A few years ago I started discussing cosplaying on a budget and hosted a few panels at some South Carolina conventions such as Nashicon. With the recent abundance of cosplay related Gofundme campaigns and Patreon pages, I felt like it was time to bring back the topic of budgeting.
You can very well cosplay on a budget without having to reach out to your “fans” to crowdfund it. You can very well attend conventions without having strangers pay for it. Cosplay is, and always will be, a hobby for the vast majority of cosplayers. This notion that the first thing to do when you can not afford a new costume or convention is create a Gofundme must be stopped. The first thing that should be done is prioritizing your real life and budgeting in order to afford these additional expenses in your life.
Often the one thing that can help you with your budget is simply to plan far enough in advance so that it is not a financial strain. Conventions are normally held around the same weekend each year and if there are changes to a con’s dates they are normally announced a full year in advance. As long as you start planning for that new costume and all the expenses that come with the convention then you should not enter a financial strain.
Preregister for your Conventions
If you know that you are attending a con, look into preregistering as soon as possible. Most cons that do not have a set admission price offer discounts the further out you preregister. You can end up saving 50% or more depending on the con! NOTE: You may want to make sure if the admission is nonrefundable or nontransferable before purchasing if you figure that you are not 100% going to be in attendance.
Use Coupons and look for sales
When it comes to making your costume, coupons are going to be your best bet at keeping the cost down. Sign up for mailing lists of all major fabric stores so that you can receive their coupons and will be notified of their sales. Follow all your favorite cosplay brands on social media because they will host sales on wigs, circle lens, etc. As long as you plan far in advance you will save a bunch of money instead of trying to get it all done the month of the con.
Save, Save, SAVE
Conventions are just like vacations. Would you ask people to fund for your trip to Disney World? So why are you asking them to send you to San Diego Comic Con? If you know this is a place that you want to go then you should already be saving to make that happen. Budget out your expenses for that weekend – hotel, transportation, food, etc – and save towards the total amount. Cut down costs by having roommates or car pooling. Check flight costs constantly in order to grab a ticket when the price is low. Catch an Uber instead of a taxi or, if possible, use public transportation. Just be very mindful and savvy of your spending just like you would do on any type of vacation. But most importantly….
You DO NOT have to go to every convention or make every costume
Trust me. I know how sad it is to miss a big event. I know how depressing it is to follow the hashtag on the weekend of the trip. I have cancelled many cons when real life got in the way. My most tragic story was canceling PAX East hours prior to leaving due to complications with flight travel. It happens. This idea that you have to go to every single big convention is unhealthy and it certainly is not good for your budget. Adulthood comes with being more mindful of your expenses. That means picking and choosing what can be done…and what can not be done. Choose one big event that you want to attend. Make it your goal and save towards it. There are so many cons now that I am sure local conventions will hold you over until you have to shell out the big bucks.
You also do not have to make dozens of costumes a year. Focus on making a few great ones. It is also perfectly fine to rewear your amazing costumes. Show them off at multiple conventions! You put in a lot of hard work to make it and saved a lot of money by budgeting. Show it off everywhere!
There are several ways a cosplayer can make new costumes and go to conventions without relying on asking others for the funds to do so. It is fine if the following you have amassed is willing to sponsor things for you without asking, but the moment you make a Gofundme is opening yourself up as being needy and, quite frankly, irresponsible. This is my personal opinion, but I just want to show how possible it is to not go this route. Take hold of your finances and make it work.