Cosplay on a Budget

Alright, let’s be honest here — cosplay can be expensive. It can rack up hundreds of dollars in costs, and that can seem totally out of reach. But actually, cosplay doesn’t have to be expensive. I’ve made full cosplays for under $30, and I know it is definitely possible to cosplay with any budget, whether it’s $20 or $200.

In this blog article, I’ll be covering planning/budgeting, knowing what supplies to buy, finding the supplies, making the cosplay, cons and photography, and more! And if you want more in-depth info on all of these topics, check out my Cosplay on a Budget ebook, available in my online shop.

Planning Ahead

First thing to talk about is to plan ahead. For any cosplay, I think it’s important to plan ahead, and know your budget ahead of time. But it’s especially important when cosplaying on a budget, since you have very limited funds available, and need to be careful about how and where you spend them.

So one of the first things I would do is to figure out how much money you actually have to spend on the cosplay. However much it ends up being, it’s important to know how much money you have available, so you don’t end up going over in costs.

Another thing that’s good to know is when and where you are planning on wearing the cosplay. Is it just for fun, with no real plans for wearing it? Halloween? A photoshoot? A comic convention?

Whatever it is, knowing your timeframe for it is important so that you know how much time you have to look for the best deals on materials and supplies. Plus, if it’s a paid event, like a convention, you need to have some money set aside for that.

This might seem like a lot of planning to do, but it actually won’t take you too long, and it will really help you out in the long run.

Planning Your Cosplay

After you’ve determined your budget and timeline, it’s time to start figuring out your cosplay. First off, of course, is picking the cosplay. You should definitely like your character, and cosplay something you want to, but you’ll also need to keep in mind your budget.

Some cosplays aren’t really possible to do with a small budget. You might have to put off that enormous, detailed ballgown for now, and make that cosplay when you have more than a $20 budget.

Once you’ve determined the character you’ll be cosplaying, it’s time to start figuring out what you’ll need to make it. To have lots of images of the character to look at, it can be a good idea to make a photo folder or a Pinterest board of images of that character. Try to find lots of images from the front, back, sides, close ups – basically, find as many pictures as you can get.

After you have lots of pictures to look at, write down all the diffident aspects of the cosplay, like maybe the sword and shield, or the cape and breastplate. Then write down what supplies you’ll need to make them. While it’s important to write down things like foam or fabric, it’s equally important to remember those ‘invisible’ costs — things like thread or glue. Costs like that can add up, even if they’re not super visible.

If you want more help planning out your cosplay, you might want to join my cosplay video course on Skillshare, Learn to Plan a Cosplay.

By using this link, you can sign up for this course for free, along with thousands of others, for 14 days. Plus, since it’s an affiliate link, it helps me out. And it’s free.

Gathering Supplies

When it’s time to start gathering supplies, you’ll want to look EVERYWHERE — look in your closet, your basement, thrift stores, yard sales, craft stores, online — EVERYWHERE. And keep an eye out for good deals, sales, and coupons — all of which can help you save money in cosplay. I talk a little more about how to save money while shopping in my Cosplay on a Budget ebook.

For some things, you might not be able to find the best, most perfect option that fits your budget, and you might have to sacrifice quality just a little in order to afford it. Decide which parts of the cosplay are most important for you to get absolutely right.

Making the Cosplay

Sometimes (okay, probably most times), you’ll end up needing a bit more of something (like foam, or paint, or fabric) than you originally thought, and you’ll need to buy more. It happens. That’s why it can be good to leave a bit of extra money in your budget, for unexpected costs that might come up.

But if you’re already at the end of your budget, and more costs come up… you might have to take money from things like your video game fund, or eating-out fund, in order to compensate. That’s happened to me before, and while it’s not ideal, at least I get to finish the cosplay! 

Of course, if you don’t have enough money to buy more material, you can always try and get creative. You’d be amazed at the things you can do with cardboard, for instance.

After Completion

Alright, so your cosplay will eventually (hopefully) be done! And now what? Were you planning on taking it to a con? Like I mentioned earlier, make sure you plan for that ahead of time.

If you don’t want to spend a ton of money on con tickets and travel costs, a lot of the time you can find free local events to wear your cosplays to, or just do a simple photoshoot at home, or wear it for Halloween. 

For cons, tickets are usually cheaper further in advance, which is why it’s important to know ahead of time where you’re planning on wearing your cosplay. And don’t forget travel costs! A con on the other side of the country might not be the best idea if you’re on a low budget.

And what about taking pictures? Photographers can get expensive. Well, the good news is, you don’t need to pay a ton of money for a photographer! Maybe you have a friend who would be willing to do it for free, or a family member, or maybe you can just set up a tripod and a self timer and take your own photos. There are a ton of cheap options out there.

Final Thoughts

The bottom line is, while cosplay can be expensive, it doesn’t have to be! I hope these tips and suggestions helped you learn some ways you can save money in cosplay, and gave you some good ideas for your future cosplays. If you’re interested in learning more about cosplay on a budget, you can check out my Cosplay on a Budget ebook, in which I go over a ton more tips tricks for saving money in cosplay.