Forget the store-bought, fire-retardant polyester nightmare Halloween costumes. Forget the $300 handmade heirlooms that Grandma lovingly starts crafting for her little cherubs in July. And forget the thrift-store specials that have more holes than Steven Tyler’s jeans. Before you believe I’m a 10/31 Scrooge, let me explain. I’m actually all in favor of this most sugary of holidays, and I’m also in favor of a good costume. But I don’t need to spend hours at the sewing machine or big bucks at the Big Box store.

When asked to crank out camouflage for my three kids, I adhere to my mommy mantra: If it can’t get done in the length of one “Barney” video, it’s not getting done. So give me a pillowcase and a glue gun and I’m good to go. Thus far, I’ve crafted numerous pillowcase costumes for my wee ones — and even won a few contests along the way. My opus magnum was a matching pair of Dobby and Winkie house elf vestments for my son and daughter, complete with fake bottles of butter beer and a single sock. It took no more time than I’d spend to throw together a box of brownie mix, and my kids were the cutest on the block.

Here’s my advice about Halloween — or any dress-up occasion, for that matter — don’t stress, and don’t spend. Instead, follow these three tips for creating simple costumes that rock.

1. Focus on the accessories.

Just like for our house elf costumes, it’s the details that count. If your kid is going as a fire fighter, make sure she’s got a hose and a Dalmatian puppy to accompany her. Pirates need parrots and pieces of eight, and astronauts need jetpacks AND little alien monsters stuck to their backs. It’s these details that take a costume from so-so to sensational.

2. Think in pairs.

If you have two kids, this suggestion is custom-made for you. Paired costumes are twice as effective: If you’ve got a Buzz, you need a Woody. If you’ve got a cheerleader, you need a football player. If you’ve got a pop star, you need a paparazzo. If you’ve got an only child, you’re out of luck. Just kidding! See if you can pair up with a friend and dress your kids in sync.

3. Go intangible.

Dress your child as “The Recession,” and have him wear a flip chart graph with arrows pointing steadily downward. Or what about “Creativity”? She can carry an artist’s palette, dressed in bright colors, and with a light bulb in hand to hold over her head at key intervals? Viewers will be so taken with the out-of-the box thinking that they won’t have time to critique the quality of the execution.

I strongly adhere to the belief that Halloween should be stress-free. Come to mention, I strongly believe that as much of parenting as possible should be stress-free. If you’re turning this holiday into another chance to out-parent your fellow PTA members, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your priorities.

If you’re really so type-A that you plan out your kid’s route through the neighborhood to maximize candy collection, do yourself (and your kids) a favor. Take a deep breath, eat a Crunch bar or two, take a pillowcase… and put it over your head. Don’t come out until you can behave yourself.

This article was included in the latest Make It From Scratch Carnival!