Store-bought Halloween costumes are not only expensive at up to $50 a pop for a kids’ favorite cartoon character, but they are generally cheaply made and create unnecessary wasteful consumption. There are many options for finding secondhand costumes including EBay, CraigsList, Costume Swap events, and your sister-in-law’s hand-me-downs.

But because I am cheap, green, and like a challenge, I love to DIY Halloween. It’s particularly tricky because I cannot cut a straight line or properly sew, so I rely heavily on a hot glue gun and ingenuity. And, fortunately, my lack of artistic skill has not relegated me to the old “hole-in-the-sheet” ghost costume.

In fact, my penchant for DIY costume creation started early. When I was 12, I created a telephone costume with thick poster board and a curly neon wire I had previously used as a belt (it was the ‘80s). I’m devastated that I don’t have a photograph to share here, as I do recall becoming frustrated with the costume halfway through the night and chucking it in a gutter.

I ask my kids to tell me what they want to be for Halloween before summer is over. That way I can keep my eye out for useful items. I set aside appropriately colored clothing to make sure I don’t accidently give it away and scour the house for other handy items. I also start to keep an extra eye on my local Buy Nothing Group – a network of thousands of “gifting economy” Facebook groups across the world – where I begin posting my Halloween wishlist soon after Labor Day.

I have used apps like Yerdle and local thrift shops to acquire wigs, clothing, and accessories. There are almost no costume accents that cannot be completed with construction paper, your grandmother’s old button collection, and hot glue.

Neighbors will have pieces of costume to lend you – an oversized purple shirt, yellow tights, or a pair of batwings.

This year my kids are leaning toward being the characters from the show PJ Masks (Yes, I know every costume we’ve done has been based on a children’s TV show – we can’t win every battle and screen time is a monster we may never slay.) Fortunately these characters look like they can be easily constructed from solid colored clothing and construction paper.

But you don’t have to take my word for how easy it can be to create a costume on a dime. Pinterest ideas run the gamut from the super-complicated to a no-sew tomato costume made from an oversize sweatshirt. You can work wonders with a cardboard box, turning your toddler into a robot or school bus. Sometimes just sifting through your child’s existing wardrobe can give you a spark of ingenuity.

If it doesn’t work out you don’t need to feel ashamed for a last minute dash to the drugstore for some cat ears. But at least give DIY a try!