to Save Money and Buy the Right Stuff
Because I'm me I can't say from an objective viewpoint how other people view me. I'm guessing most people
perusing this site think I'm fairly well off as evidenced by the amount of stuff I've got.
The fact is I live comfortably but I also live paycheck to paycheck. I don't have a lot of surplus funding.
I'd be better off financially without this hobby but I'd also be insane because I need a creative release.
Without one my mental health enters a black hole. That's a whole different discussion though.
I build a lot but have to do it on a limited budget. The way I accomplish it is the result of several factors.
I want to build the best models I can. I can't afford to build large models having the same quality equipment
as the models I build so I build what I can afford to equip with quality stuff. That means smaller models.
Next, I'm a pack rat. That's not actually true. What I mean is that I take care of my stuff as much as
possible so that I'm not replacing things just because they were mistreated. That way when I have money to
spend I can buy things I don't have instead of replacing things I already had.
The next thing isn't going to make me real popular because the popular opinion is that we should support our local
hobby shops. If it were up to people like me there would be no local hobby shops in business. I simply
can't afford to do what I do and pay hobby shop prices. I would have to do much less to be more supportive of
my local shops.
I've found in this hobby that many
of the items that hobby outlets consider to be "hard to find" aren't.
They jack up the price to a ridiculous amount because they think that we
don't know where to find the same items at a reasonable price.
I've made it a point to seek out items that are obviously made for another
industry because in that industry the item in question is not "hard to
find." The price reflects this.
The thing to always ask yourself is, "did <manufacturer> make this item
or are they repackaging it?" If the answer is repackaging, then do a
little research and you'll see exactly what I'm talking about.
Look in art stores, automotive refinishing suppliers, welding shops, etc.
If a company puts their name on something they don't make, then you're
paying too much for it.
Because of the quantity of raw materials I consume I buy a lot of my stuff in bulk. That includes wood,
hardware and miscellaneous shop supplies. For example I was buying boxes of 100 latex gloves at the local
hardware store for about $10.00/box (plus sales tax). I searched the web and found if I bought a case of boxes
(10 boxes for a total of 1,000 gloves) I could get them for half that price shipping included. That quantity
of gloves will supply me for years so the payback is slow but real.
I buy hardware from
Micro Fasteners. The quality and service are both very good and
the price is peanuts compared to buying bags of a half-dozen screws.
I purchase wood from
Balsa USA and have
never been disappointed with what was sent to me. I order a lot of
wood at a time — not just what I need for one project. I have never
asked for hand graded wood and I have heard some sources are better about
this than others. Usually if I need a specific piece of wood that I
do not have I just visit the local hobby shop.
I also bought a case of 1 ounce mixing cups for about 1/4 what I would pay at the local hobby shop. I have a
lifetime supply of them now (5,000). I did the same thing with pipettes. I bought a dozen of them in
Germany and wouldn't buy more because the local hobby shop was charging $6.00 for a dozen of them when I paid $0.15
each for them in Germany. The problem then was that I was cleaning the ones I already had instead of disposing
of them. The lacquer thinner and pipe cleaners used to clean the pipettes cost more than the pipettes
themselves. I found a place online and bought 500 of them for about a nickel apiece including shipping.
It's now cheaper for me to throw them out.
I know very few people in this hobby who do what I do. For most people buying a case of anything just
wouldn't make sense because they'll never use even a portion of it. The local hobby shop is definitely a place
for a beginner to shop. I'm pretty sure way more people start and quit this hobby than stick with it so even
though per piece it costs more to shop locally it still costs less than buying in bulk and then having stuff sitting
around that you'll never use.
The same goes for people who remain in the hobby but haven't devoted their lives to
it. They build a plane a year or so using minimal tools in an impromptu shop. These folks are also better
off shopping locally than warehousing cases of supplies.
Even though I don't do most of my shopping at the local hobby
shop I do want them to be around because sometimes I need something right now to not get stuck on my project and it's a
lot faster to drive to the shop than wait a week for it to be delivered from across the country. I'm not doing my
part to support them so I won't complain if they're not around because I know I'm part of the problem. Again, the
topic is saving money — not saving hobby shops. Let your conscience be your guide.