>Cosplaying on a Budget!

*Too long? scroll to the bottom of the article to find the tips from the article!

When I first started cosplaying, I was a very young girl, thirteen to be exact. It took me years to make my first costume because I was so young. I even remember rolling up spare change to buy my first wig, a blue bob cut wig for my Ni-Na (DDR) costume. Since then, I have aged and learned how to create a budget before I start any of my costumes.

I think creating a budget is key to getting the most out of money when it comes to cosplay. Choosing when to splurge and when to save is a way to get the costumes you desire.

The first thing I do when I decide to start a costume is sit down with a reference image. The image is usually one picture that showcases the entire costume – from head to toe. Let’s use Vanille as an example. Vanille is from the recently released Final Fantasy 13 and a character that I am working on.

When you first view a reference image, decide how much you would like to budget on the costume. First, you must have some sort of idea how much you think it will cost anyway. For Vanille, I have given her a $300 budget. That may sound like a lot, but, with time, I can meet that budget. (I will discuss time frames later.) Now that I have a set amount of what I am willing to spend on the costume, I go through and try to decide what everything will cost. Then, I set a certain amount for each thing. This formula is popular when people plan weddings or other huge events. I got the idea from the fact that I am a wedding enthusiast. Here is a sample budget that I created for Vanille. It can be adjusted to fit your own costumes needs:

Costume: Vanille
Budget: $300

Wig: $50
Fabric: $50 (not including fur for fur skirt and boot cuffs)
Fur fabric: $40
Beads: $40-$50
Boots: $20
Memory wire + clay (for “wooden” necklaces): $20
Clay for other pieces: $10
Total: $230

Oh look, I’m under budget!
Most of the prices are estimates of what I want to spend, so although I came up with $70 under budget, I still keep my budget at $300 to help with any other costs.

Now, I do not aim to spend $300 all in one go. I start researching now to see exactly how much certain items will cost. Wigs are something that I always tend to splurge on, but I shop around to see where I can get the best cost. With Vanille, there are many lovely wigs out there. I will probably buy a character specific wig. These wigs are normally costly and are typically on eBay stores. I will possibly end up buying the wig from COSPLAYWIG, a trusted eBay store I typically buy for. However, for other costumes, I shop around on websites such as Amphigory and Cosworx I also look in the Cosplay.com marketplace to find used wigs or on live journal communities devoted to cosplay. I have gotten wigs as cheap as $15 to use for cosplay! It’s amazing what is out there if you look.

For my shoes, I will hardly ever spend over $20 unless I know that is not going to happen (note: For my Perona costume, I spent $40 for PVC red boots. This is the most, so far, that I have spent on shoes) I am typically looking for sales when it comes to shoes. Electrique Boutique is my favorite site when it comes to shoe shopping. They have a variety of different types of shoes and typically have last size sales. I receive emails from them so I am aware when they have sales. I am a size 10 so there are usually shoes left in my size. For Vanille, I will be shopping there for cowboy style boots. My Yoko costume has the greatest success story with boots. I got them for around $10 ($18 with shipping) from Electrique Boutique).

Fabric is another tricky expense when shopping for costumes, but, again, sales are definitely the way to go. Bargain hunting for fabric is a great thing to do. I look in bargain bins at fabric stores in hopes of finding something that will work. Also, discounts and sales may happen at large chain stores like JoAnns, Hancocks, and Hobby Lobby. Become in the know by joining these sites newsletters and emails. For Vanille, I found fabric I already had! Awesome. I only need a few fabric pieces for the costume now, all probably able to find in the bargain bin. The one thing that I would like to splurge on is the fur. I would like expensive fur for this costume.

I make the necessary adjustments to my budget now:
Since I have found fabric, I can bring down the total I want to spend on fabric.
Fabric: $20 (<- I only need a few things. It probably will not exceed this amount.

After researching fur fabric, I made the adjustments there as well:
Fur fabric: $20

Still keeping my budget at $300, but making necessary adjustments to amounts allows me to eventually save money with that costume. It also upsets other things we might not think about when we do costumes like perhaps having to buy thread or paint or other necessary items that we do not normally budget for.

Another important thing to do before you commence cosplay shopping is check to see what you already have. Like I mentioned, I found fabric that I can use for Vanille in my closet – the majority of the fabric actually. I have the pink fabric I need and also an orange skirt that I will be using. This is fantastic and allows me not to have to buy anything. I, however, do not have pink thread, so – although a minor expense – I can buy some without being over budget.

Now, I shall talk about time frames. If you wait a till the last minute to start a costume, keeping on budget will be harder then you thought. You will want to get things quickly and therefore there is not enough time to shop around for sales and such. Starting a costume six months out versus two months makes a world of difference. If you are able to at least start budgeting for a costume a long time prior to starting it, you can grab things on sale that you will be using for the costume despite not having started it.

