Cosplay – Event Choice & Budgeting

Me as my beloved Hawkeye at MCM London 2014

Me as my beloved Hawkeye at MCM London 2014

Now that Con season is over for 2014, it’s time to start planning for 2015!  And I plan on making next year the biggest year yet for cosplay.  I’m not sure that my bank account will agree with me however and therein lies the eternal struggle of every cosplayer unless they have Tony Stark levels of cash lying around.

Money

Money and the fact that I never have nearly enough of it.  I work full time and have bills and rent to pay.  Once that’s done, I have to buy food etc so it doesn’t often leave much left over for cosplay supplies.  I’m 34 now (and an accountant for goodness sake) so I should have mastered the art of budgeting by now.  Alas, even with the help of my beloved Excel spreadsheets, the last week of the month is always a struggle. But hey, at least I have some awesome costumes, right?  And having no money left at the end of the month means that I can’t go out so have to stay in and be chained to my sewing machine or gluing myself to various costume parts.

In all seriousness though, setting yourself a budget for costumes is a great idea and one that I should have employed ages ago.  It’s tough though, reining myself in, especially when the costume muse has taken hold and I just want to get something finished or make a start on something new.  Up until now, all of my costumes have been really simple and easy to put together, my favourite of which is my Clint Barton costume from the Fraction/Aja run.  It’s really simple as all I really needed to buy was a t-shirt, some bruise makeup and a stuffed toy dog.  It’s also my favourite as Hawkeye has been my favourite for the last 27 years.

When budgeting for cosplay, you need to factor in the following costs and facts:

  • How many events am I going to this year?
  • How many costumes can I realistically afford to do?
  • How many costumes can I realistically start and finish this year?
  • Event ticket, photo op and autograph costs
  • Transportation costs e.g.: train tickets, airfares and petrol costs
  • Accommodation costs e.g.: hotels, B&B’s or staying with friends
  • Food money. You’re going to have to feed and water yourself during the event
  • Spending money. Because you’re going to want to pick up a few ‘precious things’! 
Me as 'Bucky Page' at SDCC 2014.

Me as ‘Bucky Page’ at SDCC 2014.

Planning

The other key to cosplay is planning out what costumes you want to do over the year.  The most helpful way of working that out is deciding on what events you want to go to, how far you’ll need to travel for them and whether not you want to do different costumes for each one.  In 2014 I only did 4 Cons: LFCC, WFLCC, SDCC and MCM London.  The London Cons are easy for me as I only live a 45 minute train journey from central London.  The events that are further afield are little trickier as transporting your costumes becomes a factor.  If your costumes involve bulky props and a big suitcase, you may want to limit the more complicated ones for those events closer to home.  When I went out to the US for SDCC, I made sure that my costumes are the simple ones that wouldn’t add weight to my already stuffed suitcase.  Remember: you’re the one that will have to lug your baggage around on public transport or planes so make life easy for yourself!

Number of Costumes

Once you’ve decided on how many costumes you want to do, write a list of items you need to get for each one.  That way, you’ll be able to keep track of everything.  There are a few handy apps you can download for your phone.  I use Cosplanner.  That enables me to make a virtual list for each costume and track my progress as I tick of each item.  I also make up a spreadsheet for each one to print out and stick on my wall.

The Cosplanner app - very useful.

The Cosplanner app – very useful.

If you’re new to the whole cosplay scene, the important thing to know is where your limits lie.  You don’t want to dive straight in and be building complicated armour as your first project.  Pick something relatively easy and cheap to start with and then you can go from there.  You may even decide that cosplay isn’t for you and then you would have wasted time and money on something that you didn’t want to.  You can build up how complicated your projects are over time but start small then expand from there.

I set myself a budget of £50 a month for cosplay supplies and so far, that’s been enough.  If I have any money left at the end of the month then I might treat myself to something extra before payday but that doesn’t happen often!  eBay is a fantastic place for picking up supplies as you can always find things cheap there.  A lot of my costumes are made up of second hand clothing and those can be found either on eBay or in charity shops.  Even if it’s not exactly what you’re looking for, you can always alter it to suit the costume.  Things like shoes/boots and accessories I tend to buy new but everything else I find second hand.  And using second hand things saves on money.  Things start to get expensive when it comes to materials like Worbla for armour etc so any money you can save on good quality used items is going to mean that you have money left for the expensive stuff.

Myself & my friend Claire as Ned & Chuck from Pushing Daisies at LFCC 2014

Myself & my friend Claire as Ned & Chuck from Pushing Daisies at LFCC 2014

How Many Costumes Is Too Many?

Be honest with yourself – how many costumes will you start and actually finish?  It’s very easy to get carried away with excitement over cosplaying but be realistic.  Trust me; there is nothing worse than having a ton of unfinished projects so be ruthless when you decide which costumes you’re going to do.  It’s better to have a few well polished and finished costumes than half a dozen unfinished ones.  And having a really good finished costume not only makes you feel good, it gives you an excellent starting point for you next project or for improvements.

Event Tickets

You’re going to have to budget for the cost of event tickets and this something that is sometimes forgotten about.  I know that because I’ve done it myself.  When you sit down at the beginning of the year to plan out your event calendar, make sure you know how much a ticket is going to cost and whether or not you can afford it.    A lot of people decide on which events to attend by who the guests are that are going, especially if it’s someone that they really want to meet.

