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HOW TO: Cosplay On A Budget




So.. You attended your first Comic Con, Anime Expo, or other nerd fueled event and it opened your eyes to the world of cosplay. But your mind may be zooming at a thousand miles per hour with costume ideas constantly getting vetoed by a ridiculous budget you made up for it.

A lot of us at team NRDY are new to cosplaying, and we too have had those thoughts that equate the quality of the costume with the money spent on it. And that we would have to spend our weekends taking lessons at our local craft shops to get skilled enough to make it from scratch and rack our brains at Home Depot trying to piece together epic props.

Personally, I hate the idea of spending money on things other than magic the gathering or booze and I have the artistic/crafting skills of a newborn baby. But after hunting down some amazing outfits for Anime Expo this year,  I have finally seen the silver lining on this skewed perception of Cosplaying Culture. I realized that I don’t need to be a top of the line craftsman or a millionaire, because anyone can cosplay on a budget.

And just to reiterate, we aren’t millionaires. We eat, breathe, sleep and shit the nerd world in which we live in. So when I say budget, I don’t mean like “oh only a $100 per costume”. I mean, being thrifty enough to piece together 3-4 outfits on a $40 budget.

So if you ever had any interest in cosplay, but have had your own doubts whether it was right for you or right for your wallet, then check out and share our guide to help take away the negative connotations between Great Cosplay and Your Wallet.

Roxanne SPVSTW

I had the misconception that in order to cosplay I had to pick some huge or overly complicating character to go as.. and boy was I wrong. There are tons of characters in various animes, games, and shows that have really simple costumes that you can find in your everyday wardrobe. You don’t have to dress up as EVA unit 01 in order for someone at a con to recognize you and want to take your picture. You can dress up as Shinji Ikari instead. All he wears is a black pair of slacks and a button up white shirt, and BOOM! You’re set! If you really want to sell the fact that you’re cosplaying as Shinji, you can print out a picture of EVA Unit 01, glue it to a piece of cardboard, and there! I’ve seen it before and I honestly thought it was clever and resourceful of the person to do that.

Maklemore Thrift Shop

For some reason whenever I mention thrift shops to most of my friends, they cringe and think that everything they would touch there would be soaked in germs from god knows where. But you will be seriously amazed at the things that you can find at a thrift store and for how cheap you can get it. This year, I’m cosplayed as Archer and as Professor Utonium from the Powerpuff Girls and I got both outfits at a thrift shop. I paid only $5 for each piece of the suit and I even found a lab coat for $5 too. Honestly, the lab coat was an amazing find but once I saw it, I knew that I had to get it and do a cosplay with it. And, a thrift shop isn’t only a great place to get cheap gear but it can also serve as a place to get inspiration from. Don’t be afraid to let your imagination go wild.


Let’s be honest for a second.. Sometimes life hands you lemons. But not just lemons. Rotten, bug infested lemons that have you barely scraping by and desperately begging for a chance to be something or someone else. If you’re really strapped for cash, don’t be afraid to raid someone’s closet. You’ll be surprised at the stuff you can find hidden away in a box or on a lonely hangar. Of course, it would be a bit awkward if you just went through someone’s clothes without asking. And some friends may not want you to borrow certain items if your intentions are to alter it for characters need. So always be sure to ask.

For my Archer cosplay, I raided my brother’s closet for a long sleeve white shirt. Saved myself another $5 by borrowing it from him and I also raided him for a pair of black slacks for my professor Utonium cosplay. I once again saved myself some extra dough that I can now use for other stuff at the con or even just my normal day to day expenses. This is especially true with gamers and anime fans because you never know what prop weapons or items they might have that would work perfectly with an idea you have floating around in your head. The other year I was tempted to cosplay Cloud from FFVII just because a friend of mine had a Buster Sword just sitting in his closet. Inspiration is key. And as you’ve learned, there are numerous ways you can obtain it.

Silly Cosplay

Cosplay doesn’t have to always be serious. There are tons of people that take cosplay serious and that’s great for them but that doesn’t mean that you have to do the same. For the last couple of years, I have seen this guy at AX that shows up with a cardboard box around his abdomen with the word “Gundam” written on it and every year, I get a kick out of it. Cosplay is supposed to be about having fun and enjoying yourself, so your costume doesn’t have to be spot on or even close as long as you’re having fun with it. I’ve also seen people at cons dressed in all black with signs that say “Generic Henchmen/Villians/cannon fodder” or I have seen people dressed in semi-ninja gear with signs that say “Ninja for hire”. Don’t be afraid to just get silly with your ideas. It’s also a good idea to note that cosplay doesn’t have to technically be of a specific character, it can be super generic and still be amazing.

Cosplay doesn’t have to be perfect to get the point across. You don’t have to go to the extremes in order to get the look of the character 100% correct. It’s okay to not have the same hair color or eye color. While some might nit-pick regarding minor things like, I’d like to see them give it a try and make something out of nothing! But honestly, most event-goers won’t even give it a second thought and a lot will approach to complement your ingenuity!

Mario Party Cosplay

Cosplay is about the freedom to express yourself in ways you normally never would. While some criticize bigger girls for taking on the unrealistic female stick figures of characters, con-goers seem to be more supportive and impressed with alterations! Dress how you like. If you’re uncomfortable with the fact that maybe you’re body type doesn’t match that of a twig, change up the outfit! No one ever says that Princess Leia always has to be in a bikini. If you are afraid to rock it, put something together that you are proud of, and that everyone will want to copy next year!

Rarity Cosplay

Just because you’re not skilled at sewing or crafting doesn’t mean that you don’t have friends that could easily lend a hand. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your circle of friends and see who might be able to can sew something together for you or they can help you make something for a costume. This is especially true if your friends also happen to be cosplayers. However, don’t let your costume making interfere with the ability to make their own if you both are cutting it close to con time! And consulting a cosplayer before you pick up any items for your outfit is the best way to go. Whether you are making it from scratch, or plan on picking up a few pieces here and there, they usually know places or ways to get material for a reasonable price and also will know how much material to purchase to ensure that it’s all used and there isn’t a surplus of extra fabric going to waste.