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13 cheap and low effort Halloween costumes

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Halloween is a major date on the student calendar, but impressing your friends with an amazing costume can get a little pricey. Here are our best ideas for Halloween costumes on a budget...

pumpkin with face and ghost sheet

Credit: New Africa, Mix and Match Studio, LoulouVonGlup – Shutterstock

Whether you're the self-proclaimed king or queen of fancy dress, or prefer something a little more vanilla, we've got loads of ideas that won't break the bank.

That means avoiding shelling out around £45 on this impressive, but ultimately excessive, traffic cone costume.

Not only that, but we've hand-picked costumes which won't take you hours to complete and can be made with things lying around the house. You'll be pleasantly surprised by just how good they are.

Creating an epic fancy dress costume is one of the things on our ultimate university bucket list.

Best cheap Halloween costume ideas

These are some awesome low effort Halloween costumes:

  1. Jelly Beans costume

    Grab yourself a clear (and clean!) bin bag and make a few holes for limbs. Then, fill it with balloons.

    Weave a ribbon through a few smaller holes at the top of the bag and tie it loosely at the neck. That way, it doesn't end up around your ankles. Or see if you can find some bin bags with long handle ties that will do the same job.

    Walking around inside a bag of balloons won't be easy, but it'll definitely add to the night's entertainment!

    Cost: 20 clear bin bags for around £3 (you'll need to bring back-ups in case of any tears!) and 50 multicoloured balloons for around £3.

  2. Silent Movie Star costume

    Since it's not difficult to find black and white clothing, this is one of the easiest student Halloween costumes. With a dash of white face paint, you can quickly put together a silent film star costume.

    This idea's especially great if you aren't a massive fan of the people you're going to party with, as staying silent can be declared part of the act.

    If anybody dares talk to you, simply point them towards the selection of witty placards that you've prepared to help you communicate. You can add phrases like "Where can I find the vodka?" and other important questions.

    Similarly, if you happen to have a stripy top, white gloves and a beret lying around – you're the perfect mime!

    Cost: White face paint for about £4, plus the tiny cost of printing off your speech placards.

  3. Fried Egg costume

    It's amazing what can be achieved with a bit of white card and something yellow.

    To make the egg yolk for this budget Halloween costume, you can either glue on an upside-down mixing bowl (a yellow one, obviously), stitch together some yellow material or simply paint a big yellow circle in the middle.

    Aside from reminding everyone of what they'll be trying to stomach in the morning to fight the hangover, this costume is super easy and memorable (and not to mention cheap).

    Just bear in mind the logistics of travel in this instance. Climbing into a taxi dressed as a fried egg will be... interesting.

    Cost: White card (feel free to tape some smaller pieces together) for around £5, a plastic bowl or yellow paint (both around £2) and some string to strap the egg around your neck.

  4. 404 Error costume

    Error 404 Costume Not Found costume

    Credit: Tableau Software – Pinterest

    This is definitely one for the tech buffs among you. And as far as low effort Halloween costumes go, you'll struggle to find one that gets you more kudos.

    Upstage everyone effortlessly by donning your witty 'I'm above all this fancy dress sh*t' look.

    Cost: White t-shirt (about £5 from Primark) and fabric pens or black marker. For an even more minimal effort costume, simply print off the message and tape it to your top.

  5. Mummy costume

    This is quite possibly the cheapest Halloween costume on our list. You'll probably already have everything you need (unless you're in a student house that's forever running out of toilet roll).

    To prevent the loo roll from tearing and leaving a trail behind you, mix things up with some white bandages at the end as this will keep things in place.

    For added effect, you can also splash some fake blood around (red food colouring will do the trick too). Just be careful not to turn your clothes red in the process.

    Also, consider bounding your top and bottom halves separately. Otherwise, you'll encounter some issues when you need to pee (although you'll never be short of loo roll for once!).

    Cost: Six toilet rolls for around £3 (although you can make some money back by selling your empties).

  6. Dead Celebrity costume

    dead celebrities costumes

    Credit: The Costume Shop

    Elvis, Shakespeare, Marilyn Monroe... this is particularly handy if you've dressed up as them before, Just do it again, but the dead way. Recycle, baby!

    Add some fake blood, pale white face paint and some scratches (with eyeliner) and you'll instantly look like you've put in a million times more effort than the guys dressed up as Hulk or The Smurfs... again.

    Cost: Cheap makeup for around £2 and your pre-owned costume (free).

  7. Creepy Doll costume

    Nothing screams low-budget horror more than an eerie toy that's seen better days. And thankfully, this costume is equally low in effort as it is in budget.

    A simple, ripped-up dress will do the trick, coupled with some inventive makeup. Go for massive eyes, a pale cracked face and pouting lips.

    Raid your local charity shop for an old dress. If you want to go all out, you could use some wood and string to construct a puppet mechanism above your head.

    Cost: Cheap makeup for about £2 and an old dress.

  8. Skeleton costume

    skeleton costume

    Credit: Chris Palmer - Flickr

    There are two main ways of doing the classic skeleton look.

