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Last year, Stacey MacLaren doled out $75 for her three kids' Halloween costumes at a national retailer. This year, she picked up all three getups for less than $30 at a local consignment shop.
"Now that I know, I will go this route from now on," the Hamburg mother said. "This is definitely the way to go if you are looking to save money. I just wish I would've done it years ago. I could've used that extra money for something else. I'm a stay-at-home-mom. That money would've helped our household."
Halloween celebrations are popular and the festivities can add up. The recent National Retail Federation spending survey revealed a record 170 million Americans - seven out of 10 - will mark the day in some way and spend $8 billion while doing so. Those buying costumes, decorations and candy will spend an average of $80 each.
Americans are expected to spend $2.9 billion on Halloween costumes alone this year, with more than $1.1 billion on children's costumes, $1.4 billion on adult costumes and $370 million on pet costumes, according to the survey.
At costume speciality stores, Halloween costumes can range from $15 to hundreds of dollars. And for an outfit that typically gets limited wear, MacLaren and others don't think it's worth the investment.
"It's just one night, for a few hours and when it's done, you throw them away," she said. "The kids grow out of them, and they wouldn't want to wear them again, anyway."
In addition to consignment shops, where costumes are at least 60 percent less than regular stores, trick-or-treaters can don do-it-yourself getups.
"Even if you can't sew, there are iron-on adhesives," said Vivian Jagoda, a retired home economics teacher who runs a tailoring business in Colden. "All you have to do is cut the fabric and use adhesives. It's less expensive than going to the store and buying a costume."
Barbara Perry, owner of Aurora Sewing Center with locations in East Aurora and Williamsville, recommends recycling an old adult-size sweatshirt to create an easy and cheap homemade costume for a child.
"The sweatshirt then becomes your costume's base," Perry said. "It's just thinking outside the box. You don't have a to be a seamstress to do this. You have to be creative."
Lisa Eszak, owner of Village Kids Consignment Shop, said this time of year is one of the store's busiest. As Halloween nears and kids decide what they want to wear, costumes sell fast.
She has already sold 200 gently used and new costumes, and she has an inventory of 300 outfits for toddlers to teens.
"I just sold 25 costumes yesterday," she said. "I think people are realizing with this economy, it's better to save money since it's just one day of fun. People want to save money any way they can. This is a way to do it."
The majority of her inventory has been worn just once, and she has a small collection of brand-new costumes, still in the packages. Since most are only a year old, they are getups that kids still want, Eszak said.
MacLaren bought her 3-year-old son a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume from Village Kids for $8.99. She said it's going for $34.99 at costume stores.
"You can't beat that savings, and the two used ones I got are like new and good, quality costumes," MacLaren said.
Jagoda, who runs a home-based business, VivianSewUnique, has been sewing clothes for 47 years. She's been filling Halloween orders, mostly for infants to kids up to age 5. Her designs are multipurpose, and she suggests do-it-yourselfers do the same. She made her granddaughter a monkey costume last year that doubled as pajamas.
"She wore it not just for Halloween but for all of last winter," she said. "I designed it in a way so you can get more use than one evening."
A recent Buffalo Bills outfit will do the trick on Halloween, and it's also a lined jacket and hood for the autumn. Plain onesies or pajamas with iron-on designs could double as costumes, Jagoda said.
Perry said T-shirt and sweatshirt creations can be finished with accessories from her or other sewing or craft stores for less than $10. The rib cage of a skeleton, a bumblebee and a clown are among the possibilities with an old sweatshirt, she said.
A simple Internet search will yield thousands of homemade costume ideas as well.
MacLaren said the money she saved this year will go to treating her kids to dinner before trick-or-treating.
"It's nice having extra money to do something special for the kids," she said.

email: esapong@buffnews.com