Budget is one of my least favorite words. It has connotations of limits and responsibility. As a man-child, I hate these things, but as a responsible adult with other motivations than those of my GeekLife, I need to adhere to a budget, and encourage everyone else out there to follow suit. Why?
A budget makes sure that you have the money you need when you need it, and if you plan your budget carefully, you can wind-up getting more awesome stuff than you otherwise would. I have talked about this subject before, but would like to focus my aim a bit more. This is my article about how I spend my GeekDollars.
After all is said and done with my paycheck, I have $100 remaining to play around with. That means I have already put aside money into savings, bought groceries, and given Mrs. Geek her allowance because she doesn’t work outside of the house.
Sadly, $100 goes very quickly if you don’t watch how you spend.
Go out to eat? There goes about $30, probably a little more, maybe a little less. Getting a haircut? There goes another $20. Half of your money is gone, and you haven’t even stepped into a comic shop. Dealing with a budget the size of mine, I have given myself a generous comic spending allowance of $60 per month. I know, that sounds like a lot, but at around three or four bucks per book, that equates to about eighteen titles. Also, I’m collecting for two – Mrs. Geek has a few books that I get her each month that I usually don’t read, or get primarily because she is interested in them.
“But Harry, how do you know this? Isn’t keeping track of what you spend each month troublesome?”
It really is, but there are tools out there that can help both you and the comic store that you go to. Specifically, the shop I frequent uses Comixology.com to manage their customers’ pull lists. A customer simply signs on to the site, and picks the books they want. The site tracks what the customer will receive when, and how much it costs. The customer can also enter the shop’s discount and sales tax to their personal invoice so that he or she can know exactly how much they will be spending when they get to the shop.
This has come in very handy for me, as it gives me a way to plan my weekly spending in a more responsible manner. In a week when I have already spent $65 on other entertainment, looking and seeing that my comics would set me back another $30 for the week may make me reconsider going to the shop when I could instead put my remaining spending money aside for next week, when I might have spent less money.
By looking at your comics as a monthly expense, it helps keep your hobby in check. Since I am spending about $60 per month on comics, I KNOW that I am spending $720 per year on comics. I can look at that number and decide if it is ludicrous much more easily than if I was just trying to remember what I spent and was piecing things together via bank statements and crumpled receipts.
I suppose that this brings me to the largest question: “How much is too much?”
The answer is that it varies depending on who you are and what your goals happen to be. If you are having a hard time putting food on the table, you know that you are spending too much on comics. But if you aren’t starving, you might want to consider if your savings are growing at an appropriate rate. Do you have a substantial safety net if your car breaks down and needs a $1,000 repair? Do you have a couple months’ worth of money so that if you lose your job, you can supplement your unemployment while looking for another job?
If you have children, the questions multiply vastly. One of my friends who is trying to have a child was considering buying a copy of The Incredible Hulk #181 – the first appearance of Wolverine. The book, graded and valued at about $3,000 is far beyond anything that I would spend on a comic. At that price, I’d be commissioning art instead, but that’s neither here nor there. He said that it wouldn’t be a huge financial burden if he spent the money, and that it was one of the five books that he would like to own as long term investments.
My advice was that if he was to do it, do it now. After having a child, I feel like it would be difficult, or even impossible, to drop that kind of money on an investment comic when he could put it into a long term savings account dedicated to his child’s future instead. I don’t imagine that one should stop indulging one’s self post-child, but there is a certain line that I think should be drawn. However, as a child-free person, I can’t really say where that line should be carved into the stone.
Budgets are a very personal thing, and deciding on one requires a lot of introspection and evaluation of your life and goals. That said, my GeekDollars breakdown like this:
$40 for culinary experiences. I like going out to eat, and I could save a ton of money if I didn’t, but I cannot resist the siren call of having food without having to cook or do dishes. This amount fluctuates, as some meals are more expensive than others, and sometimes I just make dinner at home in order to save a few bucks – either so that we can go for a fancier dinner, or so that I can bolster sagging savings.
$20 for comics. Since my actual budget is $60 per month, $20 a week covers it with room left over to buy pins, a T-shirt, or bags and boards. Allowing room for additional expenses isn’t a bad idea, because at the worst, the surplus can be tossed into savings. If less is spent one week, save the remainder for another week – you’ll never regret having more money to spend on what you love.
$20 for miscellaneous expenditures. This is money that can be saved for a larger purchase such as a board game, or maybe a hardcover book. This could be spent to get a haircut or for a pair of movie tickets. A new album? This is the money it comes from. This is for unforeseen and (sometimes) truly frivolous expenditures.
$20 for savings, including vacations and holiday shopping. I usually dump this money into my regular emergency savings, but notate that it is for vacation. If an unexpected bill pops up, this money can go towards it, but I’d much rather see it go to the vacation that it is meant to go towards instead.
So, that’s how I break down my GeekDollars. I’m thankful that I do not go to many conventions, as it would require I stretch my budget much further in order to accommodate hotel stays, costumes, and items with limited availability. True, my vacation fund would probably get dumped into a convention fund instead, but for now, I’m content saving up to go to Europe again, or potentially going Japan.