Cosplaying on a budget can be hard. I know, I'm on a pretty darn tight budget. I work as a server at the local Olive Garden. I make good money some nights, okay money some nights, and downright poor money some nights. It all leads to an extremely variable income, also very dependent on what nights I'm scheduled to work. So I have a slim budget that changes week to week and no shortage of cosplay goals and projects. I'm no expert at cosplaying on a budget, but I will gladly pass on some tips and tricks gleaned from my own experiences!
- Plan ahead. I know, I know, you just had to do that character from that one series for the con that's in two weeks so you just couldn't plan ahead! That's all well and good, and you might be able to do it cheaply. But when you can do so, I STRONGLY recommend planning the cosplays in your lineup well in advance. This way you have more time to scout, plot, shop sales, etc. After all, if you can purchase something at half price, there's no sense in rushing and buying it at full price.
- Connect with your local fabric store. Most fabric stores have newsletters you can sign up for. My local JoAnn's sends me coupons and sale notifications in the mail, via email, and via text. All of these have helped me keep track of sales and purchase fabrics and materials as inexpensively as possible. Unless what you're buying is cheap anyway, always use coupons when you can. I just bought 5 yards of a dark blue micro-suede fabric for 40% off because I shopped sales. If I hadn't done that, the darn fabric probably would have broken the bank. Oh, and the fabric for my Belle cloak? 50% off because I stumbled upon a sale. It's so worth it, and if you've planned ahead, you'll have time to shop sales and wait to purchase fabrics until your coupons take effect.
- Check out Goodwill. Sometimes you won't believe the things they have at Goodwill! If you're planning a modern cosplay, Goodwill is especially useful. I bought all the pieces for my Murasame cosplay (other than the wig) for less than $10. (The wig itself was a lucky find on ebay for $18.) That's far cheaper than making it myself. Additionally, check Goodwill for fabric options. They sometimes have bolts of fabric and don't realize just how valuable what they have really is, so sell it for cheap. Also, if you see a shirt with fabric you really like at Goodwill, why not buy it and use it for fabric scraps? If you're on a budget, you have to think creatively. And remember that since Goodwill is funded by donations, different Goodwills will have different stock. Check more than one for the best chance of finding what you need.
- Always carry reference images when looking at fabric. This isn't as important with characters like Murasame, who doesn't have an in-color reference available. But for characters like Belle, or Tulio, or anyone who has multiple in-color references, you need to make sure you're buying the correct color of fabric the first time. I bought several yards of the wrong color fabric for Belle the first time and had to buy more. Luckily I wasn't on quite as tight a budget then, but that still wasn't an expense I needed.
- Measure twice, cut once. Why does this point belong in tips for cosplaying on a budget? Simple! If you cut before making certain of your measurements, you run the risk of ruining the fabric beyond repair and forcing yourself to purchase more. If you're cosplaying on a budget, you probably can't spare the extra expense. And remember, it's ALWAYS better to make something too big than too small. You can always hem it shorter, or sew it a bit tighter, but adding material? That's far more difficult and can look downright awkward. So always double-check your measurements before you cut!
These are definitely not all the ways to save when cosplaying on a budget, but I hope these tips will help those of you on budgets like me to save some money where you can! Now if you lovely, dear readers will excuse me, I'm going to actually eat lunch.