Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Otaku On A (Tighter) Budget

I'm resigning from my current job by the end of the year. It's been great working there, and I'm truly thankful for the opportunities I was given during my tenure. My new job will be in Manila, which means my family and I will probably have to relocate. It entails bigger responsibilities and longer work hours, which translates to less time spent with the family and for myself. Blog posts may become farther apart for the first couple of months, but I'm sure everything will normalize eventually. I'll be giving up a lot of plamo time to take on this new challenge. On the other hand, I can start making some serious plans towards buying/building my own house, and start saving up for my son's education - you know, real-life stuff. To do that, I'll be tightening the already tight budget I have for the hobby.

I wrote about time management a few months ago - how a family guy should only work on his plamo projects beyond his established SFH. This time, I'd like to go into the financial side of things.

Click on the read more link for the rest of this post...

Plamo isn't cheap, even for the working class Filipino. The wages in this country don't allow much room for a hobby like this. I did a bit of digging on the average salaries of some common jobs here in the Philippines. This isn't a comprehensive list and the numbers seem a bit conservative, but it should give you a general idea of what people earn around here.

(based on reported average salaries from www.payscale.com)

Now let's look at a table of average monthly expenses for comparison...

(based on cost-of-living data from www.numbeo.com)

See the highlighted rows in the jobs table? It appears that on average, people in those professions can't even afford to rent a 1 bedroom apartment near Manila, and have to stay with their relatives or settle for rooms or bed spacers. I don't even know if those numbers are Net payout, but if they're aren't, you still have to deduct income tax.

MG kits go for Php1800 to Php4000+ in most hobby stores, while the bigger mall stores charge nearly double that. We don't need to make an exception for Chinese labels, because even for a minimum wage earner or a student getting a measly monthly allowance it's still an uphill battle to score a Daban MG "The O".

Now some of you might be quick to judge the financially challenged for wanting to get into this hobby, but people want what they want and no one can tell them otherwise. If there's a will there's a way - or as we Filipinos say - "kung may tiyaga, may nilaga".

So how does an otaku stay within his budget? Allow me to share some tips on how to keep your plamo spending in check:

not my backlog, pic borrowed from the internet

1. Buy as you build

Instead of taking home a kit every time you can afford one, why not buy only when the one you're working on is close to completion? This way you won't accumulate a large backlog. You'll be able to focus more on the piece you're working on, because there isn't a tower of kits waiting for their turn on your cutting mat. There's also the added benefit of not getting yelled at for stockpiling kits.

The poorman's airbrush setup

2. Paint your models

Wait, isn't painting an additional cost? It is, but it takes a lot of time to paint a model properly, extending your build time significantly. Combined with tip #1 you can't possibly pick up a new kit every week without taking any undesirable shortcuts. Skip buying a couple master grades and invest in painting equipment. You can put together a decent airbrushing set for around Php5000, or you can get your feet wet with the Poorman's setup.

fix seams and surface defects

3. Practice modeling basics

Don't be in a hurry to fill your display cabinet. Take time to do the modeling basics (seam fixing, etc.) and try to get that model looking as good as you can. Similar to tip #2 this will stretch your build time quite a bit, but it is definitely worth it. Would you rather have a cabinet full of half-assed models, or would you give each build the love it deserves? It might take a couple years to fill your cabinet, but at least you know you did your best on each one.

commissioned MG GM Sniper

4. Take commission projects

Once you feel confident with your skills and have a good grasp of modeling basics, you can start taking on commission projects to augment your plamo budget. Since you're working on someone else's kit, this combos with tip #1 again because it means you'll have less time to work on your own project. Don't worry, you're still gaining valuable experience when building for others, and you can be sure you'll do even better once you get back to your personal project.  That said, don't take on too much work all at once or you might get burned out.

5. Compete

TG Titan won me a kit I never would've been able to buy

There's something about the competitive scene that brings out the best in me, and I believe the same is true for a lot of builders. You spend more time conceptualizing, and once you have an idea of what you want to do, you go all out and build it to the best of your abilities. It takes away some of the relaxing properties of plamo, but in exchange you get a rush from battling it out with experienced builders. Some events have prizes at stake in the form of kits - and every kit you win is one less you have to buy. That said, don't go joining every single event that comes up unless you're sure you have ample time to build your entry without taking shortcuts.

6. Start a blog

Blogging is a great way to track your progress - not just of projects you're working on, but also your growth and evolution as a builder. You can keep it private, like a personal diary, or you can share it with the online plamo community. By sharing pictures of your work you can get feedback and advice for improving your techniques, and you can also help out others less experienced than yourself. So how can a blog help your budget? Advertising. I'm not an expert on the subject so I'll let you do your own research on this, but basically if your blog is getting good traffic you can host ads that generate revenue. Just don't forget to practice responsible blogging. Nobody likes a sell out.

We all have our ways of saving up for the next kit on our wanted list. I know these tips are somewhat biased towards builders. Lots of collectors tend to grab as many kits as they can without going hungry (well I know some of you wouldn't mind going hungry for a month just to cross off another kit on that list). In any case, I hope you can strike a financial balance that suits you best, and one that doesn't negatively affect the people you care about.

Feel free to share your own budgeting tips in the comments section below.

Until next time, keep building plamo!


  1. Nice tips man, good luck on your new career!

  2. Thanks for the advice... I really have a tower of backlogs actually...

    But for now I'll be focusing in selling via online... To boost my income... and this way it feels like I'm buying a kit. But at the same time having an income...

    Good luck sir! Will be waiting for your other tutorials. ^_^

  3. haha why would you be on a tighter budget sir eh your already doing these things haha good luck on your new job and sa house might as well lagyan nio ng hobby room ung bahay

    Keep blogging about plamo!

    1. thanks! like I said I'll be saving up for a house, so even though I'm doing all of the tips mentioned above I'll still need to cut down on my hobby expenses. I'll make sure I have ample space to build and display my work ;)

  4. Nice article! Good luck with your new career!