Ah, don’t you just love the cosplay life?
- Sharing con hotel rooms with 10 other people while having to sleep on the floor
- Eating instant ramen most of the time
- Eyeing that Facebook Buy/Sell/Trade cosplay group to be the first to jump on that used cosplay deal
- Seeing if someone is willing to buy your used cosplay so you can afford the next one.
- Hoping you can snag a deal off Taobao.
Does this sound all too familiar to you? 🙂
As a cosplayer, I’m sure at some point you’ve asked yourself, “Is cosplaying too expensive?” Maybe you’ve had enough of this hobby destroying your bank account?
Before you decide to hang up those boots or dress, read this article first!
In this post, we’ll discuss the question about cosplaying being too expensive? We’ll talk about:
- The facts about cosplaying and how this hobby can definitely break your wallet and even your financial life if you’re not careful
- How cosplaying is CHEAPER than you think
- How to NOT make the cosplay too expensive for you!
Here we go!
Why is cosplay so expensive?
Let’s face it – cosplaying can be a really expensive hobby. Especially if you’re always buying or making new costumes. How so?
1. Many decent costumes will run you over $100.
The most elaborate ones can be hundreds if not thousands of dollars. While some easy-to-make costumes like sports Anime can be dirt cheap, others not so much. For example, once you start looking into characters that require expensive materials (e.g. Worbla, embroidery), you’re spending a good portion of your paycheque! And if you want your costume custom-made, tailored and specially commissioned just for you, you can add labour and time costs to that as well.
It’s like playing a gacha game. You can easily go from free-to-play/ low cost, to spending like a whale!
2. Most cosplays have a short lifespan, and you have to continually make or buy new costumes.
What do I mean by this? I talk about this in my cosplay hype article. Many people cosplay popular characters at their peak. For example, My Hero Academia and Genshin Impact are some of the hottest cosplays right now!
There’s nothing wrong with cosplaying trendy characters. After all, you get the most engagement with your followers and fans during this period if you can cosplay at peak hype! The problem is that it’s also the most expensive time to do this.
If you’re buying the latest and greatest costume, you’re usually paying full price because it’s brand new. And unless you’re very skilled at sewing and crafting, you’ll be spending a lot of time getting that new popular character made as soon as possible, which also adds extra costs.
Now imagine doing this each and every time a new popular Anime or series comes out. It’s going to be pretty expensive to do this every time! Again, nothing wrong with cosplaying the hot and trendy characters, as it’s definitely a lot of fun. But it can be an expensive endeavour. To have a variety of new and popular cosplays will be a lot of money.
3. Not being careful with your spending.
Like many hobbies in this world, it’s easy to go overboard with your cosplay spending. When you see professional cosplayers in their beautiful and elaborate outfits/dresses, you just wanna look exactly like them, no matter how much money you need to spend.
And this is how you go broke! I’ve seen cosplayers going into huge debt which is unfortunate. It goes without saying, but your necessities (e.g. food, rent, bills) always come first before cosplaying.
4. Time = money.
I know this is something you don’t think about much, but costume-making itself takes a LONG time. It could take hours, weeks and even months to finish making a cosplay on your own. That’s a lot of time and dedication to commit. And to me, time = money.
Of course, if you enjoy seeing and crafting, then there’s no issue. But unlike other hobbies such as playing video games or watching Netflix, getting good at cosplay-related skills like sewing takes years to get good at. So time is a huge expense when you’re costume-making. Some get burnt out from the mistakes and frustration, making you wonder if it’s worth the journey. There’s a reason why con crunch exists (well technically, existed pre-pandemic). Cosplay-making in itself is a demanding hobby. It requires practice, concentration, a ton of tutorials and in this context of this article, TIME. And time = money.
Alright, I’m done being negative about cosplay. Cosplaying can certainly make your financial life a lot more stressful. Does it have to be this way? Of course not!
How cosplay is cheaper than you think
Now let’s talk about why cosplaying doesn’t have to be expensive.
1. I feel the biggest issue is when cosplayers try to cosplay characters that are out of their budget.
I’ve wrote in the past about in how much costumes cost and that different characters have different prices. For example, cosplaying a Pokémon Trainer is going to be waaay cheaper than going all out with a Zelda dress with full embroidery.
Being financially responsible is definitely important, especially with cosplay. Like for me, I make a decent income but I still prefer not to go overboard in spending money on cosplay. And fortunately, I know most cosplayers who are the same; they try to be reasonable and not spend too much.
I personally only know one cosplayer who spends thousands of dollars on a cosplay. He’s a regular reader of my blog. You know who you are. 😉
2. Just because you spend less on a costume, doesn’t mean the quality is bad.
Not at all. You can look amazing as a Pokémon Trainer, especially if you have nice detailing and the costume fits you well.
On the same token, you can look terrible in a Zelda dress if it doesn’t fit you well (i.e. too small or too big). Or the dress is made of cheap material that’s not meant for a dress.
In other words, you can look great in a low-cost cosplay while you may not look great in an expensive costume. So more money doesn’t necessarily mean good!
