Monday, February 13, 2012

Nerding on a Budget: Part 1 of 2

I have spent the past couple weeks thinking about money. This normally grim topic became a bit darker when I realized just how much money one can put into being a nerd. I haven't been a particularly thrifty nerd, yet, I have not gone over the top on my spending either. However, the world of nerd is a very tempting place to tread. Companies like Marvel, DC, Pokemon, and really anything that fits in between know that their fan-base is pretty entrenched, and they will exploit that. 
mmmm, look at that tasty clipart

Look at any run of the mill comic shop, They have a wall of recent issues, DC and Marvel combined that is over 80 new books a month (not to mention all the smaller publishers). Along with monthly books, every company releases trades of major events and arcs, and like normal books, they make you wait longer for the more affordable paperback. Then comes Merchandise, although I have never purchased any of these, the amount of action figures, clothing, collectibles, variant covers, statues, etc. is staggering. Now, that was just comics, imagine trying to cover multiple interests, all competing for your money and your attention, the stereo type of the unwashed nerd probably exists because they can't afford soap.

I have seen people who clearly prioritize their hobby over some standard quality of life concerns, and trading cards are one of the worst offenders. I play Pokemon. Thankfully, this is by far the most affordable mainstream TCG, the other two being Magic, and Yu-Gi-Oh. Popularly playable cards in Magic and Yu-Gi-Oh can easily break over a hundred. Comics and TCGs just scratch the surface, I don't even want jump into tabletops, MMOs, and video games.

Since one of the main ideas of being a nerd is to be particularly obsessed with a certain topic, the odds of frugality being a major concern seems low. However, I implore all nerds, old and new, out there to follow a few guidelines.

1. Friends- Being a nerd without friends is sad for two reasons: It is incredibly lonely, and it costs a lot more. Having friends with similar interests is easily the bast way to save money on being a nerd. Interested in Dungeons and Dragons? before you buy your own manuals, minis, and board, ask around,  more people play than you would think, and they will probably already have everything you need. My roommate and I share our comics and graphic novels with each other and we essentially have a combined collection for now. Anyone with a solid collection would probably enjoy  sharing their love of comics with a new comer. On the trading card front, if you plan on going to tournaments, ask a friend if you can borrow some extra cards they wont be using. In addition, offer to loan out your cards. If you belong to a league, this builds camaraderie and a team like feel. 

2. Specialize- It is near impossible to be involved in every nerdy activity, as much as you like playing all the major trading card games, reading several comics a week and playing all the recent video games, unless you have a rather large stash of cash, you wont have time, energy, or money to be good at any of them. I find that picking two major activities and then dabbling in a few other may be the best way to go. I read comics and play Pokemon, those two activities consume 95% of my nerd dedicated money. I have spent money on a few other nerd activities, but that was mostly to gain an understanding as to how they work. I enjoy being pretty good at Pokemon and being fairly knowledgable with comics. It really comes down to preference, do you want to be really good at a couple of things, or do you want to suck at everything?

3. Have a Job- One would expect this to be a no-brainer, but sadly, it is not. I spend my fair share of money on comics and Pokemon, I also work at a campus job, and in the summer I run a day-camp. These jobs allow me continue being a very active nerd. Being a nerd is open to everyone, but do nerdom a favor, and be respected in and out of the comic store.

4. Resist Torrenting- This may seem contrary to the point of this article, but i stand by this point. Comic scans are easily available online. D&D manuals can be found in PDF form all over torrent sites. I implore you to not use this method. While certain creators have been able to make a big name for themselves and can ride that into financial gain, many artists and writers are just trying to make a living. The average comic book readership isn't all that large, and while DC or Marvel can make money off movie rights and merchandising, the average comic book writer wont be involved in any of that. Support your favorite creators, buy their book.

check back later for my next installment of Nerd budget tips.

-Peter