Tips for Creating a Scary Costume for Less Than $50

Cheap Zombie Mask

We’re just a couple of months away from Halloween, so it’s time to start thinking about your Halloween costume! There are almost endless choices: the horned demon, the grotesque zombie, the furry werewolf, the sadistic clown, and so on. And while high quality Halloween masks and costumes will go a long way in creating an authentically terrifying costume, sometimes those items can be prohibitively expensive. But at the same time, shopping the bargain bins can result in a look that is less than desirable. Unless you’re going for a cheesy, low-budget B movie look then your ghost (sheet over head) or mummy (rolls of toilet paper) just aren’t going to cut it.

So how do you put together a costume that is legitimately creepy, but that doesn’t strain your bank account?

There are a few different routes you can go here, and most of them involve a mix of realistic props and DIY creativity. Read on for our tips of how to create a genuinely frightening costume for cheap.

Putting Together the Costume

Use Makeup

Don’t overlook just how much you can do with the items in your (or a friend’s) vanity cabinet. Makeup products like eyeliner, mascara, bronzer, and foundation can go a long way in enhancing the costume you’re putting together. Cracked skin, gruesome wounds, frightening scars, and more are possible with a little makeup magic. And you don’t even have to be a pro makeup artist to do it. There are plenty of YouTube and TikTok tutorials, and with a little practice you’ll transforming yourself into a skeleton, creepy clown, haunted doll, zombie prom queen, or Billy the Puppet from the Saw franchise. And don’t forget to check out the various colored contact lenses on the market to complete your look.

Fake blood and makeup effects

Lots of Corn Syrup

Ok, so you don’t necessarily need to go the Hollywood special effects route, but fake blood in some form is important. Lots of blood, ideally. It’s great because it creates such a dramatic effect, it’s easy to apply, there’s no real wrong amount, and it can go with almost any costume. You can buy buckets of fake blood for pretty cheap at local Halloween stores or bigger box stores like Target. Or you can go the way of DIY and mix together some water, corn syrup, and red food coloring. Then all that’s left is to have fun splattering, soaking, and coating your costume in violent red.

Repurpose Old Costumes

Usually when people buy a Halloween costume it’s meant for just one use. Sure, they may keep them because they don’t know what else to do with them, but they don’t plan on wearing them again. Who wants to be seen in pictures with the exact same outfit as a previous year? But there’s a benefit to holding on to these costumes: repurposing them for future creations! With a little creativity, things like accessories, certain items of clothing, or even the entire costume can be mixed and matched to form a new creation. One simple trick is to take a costume you’ve worn in a previous year and – with some alterations using blood, makeup, and gore effects – you can turn it into a zombie version of that same costume.

Front of a Spirit Halloween store

Go Thrift Shopping

Goodwill and other thrift stores can be a treasure trove of costume pieces, if you keep an open mind and harness your creative powers. It’s best to go in with a plan of what you’re looking for (those particular pants, that specific type of shirt, etc), but just know it can take time and several trips to find the right pieces. If you’d rather not spend forever looking, then don’t be afraid to use your imagination and think of ways to rework what you’re seeing. The great thing about these types of stores is that you can often find decent clothes for very cheap.

Shop Around

In addition to thrift stores, you may want to diversify your shopping experience even further. Yes, the easiest thing is to buy a full costume online or from one specific store, but that’s also the most expensive route (if you’re looking for quality). If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative then consider utilizing a few different locations. For example, if you’re going as an evil clown then you may buy the makeup from Walmart, the shoes from Ebay, the clothes from a thrift store, and the gore effects from your local Halloween shop. It’s certainly more work and planning on your end, but the quality pieces you can pull together on a tight budget are worth it.

Other Costume Ideas

There are almost an unlimited number of prop combinations and ways you can create a costume by pulling from the previously mentioned places. Here are just a few to get you started and spark some ideas.

Fake Gore Prosthetics

Never underestimate how far a gross gore prosthetic can go. Luckily you don’t have to be a master makeup artist to achieve the desired affect because there are plenty of quality prosthetics available right now. Another thing that’s great about these is that you can add them to a number of different costumes. Your zombies, mauled victims, misguided science experiments, and inter-dimensional creatures can all benefit from a well-placed gore prosthetic. One of our favorites is the Animal Attack product from Ghoulish Productions.

Animal Attack application from Ghoulish Productions

A Stand Out Mask

If you can find the right mask, the rest of your costume almost doesn’t matter. People will care less about what you’re wearing because of the freaky face you have on your head. To illustrate this point, consider the two versatile yet inexpensive masks below. The Yummy Vampire Zombie mask from Zagone Studies, LLC is a fantastic choice. All you need to do is dress in all black and you’re suddenly transformed into a creature of the night who feasts on human flesh. Likewise, the Pity Please Zombie Mask (also from Zagone Studios) works because you only need very basic attire. Simply put on a suit and you become a haunting monster, zombie, or murdered old man. Zagone Studios also has dozens of other affordable masks if you’re looking for something else.

Yummy Vampire Zombie Mask from Zagone Studios LLC
Pity Please Zombie Mask from Zagone Studios LLC

Other Accessories

There are plenty of other accessories that can function as the highlight of your DIY costume. If you’re decent with makeup and you paint yourself a werewolf face, or if you have a leftover headpiece from years past, then the Monster Shirt from Zagone is all you need to complete the look. Also, you can never go wrong with Buum Horns or the Demon Ears (both from Ghoulish Productions). Either of this versatile props can provide just the right touch to the demon, devil, succubus, or fairy costume that you’ve pulled together.

Buum Horns from Ghoulish Productions
Demon Ears from Ghoulish Productions

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