An example would be for my upcoming Hiccup(How to Train Your Dragon) costume. I have no solid plans of when I will debut this, although I would like to have it by Halloween, but I know that I want to do this. I was able to grab a pair of boots for only $6 because I thought ahead. The boots were originally $20, but I got them on sale. So, what if I do not use them? This boots are not character specific, meaning they could probably be used in a variety of costumes. Until I add the fur cuff to them, they are perfect boots that I could even wear with regular clothes (although I already have expensive, Ugg boots this same color XD). If I had waited until close to Halloween to get these boots, I may would have had a difficult time finding them and probably would have had to either order them offline OR pay the full $20 (or more!)
Another example is my Black*Star / Edward boots. I got these on sale for about $10 and they have been used with TWO costumes to date! I will also be using them with my upcoming Last Airbender costume.

Morale of the story or tl;dr – SALES SALES SALES! They’re out there and if you have time, you can get cheap stuff for your costumes with no problems.

Let me show you a different costume that has a slightly different budget then Vanille.

Costume: Shotaro (Kamen Rider Double)
Budget: $100

Wig: $20
Vest: $20
Pants: $10
Shirt: $5
Tie: $5
Shoes: N/A
Hat: $10
Total: $65

Wow, cheap costume, huh? Mostly, this costume is things that I can buy, which means it is very possible to find sales. I have already priced a hat like he wears at $10. This will be modified with things I already own. I refuse to pay more then $20 for the wig. I will hunt a wig down for that price if I have too. Shoes are N/A because I am sure I own some that can work. I may, however, actually make the vest for it to be more accurate. Even still, it should not take me more then $20 to make the vest. Ties are more expensive then I thought, after pricing some that I would like to use, I adjusted the budget:

Tie: $20

Yes, ties can cost that much.
And, whoa! That raised my budget to $85!
But that is ok, because I have budgeted for $100 so I am still good. See what creating a budget can do!?

With this costume, however, there is a prop. I, personally, create a different budget for my prop. Especially if the costume can go without a prop. Vanille has a prop, but I opted to go without it. Therefore, there was no need to budget for one. Shotaro, however, has a prop that I would like to have even if it really is not needed: his Henshin belt. This prop could be made, but isn’t it wonderful they have a replica already out there on the market? Plus, I am a sucker for replicas. I decided to splurge on the actual replica.

Costume: Shotaro
Prop budget: $100
Henshin Belt: runs $80-$100 on eBay

There is my budget. I am cutting it close with this one. However, I am willing to splurge so if I can not get this costume for $80 then I am ok with going over. Having the budget, however, gives me a solid price point that I am willing to spend. Therefore I can either save money for the belt or buy it all at once.

What if you’re over budget?
This is a common problem. Sometimes you do not have enough to spend. To deal with being over budget, either push your time frame back (I.e. go from two months, to six, to a year, etc), try to find more deals, or scrap the costume. You do not want to go in debt because of cosplay! There have been several costumes that I just simply could not make because the budget was large. It is possible to research different techniques on making stuff to create a smaller budget, but the main thing is that a person has their priorities in order and does not allow cosplay to take priority over other important things in their life. Please remember cosplay is a hobby and if something is out of your budget range there are plenty of costumes that you can do with a small budget. My Vanille costume is set to take me about three months. Same for Shotaro. If I do not have the money, guess what, I will push Vanille back. I will drop the Henshin Belt for Shotaro. Keeping on budget will allow me to also keep up with costs so I do not go over budget. I do the same thing when I go to actual conventions: allot a certain amount to spend. It is important to keep budgets especially in this economy. If you have ample money to spend, then I certainly do not have any suggestions but you’re lucky XD. But if you are a budget cosplayer, like me, that has been a student throughout my cosplay career and has not had a lot of money to spend, then budgeting and taking my time has still allowed me to have the costumes I wanted.

Budgeting is a very important aspect in this hobby. It allows you to know how much you have to spend, want to spend, and must spend. To get optimal use out of your money, use the tips I have given today. Lets recap for those that thought this was too long:
-Grab a picture of your character and create a BUDGET
-before shopping, see what you already have to use
-shop around! Join website’s newletters to receive emails on sales
-start looking early enable to grab sales
-Decide whether to splurge or to save
– If you’re over budget, decide if you are able to spend that amount of money

Also, here is a handy article I found on how to create a budget. Use it in your everyday life and in cosplay!

Much Love, Jessi-chan =)


One response to “>Cosplaying on a Budget!

  1. >Good tips on budgeting and bargain hunting. Planning ahead is the key!I find that putting this info into a spreadsheet like Excel really helps. It's flexible and powerful enough for you to make anything from really straight-forward budgets to really complex and detailed budgets. For one budget I went ultra-detailed for each item; name, projected cost, actual price (pre-tax), quantity, tax, shipping, which part of the costume the item was used for, even the store and date I bought it from.

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