Halloween Costumes for the Cheap and Lazy

Liz Jasper always enjoyed writing, but in college and graduate school dutifully studied things that would make her “marketable.” Fortunately, she loved her stint as a middle school science teacher (most of the time), her time working as a business analyst and still really enjoys her most recent career switch into financial planning.

And yet…while teaching, doing five-page math problems in graduate school, and doing some serious bonding with Excel, she kept haunting bookstores and compulsively read her way through the library system’s fiction sections in three counties. She took unreasonable joy in fact that, while she very properly interned for a bank during business school, part of what she did for them was write magazine articles. The award she’s secretly most proud of? Her high school English department award.

Being a clever analyst, she eventually admitted she’d always wanted to write novels. And then she went ahead and wrote one. She shoved that in a drawer, took some classes and started again.

Why does she always end up writing paranormals? After five years teaching middle school followed by way too much crunching numbers, writing about blood-sucking demons is only natural.

Take a look below for a chance–or two–to win a copy of Underdead!

Maybe you’re too busy with daily life to come up with a good costume for Halloween. Or maybe you can’t muster the energy to deal with the parking lot at Target, much less the insanity of the Halloween aisle.

Or maybe you’ve already eaten the candy meant for trick-or-treaters and have had to go back for the re-buy of shame and don’t have money left for a “real” Halloween costume. (Liz hurriedly shoves empty king-sized bag of Rolos out of sight.)

Not to worry. I, Liz Jasper, award-winning author of the UNDERDEAD vampire mysteries, am here for your Halloween costume needs!

I have a long history of cheap and easy Halloween costumes. My mother wasn’t one of those moms who did crafts or sewed. This is how Halloween went in our house growing up.

Liz and her sister [plaintively]: “Mom? It’s Halloween. We need costumes!”

Mom: “Already?”

Liz and her sister [voices going shrill]: “Trick or treating starts in an hour! The little kids are already going out!”

Mom [Leaving kitchen with audible sigh and crossing to hall closet.]: “Okay, let’s see what we have here.” [Reaches into closet and pulls out a trench coat.] “Here you go. One of you can go as a spy. You can wear this hat.” [Pulls out crumpled hat off bottom of closet and gives it a shake.] “And, um, sunglasses!”

Liz’s sister: “Mom, that hat has flowers on it!”

Mom: “No, look! You turn it inside and out and it’s black. Very mysterious!”

My sister and I fought over that costume.

As you can see, I have it in my roots to be, um, “clever” about costumes. I will now, as promised, share with you some great costumes.

5. Little Red Riding Hood. Pull a red rain slicker from the hall closet, put the hood up and carry a basket. Cost: FREE. (Courtesy of Mom. Tested by two girls over several Halloweens.)

4. Redneck. Go to drug store on day of Halloween, ten minutes before party, and root around in what’s left of 75% off costume bin. Find red face paint or fake blood. Put on jeans and a t-shirt or men’s undershirt and wear a flannel shirt as your top layer. Slather some red gunk on your neck. Cost: $1.00 for Halloween face makeup. (Tested by author. Warning: You will not go home with a date from any party you wear this to.)

3. Bat. Take an old file folder or leftover cereal box, cut out two triangles and color them black with a marker. Tape them to an old head band for your bat ears. Cut a black plastic garbage bag into bat wings and affix to the undersides of your shirt sleeves. You can sew them on or use duct tape, but stapling is the gold standard here. Cost: 75 cents in materials. (Adapted from a costume worn by Liz’s college roommate who had craft talent way above the author’s.)

2. Cat. See “Bat.” above, only do cat ears and use black yarn or an old computer cable for a tale. Cost: 50 cents for materials. (Adapted from bat costume one year after everyone had seen bat costume. Note: Feel free to rotate bat/cat costumes year after year. You can absolutely use the same headband and possibly the same triangles  for ears.)

1. The Devil’s Advocate. Get devil horns from the 75% off Halloween rack. Or make your own using the cardboard and headband technique under “Bat.” Wear a suit. Get hyped up on candy and make up a few “Soul Contracts”, print them out and carry them in a briefcase.  Threaten anyone who comes near the candy bowl. Cost: $1.99 if you buy the horns. (Tested by author. Author is very proud of this one and has used it no fewer than five times.)

So come on, pull up a bowl of Halloween candy and tell us about your best or worst Halloween costume. Yes, even if you spent money on it. Everyone who comments will be entered in a drawing for a trade paperback of UNDERDEAD. Those with the really good ideas or who make me laugh get entered twice! (And as you snarf down the candy intended for Trick-or-Treaters while typing, as I know you are, be sure to pat yourself on the back for your noble generosity. Those kids don’t need the candy. Really. You’re thinking of them and their health. You are a noble, noble being.)