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How to do Book Week on a budget

9 Ways To Source Book Week on a Budget: How To Find the Right Costume at the Right Price

Looking for a way to save money on Book Week costumes? You’ve come to the right place.

The Children’s Book Council of Australia has been celebrating Book Week since 1945. It is a great way to showcase the importance of reading. It is a chance to shine a spotlight on authors and illustrators. It provides a special focus for teachers and librarians as they put time and effort into creating creative displays and activities to celebrate.

Book Week can, however, be a real cause of stress for parents. It tends to creep up on us. It often falls to the mother, regardless of whether you work outside the home or not. It’s just another thing you have to think about, in case the mental load wasn’t quite heavy enough.

We may not even know what our kids want to dress up until the last minute. They might change their minds. For many of us, this means frantically coming up with a costume for our primary school-aged children.

There is the pressure of photos out the front of your house for social media. Walking through the school gates with other parents. Our children in the Book Week parade. We don’t want our children to be disappointed. We don’t want to feel embarrassed about our own efforts. We want to keep costs down (because heaven knows everything is expensive right now).

This is the first year I’ve had to think about it. Worry about it.

It was on my list of things to do. Find a costume that can be paired with a book, however loosely. I actually went to the trouble of organising one, only to discover two weeks out that my school wasn’t doing dress-ups this year. I didn’t know whether to feel relieved or disappointed.

Here are 9 ways to source Book Week costumes on a budget:

1. Utilise the toy library

Consider borrowing a costume for Book Week from your local toy library. Toy libraries are amazing, and many have costumes available to borrow. Sign up for a membership if you haven’t already. They range in price depending on location but we pay around $35 a year for virtually unlimited borrowing. Try to have a look soon before everyone has the same idea! I love that you can borrow, use and return it once you’re done. This makes the process of sourcing a Book Week costume pain-free, doesn’t cost out of pocket, reduces the impact on the environment and you don’t need to store or manage another item.

It may be easier to borrow 2 or 3 costumes and bring them home for your child to look at. When we take away the pressure of time to make a decision and limit their choices, it is less overwhelming. As adults, we often don’t like choices. We stand frozen in a supermarket aisle, trying to decide on what jolly item to buy. Why are there so many options we wonder? That’s why Aldi can be helpful. Fewer options equal less decision-making.

Back to costumes. Once your child has selected the one that they like best and fits, return the ‘rejected’ ones promptly so that they can be available for other families.

Cost = $0

2. Ask your Buy Nothing group

Girl and mom in Superhero costume

Ask those in your local Buy Nothing group for a suitable costume for Book Week. The Buy Nothing Project is amazing. Simply search for your local group, apply to join and once accepted, you can give things away you no longer need or take ones that you do. It is a brilliant initiative to keep items out of landfill and help each other out.

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Write a post, asking if someone has a costume they would like to give away. Share a photo of what you’re looking for. People are always wanting to get rid of things and are happy to help. You can list it back on the page once you are done.

Cost = $0

3. Reach out to friends and family

Adorable boy dressed up as Harry Potter for world book day in kindergarten

Ask your friends or family for help. Put a shout-out on your social media page. Ask your mum’s group. Message some contacts. This can be an easy way to source what you are looking for.

People like to feel useful and share things around so this can be worth trying. Many parents will have collected costumes over the years that their children have now grown out of. They would be happy to lend or give to you.

Cost = $0

4. Search Facebook Marketplace

People want to get rid of stuff, often at low prices. Have a look and put an alert on for the costume you are searching for. Put a wanted post up. Try Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree, or any other site that you use. You can resell it afterwards and not be out of pocket. If you are a bit savvy, you might even make some money on reselling it too!

Cost = varies but second hand is almost always cheaper than new

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5. Get your craft on

little superheroes in costumes reading books, chalkboard behind
little superheroes in costumes reading books, chalkboard behind

Get crafty and creative. If this is your thing, go for it! Get inspiration from Pinterest and have some fun. Utilise the bits and pieces in your home or have a look in your local op shop, craft or cheap shop. Think hot glue guns, fabric and recyclables.

