‘Tis the season for Halloween costume shopping and kids roaming streets high on sugar. Every year, I start out as excited as my 7-year-old, but all the hoopla leaves me with a dent in my wallet and a high-fructose-corn-syrup headache. Before I know it, I’m the scary one . This year, I vow to take advantage of all I’ve learned from Halloween costume shopping over the past few years. Thanks to these tips, I will not overspend, waste time, or otherwise make Halloween more complicated than it needs to be. My Halloween motto for the year: More fun. Less scary. Here, my best Halloween costume shopping tips:
1. Let your little one have fun picking out a costume on their own, but do the mom thing and check the material to be sure it’s comfortable to walk in for several hours. Skip this step and you are guaranteed a whiny trick-or-treater begging to go home to change on Halloween. Now that’s scary.
2. If you’re buying online, be sure to order at least 7-14 days ahead of time, or your costume may not make it in time to trick or treat, let alone to try on and make adjustments, if needed.
3. Consider buying costumes one size larger than your child normally wears if you live in a cold climate. This allows ample room for layering.
4. For the best price comps, internet shopping is the way to go, but since you can’t try anything on, it’s best for kids who aren’t sensitive to certain materials or snaps. In that case, you’re better off walking into a brick-and-mortar store.
5. Short on cash? Host a Halloween costume swap party with friends and neighbors. Everybody brings a gently used costume, and everybody walks out with one. Ta-da!
6. Don’t eat before you shop, and that goes for both you and your offspring. Trust me: Someone will undoubtedly have to go to the bathroom just as you are about to hit the dressing room. Even if you don’t have to go, there’s nothing worse than a bloated pirate princess, what with all the stripes and lace, so lay off the snacks for a couple of hours beforehand. Like shopping for a swimsuit, it’s best to try on costumes when you’re just halfway due for your next meal.
7. Take the exact amount of cash you want to spend. Each year, I’ve told my son we can’t spend more than a set amount, and each year we have both gone completely overboard. This year I am walking in old-school style, with only bills in hand.
8. Speaking of walking with something in hand, watch out for costumes with too many bells and whistles. That is, unless you want to spend Halloween holding a sword, wizard hat or some other odd-shaped item because your child is sick of wearing the accoutrements that accompanied his costume.
9. DIY for the mom who hates DIY: Buy a face paint kit. Little kids love having their faces painted, and the internet is full of sites that provide a slew of easy step-by-step designs. One of my faves is hellokids.com. Dress kids in neutral colors (all black for scary faces or all pink for princess looks) and turn yourself into Picasso. If you make a mistake, don’t worry. Face paints made for kids wash off easily. Opt for natural, non-toxic varieties like those from Luna Organics or Elegant Minerals, just in case.
10. Don’t ask the salespeople for advice. These are seasonal workers, most of them under the age of 18 and likely stacking shelves under the haze of questionable substances. They will tell you that you and your preschooler look “amazing” in everything, and before you know it, you’re dropping $95 on a replica of Miley Cyrus’ twerking outfit from the MTV Video Music Awards (OK maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration but you get drift).
11. If you’re planning to dress up too, pick one person whose opinion you trust, and text a picture of yourself trying it on before you buy anything. Don’t post it on social media. You will get more unsolicited advice than a streetwalker on Sunday.
12. If all else fails, do what Connecticut dad of three Mark Widlman does: “Buy the first costume your kid pulls from the shelf and promptly exit the store.” That works, too.