As anyone who cosplays, or is looking into it, knows, it’s not a cheap hobby. Materials, time, supplies, tools – all cost a pretty penny. The tendency to last-minute cosplay is a huge problem for many people. I know, I do it all the time. And it costs me. People pay for convenience, they pay for quick service. It’s just how our society has evolved. We are an instant gratification generation. I don’t just mean all you youngsters out there, either.
This applies to the old as well as the young. We have access to instant gratification, so everyone of all ages takes advantage of it. This factor has its pro’s and con’s, which I won’t go over here.
My point is, our wallets pay the price for our impatience. So I’ll touch base on a few things that have helped me make my cosplays despite being super broke:
1. Budget! Budget! Budget!
2. Thrift shop/household items
3. Tools and supplies
5. When to open your wallet
Let’s stop for a moment and think about this, because I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before. How much did you spend on your last cosplay? Did you keep track? Or did you just shuffle the cost under the rug and decide you didn’t want to think about it? Did you ever really look over how much all those little supplies here and there cost? Because it’s probably more than you think. So pull it together, and get out the books. Find out how much each month, or total, you can spend on your cosplay.
I recommend planning this out before you start on any supplies. Or, perhaps you’ve already started. Just go back and count costs, then move forward with that knowledge. Try not to strain your every day life for cosplay! I know you want to, I know you have, and that’s ok. For now. But if you want to continue on and keep going, this is vital to your success and ability to keep making cosplays. Make yourself a spreadsheet, find one someone else has made, doesn’t matter. Maybe you already have a household budget, that’s awesome! Use that. Plan cosplay and add it to a monthly list you’ve already made. Getting yourself a budget will help you plot out what materials you should buy, and when. On those months you are tight try and find deals, on those months you’re ok, buy those items that are unavoidably more expensive. Plotting this out will help immensely in feeding you cosplay addiction!
2. Thrift shop/household items:
I touched on planning ahead in other articles, so I won’t cover it too much here. If you’re going to scour thrift stores, it’s the best way to make it profitable. You may be searching for months before you find comparable boots for your cosplay that normally cost $50+, that may only cost you $10. Or that perfectly shaped gun you can modify that might cost you $15+ (yes, that $15 can make a difference!) and instead you found for $5. Another handy tool is your own closet and supply rooms. There are more useful items and clothing lying around then you might think.
3: Tools and supplies:
Getting these high cost items for cheap can be pivotal. You have to know what you can find, and what you have to buy. For example, tools. One great way to help out when you need tools (sewing machine, sander, hot knife etc.etc.etc.) is to make friends! Not always so easy when we’re a bunch of shy nerds. But there are plenty of online communities in your area that I bet anyone can make friends on. Just check around! Google it! Use facebook or other social media! People are meant to connect, and trust me, most everyone wants quality friends and a feeling of community as much as you do. However, meetups are sometimes just not possible. If you can’t meet up with anyone, or none of your friends have the tools you need – look for sales! Seems like the obvious choice, but you’ve got to watch out like a hawk, sometimes for months, to get a price that’s affordable.
Plenty of online or local stores have sales all the time. Holidays are the perfect time to snipe that dremmel or saw or whatever. Father’s day is a great example – fathers love power tools, and so do you! Christmas, Mother’s day, etc. etc. always have something going on. So watch that item you need like a hawk. Check every week in between holidays, sign up for online newsletters, let people know what you’re looking for and maybe they know someone trying to sell one! Or they have an old one they’re giving away. You never know what random opportunities will come up when you let your needs known.
4: Materials, wigs, makeup, etc:
Sales bring us to my next point: materials. There are just some things you have to make by hand. Specific pendants, patterned cloth, pre-quilted fabric, colored wigs, contacts, makeup, special effects and the like are usually things that no matter how hard you search you can’t just pick up at a garage sale. So, like with tools, sales are crucial. I’m going to be biased for a moment, because I’m writing this article based on my success with cosplaying on a budget. And I couldn’t have done it without JoAnne’s fabric store. Don’t be fooled by the name, it’s much more than that.
JoAnne’s is the best place around, in my opinion, for most of your fabric needs. They’re particularly great because they also have many things that aren’t sewing related, that are also amazing. If you can get yourself to one of their larger stores their arts and crafts and floral sections are really good as well. The smaller ones have limited supplies, but they too carry many other useful stuff. And they ALWAYS have sales! No joke, like always. You would be wise to pay attention to them, sign up for their online deals and/or mailers. You can use multiple coupons on the same order, which is amazing. There are some things you just can’t pass up. I’ve saved hundreds of dollars picking the right time to buy my stuff. And in turn, I’ve wasted as much money when I’m rushed or unwilling to wait for a sale.
Makeup, contacts, and special effects are a bit harder. Sure you can browse online or any stores and find great deals, but in my experience you don’t find them that often. If you’ve got a particular place you know of that’s really good – let us know! I’m just as experienced in that area, so if you have knowledge we don’t, share it! Makeup is a bit easier since you can find it in the mall or basically any grocery store. Once again holidays can be a great money saver if you’re willing to be first in line for the sales. Special effects material are a bit of a no-brainer. Wait until after Halloween and you will find the best deals around. Dedicated costume shops don’t always have this going on – but those single season pop-up places always try to blowout their leftover supplies.
5: When to open your wallet:
A few things I would be wary of buying cheap are contacts and wigs. Save your money and spring for quality on both of those. Take what you’ve saved and put it into these. You only have two sets of eyes – don’t risk it to save money. Find reliable local or online stores. Get references from people who’ve used them. Be cautious and hold high standards for these.
As far as wigs go, my experience is that most sales on wigs are on styles that aren’t selling well, or colors they have overstock of that aren’t that great. Wigs can make or break a cosplay – I’ve probably said it in every article I’ve written. Cheap wigs are good in a bind, and sometimes places like Amazon and Ebay have killer prices on wigs that turn out to be great quality. But be wary that not all online sellers are the same. You’re taking a chance by buying from an unknown place/seller.
Paying full price will always be necessary for some things. Even if you’re not in a rush, you won’t always find the miracle deals that you hope for. It’s just a fact. Depending on how long you hold onto your money, maybe you will. But how long you want to put off your cosplay to keep your cash is a completely personal choice. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
So the gist of it?
TLDR – Plan your price, plan your time frame, plan your supplies. It’s as easy, and hard, as that.