Important things to remember when deciding on which events to go to:

  • Do you want to go for the whole weekend, which will usually include the Friday?
  • Do you only want to do one or two days?
  • Do you want a general entry ticket or one of the VIP packages?
  • Are there any guests going that you really want to meet?
  • Do you want any of the photo ops on offer?
  • Are you going to want to get something autographed?

Photo Ops are going to cost you anything from £15 and upwards and some will be as much as £80-£100 if it’s a huge guest.  Autographs are usually a little cheaper but can still be really expensive.  You need to keep this all in mind when planning out your year.  And be honest with yourself: are you a spur of the moment splurger or a budget in advance and stick to it person?  If you know that you’re going to decide on a whim whilst at the event that you really, REALLY want a photo op with someone, then make sure that you add a £50 contingency fund into your total budget for the weekend.

If you’re going to an event further afield, you’re going to need a hotel room.  The easiest way to do this is to share with your cosplay buddies.  Ultimately, the hotel room is just going to be somewhere to shower and crash out so it doesn’t need to be fancy.  Ibis Hotels (previously Etap) are really good for Cons as there’s usually one within walking distance of the event and they do cheap family room that sleep 3-4 people.  Plus, sharing will keep costs down for everyone.  Trust me when I say that you’re not going to get a lot of sleep anyway so you may as well all be in a room together!  The bigger the convention centre (like the NEC or ExCel Centre), the better the transport links and the more hotels there will be close by.  LateRooms.com is a great tool as you can book most of the hotels through them and not actually have to pay until you turn up on the day.  And you can cancel up to the day before with no extra charge.

If you want something a little more homey then Air BnB www.airbnb.co.uk is a great place to look.  The basis of the website is people rent out rooms in their homes, like a hotel, but it’s much homier.  It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but it’s cheap and will often be very close to the venue.  You can also rent whole apartments so if there are a lot of you going that may be an option to look into.

Travel

Another factor to budget for is travel costs.  The further afield you go, the more the costs are going to go up.  Not only will you have to spring for a hotel, you’re going to have to get there.  If you have a car, factor in petrol costs.  The AA has a really handy tool to help with that: www.theaa.com/driving/mileage-calculator.jsp.  You can put in your route and the rough petrol price and it will work out approximately how much the fuel will cost for the trip.  If you’re taking other people in the car with you then splitting the cost of fuel will help keep everyone’s costs down.

If you’re going my train then book in advance to save money.  www.thetrainline.com is the best place to do that and it’ll be one less last minute thing to worry about.

If you’re flying out to a Con (lucky you!), then make sure you keep an eye out for deals.  Expedia is a great place to save money when you book your flights and hotel at the same time.  I was lucky when I went to SDCC last year as I stayed with a friend.  I eventually booked my flights through The Flight Centre but that was after I had seen a really good price on Expedia.  I then called the Flight Centre and they actually bettered it.  Here’s a VERY good tip: the best time to look for drastically reduced flights on Expedia is Sunday afternoons and Bank Holiday afternoon.  That’s when the airlines do an inventory of the seats they have and then put any empty ones up for sale at ridiculously cheap prices.

Claire & myself as Clint Barton & Matt Murdock at MCM London 2014

Claire & myself as Clint Barton & Matt Murdock at MCM London 2014

Extras

You’re going to need to feed and water yourself during the event so that also needs to be budgeted for.  If you’re lucky enough to be able to afford a hotel that serves breakfast, then that’s the first meal of the day taken care of.  If not, then you’ll have to either find somewhere to eat on the way to Con in the morning or take advantage of the hotel room kettle.  I’ve found that the pots of porridge that use hot water are a godsend.  Pack as many healthy snacks as you can as well as something to drink.  In evenings, you’ll end up going out for dinner so that’s more money to budget for.  Then of course, you’re going to need to eat during the day and Con food is NOT cheap.  £5.00 for a simple sandwich is standard, as is £2.50 for a cup of tea that tastes like dead badger.  Be savvy when it comes to food and take things with you rather than buy it there.

Lastly, spending money.  There is going to be row after row of stalls selling everything a geek could want.  There will be artists taking commissions, toy stalls, comic stalls, bits old tat stalls, EVERYTHING.  And you’re going to want to spend money.  Just make sure that you’ve budgeted for it.  Leave your debit/credit cards locked in the hotel safe and only take cash.  That way, you can take with you what you’ve budgeted for the day and not be tempted to hand over your Visa for that replica Iron Man helmet at £200.

So there it is, my beginners guide to cosplay planning and budgeting.  It’s taken me a few years to figure it all out but now I’ve got a handle on it, budgeting is the key.  Cosplay is all about having fun and that’s not going to happen if your bank balance is at death’s door.  I mean, what’s the point of spending a fortune on putting together an amazing costume and then not having the cash to buy a ticket to an event?

Be savvy, be smart, have fun,  and hopefully I’ll see some of you at Con sometime this year!

GS Blogger: Vix

My current Work-In-Progress, Femme!Captain America

My current Work-In-Progress, Femme!Captain America

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