3. The closet is your friend.
There are literally characters you can cosplay using stuff that’s inside your closet! Some of these characters can be as cheap as $10! Check out my closet article for more ideas. But in general, you can go for characters with casual clothing such as Pokémon, Steven Universe and Dragon Ball Z.
As mentioned in the previous point though, I don’t recommend trying to use cheaper materials for things that should use higher quality (e.g. cardboard, shiny reflective fabric). It’ll just look bad and tacky in my opinion. It’s better to pick a character that’s easily done with cheaper materials, than to go for a character that you know requires expensive stuff.
4. You don’t have to buy a brand new costume off a fancy cosplay website all the time.
I’m sure if you keep buying costumes from cosplay stores all the time, you’d definitely be broke! There are many other ways to obtain new cosplays, such as buying used costumes, buying/selling costumes off Facebook, reusing and recycling parts of your costumes, borrowing costumes and more!
And although I have mixed feelings about Taobao based on my experience, I will say it’s a great way to save a lot of money.
Also, you don’t have to cosplay brand new characters all the time. Many cosplay stores have a clearance section to get rid of their overstock on costumes that were popular but not anymore. I.E. the post-cosplay hype characters. This is where you can cosplay characters for cheap! And a lot of them are still great characters to cosplay; who doesn’t love Ryuko from Kill La Kill? Or Yuko from Gurren Lagann?
The Senpai Method to make cosplay not expensive for you
Step 1: Decide which cosplays you want to do first.
I say this because it’s better to know in advance who you want to cosplay than to deciding on the fly. That’s where you may end up spending more money than you have). See point #3 in my reasons why cosplay is expensive.
The easiest way to sort out your ideas is simply making a photo album on your smartphone (or computer) and save photos of the character in that album.
I recommend saving both the animated version and a real-life version that a cosplayer already has done, if possible. Because what you see in an Anime or video game may not translate too well into the real world. Or it’s extremely difficult to do in real life.
Take Jessie from Team Rocket for example. While her outfit is easy to make or buy, her hair is insanely long and doing a wig like that won’t be as cheap.
Step 2. Check and estimate how much each character will cost to do.
Now that you know who you’re gonna cosplay, it’s time to figure out approximately how much money you’ll need to pull it off. This applies to both buying and making the costume yourself.
Check out my guide on how much cosplay costs to figure out the approximate price to cosplay a certain character.
Once you know how much the cosplays will generally cost, pick and choose which cosplays you want to do from the album, based on how much money you can spend.
Step 3. Do you have enough money to cosplay who you want?
If you have enough money to cosplay the characters you want, then go for it!
If you do not have the money (or time), then don’t worry. You have other options:
- Sell off your old/used cosplays to fund the new ones. I call this CosSwap™ (or CosSwapping™). By selling off your old cosplays, not only will you have more money for new costumes, you also gain more space in your home for new costumes!
- Go for cheaper costumes. I’m sure in your photo album, you had characters that are cheaper to do than your first picks. Go for those instead.
- Find cosplays on sale instead. Start browsing cosplay websites for costumes that are either on sale or on clearance. Those costumes may not be your preferred choice, but certainly much friendlier for your bank account.
- If your friends have the same costume, ask them NICELY if you can borrow it. A note of caution: be nice to your friends and don’t take advantage of them. If they let you borrow their cosplay, definitely return the favour in some way shape or form.
- Start saving and earning more money. I know this is not the answer you may not want to hear. But sometimes you gotta put in the work and make some money before you can afford another cosplay!
- Taobao? If you’re really strapped on cash, Taobao is a great way to save money on getting new cosplays but it can be a huge hassle. Again, I’m not the biggest fan of Taobao since it took my costume nearly 4 months to arrive! So I say if you have more time > money, Taobao is the way to go. But if you have more money > time, then I say you’re better off skipping Taobao.
To answer the question, “Is cosplay expensive?” Yes, but it doesn’t have to be!
Just like many hobbies (e.g. rock climbing, Netflix binging, cooking), you’re going to have to spend some sort of money to take part in it. And cosplaying is definitely no exception to that.
Just like you don’t have to buy a Lamborghini or Ferrari to be a car hobbyist, you don’t need to go all out with Worbla armor to be a hobby cosplayer.
And there you have it, a post on the question, “is cosplay expensive” or not.
Like all hobbies, cosplaying can drain your wallet real quick. But with the right mindset and a little planning, you can control and dictate how much money goes into cosplaying while still enjoying this hobby that we hate and love at the same time. 🙂
If you want to learn more about saving money on cosplay, check out these other articles:
- How to afford cosplaying without going broke
- How to figure out the cost of your cosplay
- 10 money-saving cosplay tips
Let me know your thoughts on this post! Has cosplaying been worth the money for you? Is cosplay too expensive for you? Let me know in the comments below!
My name is Roger Senpai. I’m a cosplayer that’s been in the community for well over a decade now. I’ve traveled all over the world to Anime and Comic conventions and hosted my own cosplay events. Now I’m writing articles for new and experienced cosplayers like you to help inspire, save you money and improve your cosplays!