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Special to Diet.com
by Melissa Stanton
LifeSupportforMoms.com


As Halloween approaches, and my fifth grader is figuring out what costume to wear, he asked me to list what he dressed as for every one of his past 10 Halloweens.

As I flipped through the images in my mind"the dinosaur costume he wore as a four-month-old, the monkey costume I put on him the year after"I realized that while he always had a good costume, I never put much effort into the planning and creation of his, or his twin sisters’, Halloween get-ups.

Some moms are crafty, and love to decorate for the holidays. I’m neither.

As my brood expanded from one child right to three, I had even less time to think about creative costuming. So for all you moms who can’t sew or wield a glue gun, and who don’t have bins of holiday-specific knick-knacks and craft supplies at the ready, here are some Halloween tips that are easy and -" considering the current economy -" affordable.

Sorry Halloween stores and catalogs: At least for my family, I can’t justify spending more than $100 to outfit my three kids for Trick or Treating.

1) Something Old Can Be New
Other than for the aforementioned monkey costume, which my mother lovingly made for her first grandchild, every ready-made costume my kids have worn was a hand-me-down from a friend or family member. Consignment and second-hand shops are also a great source for affordable kid costumes.

Unless a child likes to play dress-up throughout the year, kids outgrow or discard Halloween costumes before they wear them out. It’s smart for families to pass along costumes rather than pay for new ones.

2) The Costume Challenge
This year I told the kids they should look at the costume catalogs we keep getting in the mail and figure out how we could make some of the costumes pictured with items we already own. One of my daughters has decided she wants to be a pirate, and she will become one by wearing her Daisy Scout vest inside-out, stuffing a pair of stretch pants with rags to make them puffy, turning an old karate belt into a pirate’s belt and using her black rain boots as pirate boots.

We already have a Dollar Store eye patch and foam sword in the house. I’ll contribute a silky head scarf to the cause and draw a mustache and beard on her with an eye pencil.

3) Look at What You Have and What it Can Be
My other daughter wants to be a cat, which is an incredibly easy costume: Black leggings and a black turtleneck (which we have but could buy and use again as regular clothing), pipe cleaner ears and a tail made from a black ribbon. Once again, my cosmetics drawer is the go-to place for creating a pink nose and black whiskers.

My son has decided to use the cat theme as well, but he will be a cat burglar instead of a cat. The black pants and turtleneck from his closet will be accompanied by a pillowcase full of stuffed animal cats (we have too many, including one that meows when squeezed).

For outdoor decorations, we’ll be making ghosts out of white plastic trash bags and hanging them from the trees. If you drape the bag over a balloon the ghost will have more shape. Eyes and scary faces can be drawn on with a thick black marker. If no holes are made, the bag can be reused as the trash bag it is intended to be.

4) The Halloween Bag
After the first year of buying a large, plastic, Trick-or-Treating pumpkin for collecting candy, I got tired of having to either store that pumpkin for a year or pick it up from wherever the kids would leave it around the house. Now we used handled shopping or gift bags we already have. We try to save bags with no pictures or logos on them so the kids can decorate the bags themselves using crayons, markers or stickers.

5) Sharing the Loot
Three Trick-or-Treating kids in one household produces a sizable cache of candy. The kids understand that we pool all the candy, make a pile for Dad’s office, select some personal candies and then we weed out what we don’t want and bring it to the office of a local orthodontist, who pays $1 for every pound of candy a child brings to her office. (Last year, she matched the donations with a $2 per pound contribution to The Smile Train, an organization that provides cleft palette surgery to needy children.)

My kids are now more motivated by earning the money than by having a stash of sweets. For parents who don’t like giving out candy to little kids, distributing stickers, pencils or even quarters are an option.

Speaking of money, Trick-or-Treating for UNICEF or another cause is a good way to teach children that Halloween involves giving as well as getting.

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