Step 1: Figure out your limit
Figure out what you are comfortable spending. When coming up with this number, do not:
- Pull from your savings
- Pull from funds for rent or bills
- Leave yourself without money to do social things like going out for food or to the movies
Remember that cosplay is one aspect of your life. Do not shirk your responsibilities and do not leave your finances so tight that you cannot relax or live life when you want to.
Step 2: Breaking Down the Cost
By now you have completed the exercise in breaking down the costume so that you understand what the full scope is. As part of your pre-project research, you found out how much different materials are going to cost.
Put together a list of all the items and how much they cost. Add in a 25%-30% buffer in case of: mistakes, miscalculations, or things that you didn’t think about originally.
Add them up to find the total cost.
Step 3: Work with your Budget
If the final number is higher than your limit, you can spread the cost out over time or defer the costume until you’ve saved up a bit.
For spreading the cost over time: budget an amount each month to spend on your cosplay. For example: $25 over 6 months is $150. You might not have $150 in one shot, but breaking it up into $25 makes it more manageable.
Waiting until you’ve saved up a bit is a very safe option. Work on another costume in the meantime until you have enough founds to take on the bigger, more expensive projects. For example: $15/month for a year is $180. You might not be able to work on the costume this year, but you’ll have what you need next year.
Keep in Mind
Projects cannot be done cheaply, quickly, and with good quality; the best you can do is 2 out of 3.
Fast + Good Quality = Expensive
Note that commissions have a minimum lead time, regardless of how much you are willing to pay.
Cheap + Fast = Poor Quality
Be very wary of online stores that seem to have exactly what you want for a low price. These vendors are probably cutting corners.
If you want something done well and frugally, your best bet is to make the costume yourself, working on it little bits over a long period of time.