Wednesday, 10 March 2010

The Art of Being Frugal - Part 1

I find myself in the embarrassing position of having all my "Frugal..." specific projects in a state of mid completion, so I'm here today to discuss some frugal tactics. I'm by no means an expert nor veteran gamer so I'm not really used to giving any advice other than "why don't you move you archers to the top of the hill" so feel share your thoughts with us all. There isn't anything shocking here, but hopefully reading it can help form a plan.

First off we'll start with the First Law of Frugal Gaming - "Thou shalt use what you already have". This obviously doesn't just mean "play the same games as you always do". I suspect that most people reading this blog are not new to the hobby but folk realising the large amounts of cash that has been converted to lead or plastic and stored/stashed/hidden round the house just waiting to be picked up again. This is fine if money laundering is your goal, but we all bought these items in an excited froth with gaming projects in mind, only to get moved onto "more urgent" projects, which usually involved buying in more figures. which quite often never see completion as another priority rears its head. Time to break the vicious cycle.

The first hurdle in using what you already have is, logically, that you actually have to know what you already have. This is easier said than done. As I posted in my other blog the other week, the job fell to my son to unearth and play with a couple of pieces of terrain that I'd bought and stored under the table to be painted a few years ago, and also dig out some miniatures I didn't even know I had. They have subsequently been the catalyst to forming a new warband with figures that were already painted (We'll come back to this topic in a moment). All things I already had but didn't know or remember I had. I'm not the most organised of people, and as such my shelves bear the brunt (and weight) of my half-cocked attempts at organised storage, as you can see in the corner of shame photo. Having looked at a few "My hobby room" portfolios over the years I have seen better and worse examples, so I know I'm not alone. 

So I say put a couple of evenings aside and sort out yourself out. This is actually a real treat, which is why you need at least double the anticipated time to do it. As you pull out the boxes, all the old excitement returns and you start to pour over purchases of past uttering "I remember this..." and "Ohh, this went with...". Much happiness! Also pulling out all the storage puts into perspective what you've been buying. It may be that a proportion of the stash will be seen as surplus now and marked down for sale. So be it - recycled cash for hobbying.

OK. You are now standing with several piles of sorted lead on the table, several boxes of terrain/useful pieces on the floor, a corner of discarded packaging and no way of exiting the room as you've started all this on the opposite side from the door. You also probably feel like a 6 year old on Christmas day. Before you put it all the soldiers back into their new boxes take a sideways look at what you have in front of you. Ask yourself "What games am I playing just now?" followed by "Can any of these treasures be used for these games?". If the answer is yes then these are your new next projects. Even if they were bought for other reasons they are more likely to be painted if there is a battlefield waiting for them just in view. Even if you have to proxy slightly - "It's not exactly the Ranger I want but it'll do for now" - do it. Remember an unpainted mini is a wasted mini. And when the original reason for purchase comes round you won’t have to delay, because you'll already have something painted up for it. Brilliant!

You probably have also discovered a couple of excellent spur-of-the-moment I'm-sure-I'll-find-a-use-for-this bargain buys. Now, being frugal, we love bargains. But they are only bargains if we actually use them. For my confession you can see two such examples in the picture. A large castle and a volcano/lake terrain piece (both from Lidl) in all their "as new" plastic awfulness. It won't take much to get them in serviceable condition, but as they were of no fixed agenda it’s just not happened. I look at them now and think of all the wonderful games I could have used them in, even if they were just used for a cool background. Well it shall be done and the results shall be posted here - erm... soonish. Anyway, it's time to also factor them into your current games.

One final piece of auditing still needs to be kept in mind - your work bench. Have a quick look. How much glue do you have left? What brushes do you need to replace? How many bottles of flesh wash do you have still unopened? If you're anything like me you buy most your figures from the internet but try and buy consumables from a local store (if you have one). The problem is I always get through the store door before thinking about what's on the workbench shelves. I can never remember which brushes are getting a bit tatty and which ones I have 3 or 4 spares from previous unplanned FLGS visits (actually I usually have at least 3 No.1 brushes spare!) and which paints do I need (its doubtful I'll ever need a third bottle of "Stone Green"). Surely I'm not the only painter out there with multiple bottles of the same colour? So make a quick list of any brushes you will need to replace soon and put it in your wallet. For your upcoming next painting project plan out your pallette, check your paint stock, and add any missing colours to the list and put it back in your wallet. The key here is to automatically have the list with you when you get into the store. So don't leave it next to the front door, or next to your paints - put it back in your wallet. So next time you "just happen" to find yourself in that part of town you already have a list of what you actually need.

That should give you all enough to do in the meantime, hopefully giving me enough breathing space to get finished a proper project for posting here.

Next time I'm short news we'll look at the next Law of Frugal Gaming - "Thou shalt spend less".

cheers now and good gaming.


Dave said...

Awesome post AK, you can't beat a good rummage to bring back the gaming memories. In fact your article obviously set my brain whirring as I realised that I had 9 metal orc warriors buried in a box under my bed that would fit into my WFB army a treat!

Watch this space for updates...

Warhammer39999 said...

Great advice all around.

One thing you didn't mention though is the Christmas effect, which can add so much joy when you rummage through a pile and find minies you had long forgotten about. When stretched over the course of a few years, it's possible for a single model to generate this effect several times. That's almost frugal, right?

Bunkermeister said...

How fun! I am doing this now, going over the collection as I rebox everything. I found mice in a cardboard box and so I am transferring my collection into plastic boxes. About 200 plastic boxes. That feeling of I did not know I had that came yesterday, I found I own two Fort Sahara by Airfix!

Mike "Bunkermeister" Creek

Von said...

There are times when I miss having stuff that I wasn't using. There was a certain thrill in rummaging through old boxes and cases and finding things I didn't even know I have...

I feel you do need to be harsh with yourself when deciding what's going to stay or go, but there is a caveat. Once, not very long ago, I foolishly sold off some of my Warmachine minis, thinking I'd tighten the collection down according to a particular theme, and also let go of my Warhammer army on the grounds that I'd had it for five years and it was beginning to bore me and look a bit tatty and dated.

Foolish mistake. I'm still occasionally replacing things I've bought, painted and sold... it's settled down a bit now, but there's still that part of me that castigates me for building a new Vampire Counts army when I already had quite a large (mostly poorly built and painted, admittedly) one and flogged it. If there was some sort of general rule I could knock up to know when to sell and when to keep things I would, but I don't think there is... after all, I've never been tempted to buy back into 40K...

BigLee said...

An great post and some very good advice indeed. I'm cutting back this year and have been inspired by your blog. I wrote about my frugal year on my blog recently and it seemed to be a popular subject.

arabianknight said...

Von, I know your pain replacing things you've already sold. I find it always, not just the hobby room, comes down to space. If it’s not in the way it probably won't go. Maybe I'm just not disciplined enough. Once I get my "corner of shame" (and the other shelf of shame and the under table of shame) organised more I'm sure there will be some hard decisions to make. I’ve made some room with getting rid of some bulky “possible scenery” junk, but that can’t last. Worryingly I keep looking at the book shelf with old by old vinyl LPs or the 20 year+ Punisher collection boxes wondering if I should get rid of them.

Sigh. I seem to have now gone full circle back to Von’s topic!

Mahon said...

Great article. Some foot for thought and inspiration. Thanks for sharing.

Good luck in your attempt to keep gaming in th frugal way :)


pete the pagan-gerbil said...

Good timing, I've got a long weekend this week and was just looking for something to do!