If you're into pop culture, scanning the Internet for favorite TV and movie characters, musicians and other icons is a good first step. In fact, for costume ideas in just about any genre, the World Wide Web is a gold mine for brainstorming do-it-yourself costumes, whether you're going for spooky or kooky.
Then, you can make a list and stop at thrift shops and discount retailers (or borrow stuff from friends and family) to complete your home-made costume.
But before you head off searching for some inspiration, we've got five fun, original ideas that will help you stand out this Halloween ...
No. 5: Colonel
What's more American than baseball and apple pie? How about fast food and advertising icons?
Colonel Sanders and the Wendy's mascot may not have quite the recognition of Ronald McDonald or the Burger King, but you're less likely to run into your doppelganger with the second-rung mascots.
For the KFC mascot, buy a Santa Claus wig, trim it very short, find some black-rimmed eyeglasses at a dollar store, and wear a white shirt and a red apron borrowed from a family member. Then go to KFC and buy a bucket of chicken. Colonel Sanders -- and the chicken -- will prove to be a big hit every party you go to.
For a Wendy costume, all you need is a red-haired wig in braids, with little blue and white ribbons, a $5 blue and white dress from a thrift store and some cheap black Mary Jane shoes. Be sure to carry a Wendy's fast food bag for the full effect.
No. 4: Cousin It/Wednesday Addams
Want a costume that shields your face (and everything else)? Go as Cousin Itt, the lovable hairball from "The Addams Family."
Although this may sound like a lot of work, it actually can be made on the cheap and with very little effort.
First, find a long blond or light brown wig, or some highly frayed yarn, and pin it securely to your hair. The main part of the costume now taken care of, just wear street clothes for the rest of your look and be sure to not forget the sunglasses and top hat.
Looking for a more feminine nod to the Addams clan? If you have long, dark hair, it's easy; just put your hair in braids. Otherwise buy some cheap black spray-on hair coloring or get a cheap wig. Wear a black dress and pin or sew white cuffs and collar onto the dress. Don some striped tights, and voila! You're Wednesday Addams.
No. 3: Orville Redenbacher
Orville Redenbacher's been dead for more than 15 years, yet the product bearing his name lives on. So does his iconic image.
That makes the popcorn king a perfect choice for a homemade costume. You want to be easily recognizable otherwise you'll spend all your time explaining who you're "supposed to be."
Lucky for you, Orville's image is just as easy and affordable to reproduce as it is iconic.
Like the Colonel, Orville has gray-white hair, so an inexpensive Santa or old-man wig, trimmed short, does the trick. Black-rimmed nerd glasses, red suspenders and a thrift store blazer and pants top off this look.
To take this costume over the top and be a true success at every Halloween party, pop some bags of microwave popcorn to share with other party-goers.
That's one Halloween look that really pops.
No. 2: Tippi Hedren from "The Birds"
Few directors go together with the thrills of Halloween quite like Alfred Hitchcock. So why not choose to honor The Master of Suspense when designing your homemade costume?
Sure, there's an actual costume available online to turn you into Tippi Hedren from Alfred Hitchcock's classic "The Birds," but you don't have to shell out the $50 or work for hours to get this look.
Go to a thrift shop or discount store and look for a greenish blazer and skirt and some cheap black pumps. Next, head to a craft/floral shop such as Michael's and ask if they have any fake bird props, or look online (Anytimecostumes.com, among other sites, sell fake black birds for as little as $2).
Once you've got the props, put on your most freaked-out face and hold up your hands as though you're being attacked.
Trust us, you'll be fending off compliments just like Tippi fought off her winged attackers.
No. 1: Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga has inspired concertgoers to dig out their inner freak, so why not try a Gaga look for Halloween? (If you're a man, this costume idea would be even more fun.)
The Lady herself might wear ridiculously expensive designer outfits, but you can transform yourself into the "Bad Romance" singer on a dime. For costume pieces, think "household goods" - plastic bubble wrap, large garbage bags, etc.
Cut funky shapes out of aluminum foil, glue them to your dress/bubble wrap/garbage bag-turned-dress, wear a blond wig (or spray-paint your hair yellow), and glue or stick some "bling" onto a pair of fabulous dollar-store sunglasses. Get some cheap glittery or metallic makeup from a discount store and let your imagination run wild.
For shoes, check out the thrift stores and look for wedge heels or tall ankle boots. Carry a fake microphone and, just like that, you've got yourself a costume that will turn heads.