Every single cosplayer in the world has one painful problem that we can all relate to: we're always broke. Always.
Fabric, thread, machines, paints, wood, tools, thermoplastics, LEDs, mould castings, brushes, dyes, wigs, make-up, contacts, boots, prosthetics, convention tickets, travel expenses, luggage, skin care, gym... the list goes on and on. Every single cent we earn, we constantly throw it all back into making our beloved costumes and feeling good for a few hours while stressing for months prior-hand. Non-cosplayers may not get it, but we do. For us, it's not a sacrifice. The chance to hone our creative spirit and create something from nothing is a rewarding life experience. Some think that the cost of an outfit is more valuable compared to medication and psychological sessions.
But like it not, we've all gotta come to a conclusion that the hobby must come to an end for us one day, and to have some money saved up for your next step in life is a greater advantage than having nothing at all. It could be a mortgage on a new house, a holiday, a new car, wedding, whatever! Plus, even if we're nowhere near that stage yet, it's always great to have some spare cash just in case. I asked a few of my friends some tips on what they do to save money [aside from 'quit cosplay altogether' lol], and mashed them up with my own little ideas to come up with a list of great ideas. Hope they help you out!
1. LIMIT TO ONLY BUYING FABRICS WHEN THERE'S A SALE
In Australia, our two mainstream fabric stores- Spotlight and Lincraft- often have sales to draw in customers and compete with one another. This can rage from 30-50% fabrics and crafts. I save up all my money and literally go all-out in a sale, and I often save quite a bit of money!
The one thing I really hate about these stores is that when the items are full-price, they're a bloody rip-off. Unless you're really desperate, DO NOT buy from the big stores.
This leads to my second tip....
2. MAKE CONNECTIONS AND SCOUT OUT THE LITTLE GUYS
In my area, there's a fabric store called My Hung. The guys there are always great to me, and give me discounts often on fabrics that are already at a good price, and they seem to have more fabrics than the bigger stores. And, they keep their fabrics tidy and dust-free. I'm talking delustered satin [1.5m width] for $15 p/m and they'll give it to me for cheaper! Another store nearby sells me great quality 4-way metallic PVC for $7 p/m! So it's always best to scout out the little guys, make a connection, and you'll often always buy fabrics for that little bit less.
I'd also recommend that you scout out good online fabric stores. Do thorough research on these guys, and some can be dodgy. MJTrends is great for latex and what-not, Taobao is good, and even eBay sell some great matte PVC.
3. MAKE CALICO TEST PIECES OF YOUR COSTUME.
This may sound like a waste of money, but it's not. Buy some cheap calico and learn to make your own pattern blocks, and not only will you accurately make a greater costume that fits to your shape, you'll know the exact amount of fabric you'll need to make it. My most recent costumes [Ada Wong, Litchi, Yuna, etc] were all made from calico test pieces, not pre-bought pattern blocks. Now having said that, sometimes it's worth the money to invest in some patter blocks for ball gowns, corsets and what-not. Look on auction sites or second-hand stores for some decently priced ones before you head out to buy one. Sometimes you can grab a bargain!
4. SET UP A SEPARATE BANK ACCOUNT WITH HIGH INTEREST THAT LOCKS YOUR SPARE MONEY AWAY.
A drastic measure, but desperate times call for it. Save as much money as you can, and whatever's left over the day before your next pay, toss it into a locked account. It gets alot easier over time to create a budget and have some spare change when you need it most!
5. DUMP THE GYM AND DO IT FROM HOME.
I'm locked into my gym membership for a little bit longer, but I'm fortunate I only have to pay around $8 p/w to go. Many gyms can cost far more, and if you don't have the spare cash and time, then don't bother. You can still get awesome results from home and you don't even need any fancy gym equipment!
Here's what I'd do:
- 30+ min walk/jog. Break it up where you jog for 5-7 mins, brisk walk for 2-5mins, then repeat. This will keep your heart pounding while not over-stressing your body.
- Push-ups are brilliant for toning arms. do 10x2 push-ups with a 30 second break in-between. Squats, leg raises and frog jumps are perfect for your legs. 12x2 for these, and increase amount when you're physically capable. Find other routines that work for you.
- Yoga is brilliant for posture, stretching, and toning your body up. Practice yoga for 20mins-1hr. Buy a DVD, get Wii Fit+, or attend public classes if your gym doesn't include them in your membership.
- If you do have a console [Wii, Xbox], invest in those workout games. You'll be surprised how much they make you burn!
6. DO NOT SKIP OUT ON HEALTHY MEALS.
People think healthy food is expensive. It's not. In fact, it can often work out cheaper if you buy fresh produce form the markets and make everything from home. Bulk-cook your meals and freeze the leftovers in meal-sized plastic tubs for later. Make sandwiches and take them work with you. Make your own healthy snacks like granola bars and popcorn. Not only does this keep your health on track, you'll look and feel much better....
.... Unless you're really tight and you have to life off Mi Goreng for a while lol. I guess that works. Kinda.
7. SELL YOUR CRAP ONCE YOU'RE DONE WITH IT.
Wigs, shoes, and even your old costumes. If you know you're not gonna wear it anymore, and the items are in great condition, then sell them and earn some change back. Make sure you sell it at an affordable price. Even sell old DVDs, plushies, and anything else you think would be appealing! And list your items all over the place so you get an even better chance of earning some cash!
8. CHANGE YOUR CAREER/JOB/BLEH.
Or you can ask for more shifts lol. That's what I did.
9. COSPLAY LESS CHARACTERS, AND TAKE YOUR TIME MAKING THEM.
It can often be alot easier on your wallet if you take your time only making a few high-quality costumes. This means you don't lose money in one big load, and you'll often make a better costume because you're not freaking about making a ballgown in 3 days!
10. GET SPONSORED....!?
It's very rare for this to happen, but if you're a very well-known cosplayer, you can often be sponsored by major companies to make/wear costumes to promote their product. This usually happens in Japan, South Korea, America, etc. Australia? No. [Aside from indie games, we haven't made a decent major game in years]
11. MAKE PRODUCTS AND SELL THEM.
If you have a few thousand followers, there's no harm in selling a few things to make some spare cash on the side. Cat ears, gemstones, wings, pattern blocks, accessories, whatever! I'm even thinking of eventually selling some posters of my costumes [splitting earning between myself and photographer].
Now having said that, you gotta be really careful that you don't take advantage of your followers. The majority would be more than happy to help you out a bit while getting a little something for themselves, but do not rely on them to fund your hobby. It's YOUR choice to cosplay, so YOU have to make sacrifices.
If you have your own little tips, submit them and I'll add them to the list. Thanks for reading!