This past year has been rife with great Halloween ideas. What's bad news for banks, reality TV "stars" and non-breathing celebs is good news for finding a great costume. Instead of waiting until the last minute to cook up a lame costume from something in your closet or standing in line at the costume rental shop, try one of these timely and oh-so-outside-the-box ideas. We'll even tell you what to buy and where to buy it.

The Summer of Death

Celebs have been dropping like rabbit pellets all summer long: David Carradine. Ed McMahon. Farrah Fawcett. Karl Malden. Billy Mays. DJ AM. And of course, the King of Pop, Rick Astley. Oops -- Michael Jackson, I mean. That's why we're calling 2009 The Summer of Death, which also just happens to make for a great Halloween costume.

Costume:
Take a standard Grim Reaper cloak and sickle costume, add beach accessories like a big straw hat and sandals, and replace the sickle with a surfboard. Voila! Death takes a holiday.

Shopping list:
- Grim Reaper costume (Target)
- straw hat (J.Crew)
- beach sandals (Old Navy)
- sunglasses (Sunglass Hut)
- surfboard (Amazon.com)

Click here for more spooky suggestions.

Government Bailout Fairy
These days, we like to reward failure and mediocrity -- my child's last-place soccer team got a big trophy; why? -- and now the Fed has joined in, throwing gobs of cash at belly-up banks, brokerages and auto makers, like a government fairy godmother. Hey, that sounds like a good costume idea!

Costume:
Start with a classic Uncle Sam suit, then doll it up with the wings, wand and tiara from a fairy costume. Don't forget lots of trillion-dollar bills to hand out to anyone who asks for one. Or one-hundred.

Shopping List:

- Uncle Sam costume (Toys 'R Us)
- magic fairy costume (Amazon.com)
- trillion-dollar bills (eCrater.com)

"Slumdog Millionaire"
For the four of you who haven't seen the movie, "Slumdog Millionaire" is about a young Indian man, Jamal, whose harrowing life experiences serendipitously supplied him with just the right knowledge to win big on the TV show, "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" Or did he cheat? The cops thought so, which is why they hung Jamal by the arms from the ceiling and beat him like a piñata to try to make him confess. With the help of a friend, you can do the same.

Costume (for two):
Your friend is Jamal, handcuffed and dangling from a rafter while you, as the police interrogator, invite other Halloween partygoers to ask him trivia questions. Every time he gets one wrong, give him a good whack with your billy club. Not so much fun for Jamal, but a hoot for you and everyone else.

Shopping List:
- handcuffs (Self Defense Products)
- heavy cable or chain (local hardware store)
- "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" quiz book (Amazon.com)
- police baton (Self Defense Products)

Jon Gosselin
You've probably read that the Kate Gosselin reverse-mullet wig is flying off the shelves for Halloween. If you're going as Kate this year, you'll want your man to dress up like Jon to make the whole thing work. (Whether he wants to or not. You're the boss, remember?)

But he'll need more than just an Ed Hardy shirt and some pooka beads. No, your Jon also needs an accessory that best personifies a guy with a wife and eight kids on a hit TV show about his family life who decides to chuck it all to smugly flit from gal-pal to gal-pal and make Vegas club appearances. There's a name for a guy like that, but the douchebag costume has already been done, so let's go with the next best choice: asshat. There's your costume.

Costume:
The Jon Gosselin asshat is a plain cap with a foam rubber butt glued on top of it. And don't forget the Ed Hardy shirt -- the louder, the better.

Shopping list:
- Ed Hardy shirt (Ed Hardy)
- foam-rubber butt (PJ's Trick Shop)
- baseball cap (Lids.com)

Shut Up, Dick Cheney
What's with Dick, anyway? The guy was VP for eight years and you never saw him -- not that I'm complaining -- but now that he's out of office, Darth Cheney won't stop running his yap. Shut your irrelevant piehole, Dick. Nobody cares what you think anymore. Some of us never did.

Costume:
Simple: a Dick Cheney mask with a ball-gag (bring out the gimp!) stuffed into the mouth -- perfect for silencing chronic bitchers -- and a college hoodie from STFU (Silence The Fartknocker University?) to drive the message home.

Shopping list:
- Cheney mask (Costume Supercenter)
- ball gag (Mooluxe.com)
- STFU shirt (Zazzle)

The Ghost of MJ (Or Farah Fawcett, or Billy Mays.)
The year's biggest news story is the death of Michael Jackson, so you can bet there will plenty of MJ costumes this Halloween. And there are tons of ideas to choose from: the "Thriller" zombie, the head-to-toe black of "Bad," the young Michael tux-n-'fro, even the courtroom pajamas. But you want something unique and, if possible, tasteful, so forget the one-gloved skeleton and try something nicer – like the ghost of Michael Jackson.

Costume:
Just take your basic ghost sheet, add Michael's signature black Fedora and/or "Beat It" jacket. Of course, you can add more accessories as you like -- single glove, chimpanzee, Macaulay Culkin -- but remember that the best costumes are often the simplest. And here's the beauty of this one: If you don't want to be Michael, put a wavy blonde wig on your ghost and you're the ghost of Farrah Fawcett. Or add a monk's robe and you're David Carradine in "Kung Fu." Or a blue button-down shirt and you're Billy Mays. The possibilities are endless.

Shopping list:

- white sheet (Target.com)
- black fedora (Bcheap.com)
- leather "Beat It" jacket (BuyCostumes.com)
- Farrah Fawcett wig (Zoogster Costumes)

The Swine Flu
It has a funny name (why not Pork Flu?) and makes for the easiest costume on this list.

Costume:
A pig head with a breathing mask. That's it. Don't think about it too hard, because it doesn't really make sense. It's what comedy professionals call a "sight gag."

Shopping list:
- pig mask (Moon Costumes)
- surgical mask (First Aid Monster)