What’s scarier than witches, zombies and werewolves?

Spending too much money on a Halloween costume. A survey conducted by the National Retail Federation found that Americans will spend $2.6 billion on ensembles for their families this year.

While that’s good news for the economy, it also means a lot of us are being tricked, not treated. Retailers know you and your family want to look the part this year, and they’re betting you’ll hand over the big bucks to do it.

Don’t get bamboozled. Here’s how to stick to a budget as you dress your family for All Hollow’s Eve.

Shop Now

Stores are rolling out the deals this week to get you shopping for costumes. If you wait until a few days before Halloween, the sales will probably be over and the selections will be scarce.

I usually make my own costumes, which I’ll elaborate on in a moment, but there are always those little things like face paint and wigs that are sometimes necessary to buy in stores. Rite Aid and Walgreen’s have costume accessories for 25 percent off this week.

Avoid pop-ups

Whenever I see a family walking into a pop-up Halloween shop I want to yell out, “stop!” Do you really want to spend $80 for a costume that cost $5 to manufacture?

Thrift

The best costume shops are thrift stores. They’re retro, unique and the clothes will not fall apart as quickly as that costume stuff. Have an idea of what you want to dress up as before you head in there, unless you want to spend 12 hours picking through the racks.

If you’re feeling uninspired, try some Google searches first. Tourists, scarecrows, hippies and zombies are all easy costumes to make from second-hand clothing.

Freeload

Another great way to save money is to have a swap party. Invite your kids’ friends and their parents over and ask them to bring old costumes. Most of them will have stockpiles of old dress-up clothes that nobody has worn in years.

Plus, you can combine pieces of different costumes to create a whole new outfit.

It pays to get creative. If you take the time to make costumes with your kids, you’re not just saving money, you’re making memories they’ll have for years to come.

Coming up: Next week, I’ll tell you how to find decorations, candy and pumpkins at prices so good they’ll make your hair stand up.