    You can grab an all-black outfit and draw bones on top with chalk or a white fabric pen. Alternatively, you can layer black clothes on top of white, and cut out shapes in the black top to create the bones.

    Some white face paint and black eyeliner around the eyes will finish this one off nicely.

    Cost: A black t-shirt and leggings (around £5 each from Primark) and a white fabric pen (about £4) or a white t-shirt (again about £5 from Primark).

  9. Ghost costume

    ghost costumes

    Sheet ghosts are a staple of cheap Halloween costumes. One old sheet with a couple of holes is all you need – what's not to love?

    Working out the perfect positions for some armholes will involve much less pulling and tugging to keep the sheet in place, so take 10 seconds to do this too.

    Cost: single white bed sheet (flat, not fitted!) will cost you around £10. But you can always use an old one spare one.

  10. Jellyfish costume

    Jellyfish costume

    This one comes courtesy of Save the Student's former editor and fancy dress expert, Jess (thanks, Jess!).

    To construct the jellyfish dome, you can use a plastic mixing bowl or a hanging basket liner. Grab yourself some scrap material to cover it and decorate it with some cheap fairy lights and ribbons. To actually attach it to your head, stuff it with newspaper and glue it on a hairband. Easy!

    This costume definitely works best at night in a dark venue, as that's when the fairy lights can really pop. But beware, trying to dance with all that on your head is no mean feat.

    Cost: Hanging basket liner (we'd recommend a 35cm one, which should cost around £12), battery-operated fairy lights (about £4) and ribbon and material (around £4).

  11. Rubik's Cube costume

    Rubik's cube costume

    Credit: AmanDanGo

    We've heard of the Rubik's cube party (where you have to dress in one of the colours of the cube) – but that's a little outdated, especially when you could actually just be a Rubik's cube.

    For this budget Halloween costume, you'll need a cardboard box, coloured paper and paint.

    Making a costume of the Rubik's cube in motion, like the one worn by the guy on the left, is a little more tricky. But, helpfully, the guy who pioneered this on live television has uploaded a step-by-step guide to achieving the look.

    Cost: Cardboard boxes (often free from supermarkets) and coloured paper (less than £10).

  12. LEGO Brick costume

    lego costume

    Credit: boston09 – Instructables

    Sticking with the theme of block-shaped toys (because that's what all the cool kids are wearing this season), we present you with: the LEGO brick.

    All you'll need is a massive cardboard box, some paint, some yoghurt pots and glue. We're pretty sure you don't need us to explain how it all goes together.

    Cost: Cardboard boxes (often free from supermarkets), paint (price will vary depending on the colour and quantity, but you'll definitely be able to get some for under £10), yoghurt pots (free if you eat yoghurt) and glue (around £6).

  13. Pop Art costume

    pop art costume

    Credit: Michaela Heaphy & Lori Seibert – Pinterest

    For a Roy Lichtenstein costume, all you really need is face paint and some hairspray (coloured if you fancy it). Keep in mind that it'll take a fair amount of time to actually put together.

    We can already tell you it will be totally worth it, though! Go for plain, brightly contrasting clothing for maximum effect, too.

    Cost: Hairspray (around £2) and face paints (around £10).

Cheap Halloween costume tips and tricks

These cheap Halloween costume tips can be applied to any outfit:

  • Try Primark – You don't need to shop in fancy dress shops to put together a great costume. You can get some great bargains at Primark or even local charity shops. Another good option is to have a look at what's available on swap sites – that way, you can get your costume for free.
  • Use items you already own – Try to make (parts of) your costume by using things you have lying around your house. It's time to get inventive. This option is much more fun anyway.
  • Shop in low-cost stores for easy costumes – If you really can't be bothered making your own costume, you can head to cheaper online stores rather than overpriced costume shops.
  • Don't waste money on expensive makeup – We've got loads of hacks for getting the best deals on makeup products and making sure they last longer.
  • Check out our deals section – As always, keep an eye on our student deals section and our Facebook page. We might even have a few cheeky Halloween deals popping up in our weekly deals round-up newsletter.
  • Seek out slightly faulty goods – Unpackaged or slightly marked outfits and accessories can be sold at a much cheaper price, so keep an eye out in fancy dress shops. If you find some in the store, you can even try to haggle down the price. Who cares about a little mark here and there – it adds to the Halloween look.
  • Think outside the box – What's not a fancy dress outfit now could easily become one with a bit of creativity.
  • Think inside the box – Cardboard boxes can be so many things. Don't underestimate their potential for a low effort Halloween costume.
  • Reuse an old costume – Since you're only really going to wear it one night, why not wear the same thing you wore the year before? That way, you're saving money and you're not unnecessarily sending more costumes to the landfill after you're done with them.

Don't have time for the DIY route? These fancy dress costumes are all under £20.

Jem Collins

WRITTEN BY Jem Collins

Jem Collins, founder of Journo Resources, is an experienced journalist who has written for the i, Metro and more. For Save the Student, she's shared tips on topics related to careers, health, saving money and more.
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