You could repurpose an existing item in your wardrobe or dress-ups.

For me personally, that makes me freak out a little. I don’t need that kind of stress in my life. I really don’t even want to have it on this list.

Cost = varies but can be done with what you find lying around

6. Thrift like you mean it

Look in thrift shops. Check out your local op shop (charity shop / thrift store). Dress-ups and costumes are often pretty cheap. Think ahead if you can and buy during the year. 

Op shops like Savers are bigger and will have them more readily organised for you. Good for saving you time, especially if you are not able to visit multiple places. They will be more expensive than smaller, church-run op shops.

Consider what time you have available. If you are happy to browse a number of different shops, it might save you some dollars, (but just keep in mind petrol expenses too).

Cost = varies but generally only a few dollars.

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7. Spotlight

Spotlight stocks a range of costumes suitable for Book Week. Whilst not as cheap as some of the earlier mentioned ones, they provide themed new costumes. They can help remove some of the headaches from deciding and choosing a Book Week costume.

Afterwards, these can be stored in your dress-up box afterwards, given away or sold. See here for the online range.

Cost = varies from a few dollars for accessories to up to $70

8. Cheap shops

kids in elf costumes and santa holding sale banner, christmas shopping

Discount stores like Cheap as Chips and The Reject Shop offer a range of costumes and accessories. These can help to take your DIY costume to the next level or add to your toy library one.

These are often stocked before Book Week and Halloween, and may offer a small range throughout the year.

Cost = varies from store to store and depends on the costume.

9. Department Stores

Department stores sell a range of costumes suitable for Book Week. Some are in stock all year round and others are only available for a short period of time. It can be worth checking them for clearance and saving yourself some dollars.

Shops like Kmart, Big W and Target sell costumes at an affordable price. Most can be searched for and purchased online, saving you time and physically having to go into a store (win for busy parents).

Aldi stock costumes during their Special Buys. These are often cheap but you do have to get in quick.

Cost = varies from store to store and depends on the costume.

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Helpful hints:

  1. Start thinking about it early. This will reduce some of the stress. Kind of like getting your Christmas shopping out of the way before the silly season begins.
  2. Find a costume, then match it up with a book. Unless your child has their heart set on a particular character, try to make it easier on yourself. Keep it simple.
  3. If you don’t have much spare time or are feeling overwhelmed with life, purchase a costume pre-made. Save yourself the stress and hassle. It’s okay if being creative for Book Week isn’t your jam (it’s not mine either).
  4. If you’re looking for photo inspiration, Kiddo Mag have released an article on 23 costume ideas for Book Week 2023. It’s worth checking out.

You might not like what I’m going to say next.

You don’t need to post a photo to social media showcasing your kid in their costume.

You don’t have to share it on Facebook or Instagram. Nobody really cares. In fact, I think it’s quite annoying. Yes, you win the perfect parent award. Whoopy-doo.

Too harsh? Probably. But seriously, having your newsfeed clogged with back-to-school photos and birthday collages and Book Week costumes gets a tad annoying. This comes from a parent who loves her children to bits and likes other people’s children (I work with children for my job). If I get irritated by it, imagine the poor souls who don’t have kids or theirs have grown up and who don’t care to see Book Week photos spamming up their feed.

I like you and I like your kids but I don’t really need to see lots of photos of them. Especially in their school uniforms which reveal far too much personal information. My Kitty Flanagan-inspired rant is over.

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One final tip:

Sometimes the pressure to have the perfect costume comes from within us. We feel like we need to come up with the best costume out of fear of judgement from others. We don’t want to let our kids down. We don’t want to let ourselves down.

Maybe it’s time to lower your standards. Good enough is good enough.

Besides, people will forget pretty quick afterwards what everyone dressed up as anyway. We move on like that. Our brains don’t typically hold onto this sort of thing.

Consider staying off social media for a week or two around Book Week. It might just feel like extra pressure that you just don’t need in your life.

Hope you can find the right balance this year.

Do you like Book Week? Where do you source your children’s costumes from?

Leave a comment below or I’d love to connect with you over on Instagram or Facebook.

Melanie Wegener

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