The Geek on a Budget, Entry 1: Perspective

It can be difficult to establish and stick to a budget. If you are doing things right, you see your savings growing weekly, and the temptation to spend your every excess dime grips you with the tenacity of a baboon on Bath Salts. It is doubly difficult for a Geek.

For the purposes of this entry, the Geek in question is me: a thirty-something, married, child-free male with interests in comic books, table top gaming, and sundry other man-child type things. Ours is a single income household, and money can get very tight very quickly. Budgeting is a necessity if I want to be able to pay bills on time and also afford a new board game, RPG, or this month’s new comics. The first concern is Perspective.

Every month, there is something shiny and new that comes out for Our Geek to buy. There are expansions to games, new games, RPGs he just read about, new comics by artists or writers that he enjoys, and of course – MERCHANDISE. Merchandise is the hallmark of Geekdom. It is the bag full of multicolored dice, the rows and rows of miniatures, the closet full of t-shirts, and every single collectable that gets molded, painted, and slid under Our Geek’s nose.

There is a magazine that is published monthly JUST to get these products to Our Geek’s eyes. Previews exists to show Our Geek what new things he can spend his money on, and does its best to entice him to buy more and more. When Our Geek was a twenty-something, he would get Previews monthly and go through it like it was the Sears Wishbook, and he was his own personal Santa.

However, marriage, financial responsibility, and perspective changed all of that.

No Geek should ever choose between saving money for the future, or stroking his collector’s itch. Saving money is always the way to go, because there will always be expenses that will need to be addressed in order to preserve the status quo of Our Geek’s lifestyle. Our Geek needs a car, just as Our Geek needs a home and food. These are the bones of a budget: what you need. REALLY need. These are the expenses that get addressed first.

The Needs:

  • Food
  • Rent/Mortgage
  • Applicable Taxes
  • Utilities
  • Car Expenses
  • A basic wardrobe
  • Saving for the future (Emergency Fund and at least a little for retirement)

Our Geek cried his eyes out when he didn’t include comics on that list. The next portion of the list made him happier:

The Wants:

  • Comforts: Including cable, internet, comics, games (expansions, or reasonably priced core), and going out to eat.
  • Saving for Experiences: Vacations or other activities to help enrich one’s life.
  • Saving for splurging: Buying expensive wardrobe items, costumes, buying into a new (expensive) game, video game system

The ratio for these is a tough one to decide, but suffice to say that it is in Our Geek’s best interests to satisfy the first lists’ demands before he thinks about the second list. This is what perspective is all about: realizing the difference between what you want and what you need. While it sucks distended troll anus, there will be times when Our Geek can’t do everything he wants to do from his Wants list. If he’s buying a new core set for a game that costs $75.00, he’s probably not going to have enough money left in his Wants portion of the budget to be able to afford to take Mrs. Geek out for a night on the town.

Long and short, something needs to give, and it is up to Our Geek to decide what is more important to him. In fact, it is up to each of us to figure out what is important in our lives, and to make sure that our priorities are in place. Sure, Mrs. Geek will miss going out for dinner this month, but Our Geek will make it up to her by making dinner at home and doing all of the dishes for his beloved.

Perspective also plays a role in a purchase: Our Geek must ask himself why he wants to buy something. Is adding another comic to his subscription list worth the extra strain on his Wants budget? Is the new Harley Quinn book a good addition to his collection? Will he keep getting it even if he doesn’t like it, just to be a completionist? Is there room for that enormous Godzilla model? Should he really buy a game that’s for 3 players, since getting anyone over to play can be a challenge?

By considering the ramifications of a purchase, Our Geek can make a better choice. It is easier to stick to a budget if you look at the true cost of what you are buying. Sure, a new core set for a game is grand, but remember that Our Geek will probably want to buy every expansion that comes down the pike. If Our Geek is already collecting 3 games, is a fourth one a viable purchase? Will he continue collecting the other games, or will the new one be his focus?

The final facet of perspective that I’m going to look at is kind of depressing. Our Geek is child-free, so Our Geek isn’t buying this stuff with the hopes of passing it on to a son or daughter. Our Geek is probably never going to sell any of this stuff, and so Our Geek, when making a purchase, does so with the knowledge that whatever he’s buying will be left behind, and it might just get tossed out without a single thought. Our Geek reminds himself that what he buys must bring him pleasure, and that the pleasure must be worth the investment he makes in it.

Further, the purchase is made with the knowledge that what is being spent could be put towards any number of other things on his Wants and Needs list.

Today, I woke-up with the urge to spend. I allowed myself just a little bit so that I could buy a couple of comics, a fast lunch, and a luxurious chocolate chai. This was enough to satiate the spendthrift beast inside of me. However, when I popped online, I saw a new RPG I wanted to buy. I immediately found myself obsessing over the stories I could tell using the system, and how neat the game mechanics were.

I was just about to plunk down the money when I asked myself, “Is this worth it?” It would have broken my Wants budget for the week and dug into my splurging money. Since I’m saving-up for a trip next year, I put down the credit card and I reminded myself of how much of a hard time I had getting people over for Little Fears throughout the summer. I told myself that the money could be better spent when we go on vacation next year, and that I could just put the RPG in question on my Yuletide Wishlist and leave it be.

If someone gets it (or any of the other 50ish items I tossed on there under similar circumstances) for me, excellent – they will have fulfilled their need to give me a gift and made me happy in the process by giving me something I desired. If not, it would still be there in a few months for me to buy when my Wants budget is less strained.

Hopefully, you’ve found this interesting. I will probably post more of these if I think there is interest. Alternately, I’ll probably post one whenever the Collector’s Itch gets too uncontrollable. It really helps get it under control when you just take a moment and talk about it.

Happy Geeking,

Harry

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About harrylthompsonjr

I'm a writer, a photographer, and a lover of role playing games. I've moved my blog to wordpress in hopes of actually getting some feedback. We'll see :)
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