Pinkard & Bowden’s parody of a Garth Brooks hit. I’ve got friends in crawl spaces, I’m the queer that made Milwaukee famous…

  27. CountryJustice says:

    A few years ago, I took a white tshirt with 3/4 length blue sleeves and glued some felt scraps to the front in the shape of a raincloud. A cheap headband and a couple more felt scraps gave me ears. Add a little blue paint to the tip of my nose, throw on some blue jeans, and voila! Grumpy Bear.

    Another one: Biggest red t-shirt I could find (I think it was a 4XL). Giant yellow “A” on the front. Cheap red cap from craft store, and voila! Alvin the Chipmunk. That’s one you can get away with wearing blue jeans with because most people would really rather you had pants on than, uh, not.

    • CountryJustice says:

      Another one I forgot about: Didn’t need to buy a single thing for it.

      Short sleeve blue button down shirt, dark blue pants, white sneakers, red beanie cap, and a few days of beard growth, and voila! Steve Zissou.

  28. Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

    Where’s Waldo?? ON CONSUMERIST!

  29. momtimestwo says:

    Look for bedbugs in clothes you get from thriftstores. You don’t want to take any hitchhikers home.

  30. laffmakr says:

    A friend glued socks and underwear all over a black sweatsuit then frizzed up his hair. He was Static Cling.

  31. Chip Skylark of Space says:

    in 1977, I spread some strawberry jam on my cheek, and came to a party as a dose of the clap. That was the absolutely cheapest costume I ever put together. Over the course of the evening, as it dried, that cheek became a little painful as the skin tightened, but it washed off without issue.

  32. msky says:

    A red t-shirt, tool belt, blue overalls and a red had with a paper M glued to it. I was Mario.

    • MrEvil says:

      Replace the red hat with a hard hat and buy a pair of welding goggles and you can easily convert that costume to the Engineer from TF2.

  33. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Here is my best cheapo Halloween trick. For years I did face painting for Halloween. Here is how I made enough makeup to last me all season, for under ten dollars:

    I went to the craft store and bought cheapo acrylic paint in those little bottles. I got one each of white, black, red, yellow, blue, green, and brown. I went to the grocery store and bought a big bottle of plain old-fashioned Ivory dish liquid. I got my hands on some assorted small jars (baby food jars will work, but so will any airtight small jar) and some old foam egg cartons for mixing colors.

    So, I put a couple tablespoons of Ivory soap in each jar and added enough paint to color it well (it will take less than the amount of soap). This mixture is non-toxic, paints smoothly and well, lasts a long time, cleans up from the paintbrushes and the skin with plain water even when totally dry, and does not leave a colored residue on the skin (unless you use too much paint in proportion to soap).

  34. Gravitational Eddy says:

    Zombies are hot right now and dead (forgive me) simple to make.
    First find a radical Vodou priest and a freshly dead person….
    you may have to actually make the dead person first…

    just kidding.

    Here’s the short version that does not require a dead people, or a Priest.
    All it requires is a can of Halloween gray or white latex hair spray paint, a change of clothes (worn out jeans, old plaid flannel shirt (the more raggedy, the better) cheap tennis shoes, and some black face paint.

    Dress in the clothes and have a friend paint you.
    (wear a ballcap to protect your hair at first)
    Have the friend spray you lightly all over, head to toe. Just a general dusting, the heavier it is the more obvious it is. It may take more than one coat. The idea is to make the tint on the clothes match your face and hands/skin.
    Don’t go real heavy on the face, but you do want even and not splotchy coverage
    (keep your eyes closed when they spray the face and don’t inhale the spray)

    This came about after I saw a friend (who paints new construction apartments for a living)
    who explained he’d gotten blow-back while painting in a close corner inside a closet.
    He got the closet and himself painted rather quickly. Those big commercial airless spray guns can move a lot of paint. BTW, the paint color was eggshell white latex, and he washed up just fine, not a trace of paint later on.

  35. afq1483 says:

    Buy a cheap superman t-shirt, wear it under a dress shirt and pants, a cheap pair of sunglasses with the lenses removed (or your regular glasses if you have them) and you are an instant Clark Kent.

  36. cozynite says:

    One year I was the Morton Salt girl. I bought a white dress and dyed it yellow and found yellow shoes at the dollar store. I then took a Quaker Oat container, glued a mock Morton salt label on it, attached wire with clear beads (as the salt) and used it as my purse. Love that costume.

    Last year, I went as a (Wicker Park) hipster: 99 cent sweater, shorts that I had, purple tights, the yellow shoes and an orange bag.

  37. xnihilx says:

    I made an American McGee’s Alice costume out of things entirely purchased at Goodwill. I bought a navy dress and a nurse’s one piece shorts jumper uniform. Cut the bottom into a skirt, cut the back off, cut the sleeves off (turning it into a pinafore basically), put that over the navy blue dress and Viola instant Alice. Just had to put the symbols on the pockets of the pinafore and cut an omega symbol out of cardboard hung that on some string. Already had the boots and black tights. :) Think it cost me $15-20 total

  38. Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

    Last year I found the perfect costume that could be adapted based upon current scary events.

