When budgeting for a cosplay it can be easy to forget about the added "one-time" costs, such as tools. Sure the cost of the tools will be averaged out over its lifetime, and hopefully many projects, but the cost is coming out of this paycheck. If you can't afford the cost of the tools needed for a cosplay, perhaps you should shelve the idea for later.
Another expense area that is often overlooked is small supplies. It's easy to forget about things like glue and thread. Sure they're not that expensive on their own, but add up a few of these throughout your costume, and suddenly you've spent an additional $10-$20.
2. Not Estimating How Much Material is Needed BEFORE You Buy
This is a great way to end up with either too much, or to little of what you need. If you're not working from a store-bought pattern, create your own and lay it out to get a good idea of how much material you'll need. And don't forget to buy a little extra in case of mistakes. You don't want to run the risk of not being able to match colors or styles later. The goal is to end up with just a very small amount of extra material, not enough to make another whole costume.
3. Not Checking To See if You Can Use Materials Already On Hand
Sometimes a minor adjustment in thinking means you can use materials you already have on hand, instead of buying them. Things like cardboard and styrofoam packaging are usually floating around in my garage, and I usually have scraps of fabric and craft foam leftover from other projects. You might even be able to get old materials, clothing items, or shoes from friends and family. It's worth checking around to see if you can "make due" with anything you already have, before you run out and buy new.
4. Not Doing the Math
When shopping sales, whip out your smartphone and do a little quick math. Many times I've seen clearance or sale prices that are actually more expensive than what I could get it for at regular price with a coupon. If you're shopping online, make sure you're factoring in shipping costs. Don't get caught up just because you see the word "sale". Make sure you're actually getting the best possible price.
5. Not Factoring In Non-monetary Costs
Sometimes in our desire to save money on a cosplay, we get caught up in the money-savings, and forget to factor in other considerations. There have been times when it's been worth a few extra dollars to me to save some time or frustration. Don't forget to consider other things like time, difficulty, and the longevity of the costume when planning your cosplay.
I hope these tips help you plan an amazing cosplay on a budget. Be sure to let me know about your budget cosplaying experience in the comments.
Sarah has been cosplaying at conventions for about 2 years now, although she was creating costumes long before that. She now runs Cosplay Cents, a blog about cosplaying on a budget. You can find her at www.cosplaycents.com