Let’s face it, we all know cosplay is an expensive hobby – whether you make your costumes, buy them, or commission someone else to make your costumes or props. Not to mention the make-up and aftercare that is needed to keep your characters looking as spiffy as possible. It seems to drain our bank accounts of any money we had.
This is when having a budgeting plan is essential, just so you don’t stress out, get yourself in debt, or end up spending all your money on a costume before you even buy your tickets to the convention. Below are some tips and tricks on how to budget yourself and your money to make things a little easier.
I Have No Money But Want To Cosplay
At this point, if you’re willing to own up to someone else, or even say these words inside your head, then theoretically you should know that the answer is, “Don’t even think about it!” Seriously, making a costume or attending a convention should not be at the top of your list of priorities if you don’t have the money to pay for rent, bills, food or drink, or any other things that are essential for you as a human being to survive. Cosplay and costume making is a hobby (unless of course you run it as a business). Wigs and costume making items can wait, whereas your rent won’t really wait for you.
Choose Your Costume Wisely
If your character requires armour, faux fur or any high quality high tech to set the scene, then that character possibly isn’t the one you should be picking when on a tight budget. As a general rule, if it’s highly detailed and very intricate, then the costume will likely cost a fair amount. If a costume is big, has lots of elements to it then fabricating the costume can become expensive. Though sometimes there can be some exceptions (especially if you follow the budgeting guide).
You might want to go for simpler costumes, particularly if you’re just starting out – like school girl/boy outfits, Naruto, or even the latest craze, Pokémon. Checking out what fabrics you could use for each of your costumes is a great start to budgeting and may help with decisions down the line. If you can get away from using a wig, that is even more money saved.
Making Your Own Costume
Sometimes this subject can be a touchy one and everyone has strong opinions on it. If you commission someone to make your costume for you, you are not just paying for the costume, but also charges for time and postage. The added bonus of excess charge can and will be placed on top of a cheap and cheerful costume that you can possibly make yourself. If you find that you can not sew, style wigs or make props then commissioning or buying from a seller is the only way to go. But if you can, then try and make some of your costume yourself.
Creating A Budget That Suits You
Make a list of what you need for your costume and identify how much you think you will need for each item. This is only an estimate, but from checking online and comparing prices you can get a rough list of things such as make-up, contacts, wigs, fabric, patterns you may need, and any other accessories. If you’re making props, then be sure to list any items and materials you will need to create it.
Let’s say your total comes to £60, then I highly recommend that you round your figure up to £100 as an estimate. It’s always a good job to round any numbers upwards so you have some room should it be a little more and won’t come as such a shock. The idea of this list is to take it wherever you are and to keep in mind what your budget is. If things start to fall apart and you realise you are getting too close to the top end of your budget, then you need to take a step back and try to rework things on a smaller price tag. The idea is that you don’t go over your top budget number, and if problems arise, then you need to have the will power to say “enough is enough” and rethink your ideas.
Make A Plan For The Future
Planning ahead of time is a huge bonus for you and your budget. Spending money can be spread out over days, weeks or months, and it won’t look so daunting when you make your costume. Dropping all of your money in one huge sum sounds like a great idea, but the reality of the situation could put you into debt or trouble. Spreading the cost so that you buy individual items at specific times puts a lot less strain on your wallet and will definitely keep you happier.
You Don’t Get If You Don’t Ask
Being a scavenger is never something you want to be associated with, but with recycling and people going “Green”, being a scavenger can really boost your budgeting plan. Look around your house, in your garden, in the shed, ask your family, friends and neighbours. Chances are that there will be something around you that you can use for your costume. Cereal boxes and takeaway boxes have been a saviour to many of my costumes. So have the battery pack Christmas lights from years ago!
Going into your local corner shops or supermarkets and asking if they have any boxes or packaging you can have is also a great way to save on prop and costume making. Dig around your old clothes that you are about to throw out and look through all the old fabric and props you have to see if there is anything you can reuse. Just get creative, think out of the norm and get out there.
Shop The Sales
Another great thing about budgeting ahead of time and making your list of items you will need is being able to shop during the sales. Fabric shops and hardware stores have sales going on throughout the year, and it’s always worth going to them to see if there is anything that you can use. Visiting discount stores around special occasions such as Christmas or Halloween is also a great way to stock up on lights, fake blood, latex, props, and anything else you can think of. For one of my big costumes I needed skulls and managed to get four large polystyrene skulls for £2 after Halloween (the week before, they were £1.50 each).
Charity shops, auctions and boot sales are another great way to scavenge a great bargain. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is the saying, but to you, it might be the missing part to your costume. Just be sure to give any items you get a good clean and D.I.Y craft away.
Hoarding Is Essential
As a person who leads a semi-minimalistic life, saying those words is not easy. Becoming a hoarder for the sake of keeping the budget for your costumes low is definitely worth your time and effort. You never know when something may come in handy or when those belts you were going to throw away might become some cool new steampunk strapping on a piece of armour. In cosplay, anything goes. No one cares how much you actually spend on a costume, and if you can turn around and say, “I made this amazing costume for £1,” then I’m pretty sure the cosplaying community will be in absolute awe.
The Three “R’s”
There is a simple rule when you are making a costume on a tight budget, and it’s simple to remember:
Reduce: Yes you want to do a big costume, but if you reduce the size and scale of your costume, then you can save money.
Reuse: Check out other costumes you have already made. Are there any other wigs, props, or parts of the costume that can be used on the new one you’re wanting to create?
Recycle: It’s great to recycle old costumes by modifying them to your needs. Charity shops, boot sales and auctions will become your new best friend.
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There are so many ways to make cosplaying an affordable hobby with just a little bit of research and letting your creative senses tingle. Although credit cards and loans seem like easy money, the key thing about them is that you need to pay that back… usually with extortionate interest added on. If you don’t have the money to cosplay now, save up and cosplay a bigger and better costume in the future. Also, you don’t always need to be in a costume to enjoy a convention. Just remember that your health and general well-being is more important than the hobby of cosplaying.
At the end of the day, it’s common sense and general knowledge that will help you enjoy a monetary stress free event and allow you to keep some normality in your bank account. If you have any questions or tips and tricks of your own that you would like answered or shared, then please feel free to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and it might be featured in a future article.