    I found a full head to toe Tyvek suit with a face mask. Wrote on the back as neatly as possible: H1N1 Plan B This was during the height of the flu scare when there was not enough vaccine to go around. The adults loved it and it went completely over the kids heads.

  39. Rabbitmancer says:

    This year, I’m going to be a Sim. I cut a green diamond out of fun foam and glued it vertically to a headband. That’s it. =)

  40. Disappointed says:

    One year, a friend of mine came to a Halloween party wearing a black garbage bag that he had cut arm holes out of (with black pants and a shirt underneath, of course), and had liberally dusted his hair and face with flour. What was he? “White Trash”. The costume was a big hit!

  41. Sumtron5000 says:

    I once went as Marty McFly. Everything was from Goodwill- bubblevest, nikes, plaid shirt, skateboard w/o the trucks and a mattel logo pasted on. And yes, I’m a girl. Best costume ever!

  42. Chellie says:

    One year I found a devil horns headband/forked tail set for a couple bucks. I slapped those on, got an old piece of cardboard, and on one side wrote “Georgia or Bust” and on the other “Will Fiddle for Souls.”
    This costume may not work in locales unfamiliar with Charlie Daniels.

    My old standby, though is putting on my bathing suit and wrapping myself up in Saran Wrap. Get an old Tupperware container, poke some holes in each side, and attach a string/ribbon to make a chinstrap – plop the Tupperware hat on your head. Take some foil bits and stick them into the Saran wrapping, twist some more in your hair, make a bracelet out of it, etc. Carry a fork.
    When asked what the hell you’re supposed to be… “Leftovers.”

  43. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I never get to go to Halloween parties anymore. I’m sad.

    I do have a cap that says “Last Minute Costume” on it that I got at a discount store. One time at school also I went as a fiend: torn blue jeans, a raggy flannel shirt, and I drew beard stubble / dirty marks all over my face with an eyebrow pencil (I’m a girl) and chained myself up so that I was bent over and had to hobble around.

  44. savvy9999 says:

    this was apropos about 10 years ago, and I got 2 Halloweens out of it: Wear khakis and a trade convention shirt; Make a noose around your neck with some CAT5 cable. Instant dot-com tech worker casualty.

  45. Get A Amberlance says:

    I’ve done so many over the years…I refuse to pay for expensive costumes that look cheap anyway. I love Halloween, and part of the fun is creating costumes!

    I guess if I had to pick one–I donned my tight Hooters tank, a small pair of shorts, stockings, scrunched socks, and sneakers. I found a really ugly mask we used in our bay window and wore it.

    During the day when I couldn’t wear the mask, I was continually asked if I was going to work!!! It didn’t cost me a dime :)

  46. selianth says:

    I read one today that I loved. Wear a small bathing suit or bikini, then cover it all up by wrapping in saran wrap. Put a small cut on your cheek with makeup. Voila, you’re a Dexter victim.

  47. BryDawg says:

    I went as Billy Mays last year. Cost: $2. I already had a blue shirt and kahkis (as most people do). I printed out an OxyClean logo to pin to my shirt and used a piece of black construction paper I already had to make a beard. The only thing I bought was a small can of black hair-color spray. And, it was the most popular costume of the party! Not bad for $2 and 5 minutes of time.

  48. lalakl says:

    I once wrapped myself in saran wrap and tape (with white fabric beneath the saran wrap for modesty) and painted a red line on my cheek–I was a Dexter victim.

  49. el-brazo-onofre says:

    In ’84, I had a a long side strap on my school backpack with a leather handle. It broke and voila, Ghostbuster!

  50. DJ Nihil says:

    Alex from Clockwork Orange and Rorscach from Watchmen.

  51. RokMartian says:

    A number of years ago, I took a plain white t-shirt, scribbled a bunch of graffiti all over it and tied a roll of toilet paper to a belt loop. I was a “Bathroom Wall”

  52. Nogling says:

    Found a lab coat at a thrift store for $3. Had a cheapie nurse’s cap from a post-Halloween sale. Some tea, acrylic paints, and a claustrophobic twenty minutes with my head wrapped in plaster bandages, and I was one of the Dark Nurses from Silent Hill. Also made a floor-length apron out of burlap (distressed with acrylics and spray paint and sewn together with black yarn) and a helmet out of cardboard, some plastic shot glasses from the dollar store, and the plastic stems from four pinwheels (also from the dollar store), and two pieces of cross stitch backing, and the man-animal was Pyramid Head. I made the great knife out of a pool cue (bent to hell and bought at a pawn shop for $5) and more cardboard.

    The cardboard was free. Grand total, I spent about $20 for two costumes. Just won our SECOND costume contest last night – the first one we got a goodie bag, this one we won $125. I’ve always made my own Halloween costumes, and I’ve always gotten compliments on them. I think the Pyramid Head/Dark Nurse combo was the most expensive costume I’ve ever made. Yes, they take time. Yes, they take work. Yes, they’re WAY more satisfying than buying something cheesy and absurdly overpriced.