I love books. I have an opinion on nearly every character in Harry Potter and I’m Team Peeta in the Hunger Games fandom. I’m also a huge movie buff and the MCU is my go to comfort movie universe. It’s like cheese but for movies! My love for books and movies is the reason that I go to the Mumbai Comicon every year. I’ve been to three Comicons so far and I love everything about them.
I used to be the person who shows her fandom love by buying merch. So I have the Mockingjay Pin, the Harry Potter Funkos and a lot of Avengers artwork, among other fandom pieces. When I really get down it, my visits to Comicon are centred more around the retail outlets and what I can buy rather than the panels, Cosplay or other experiences. This I’ve come to realise has become a slight source of resentment for me because I rarely took into account the ol’ wallet’s feelings
Let’s just get this out in the open: Fandom pieces are expensive. If Thanos hadn’t worn a gauntlet in an all time blockbuster, a plastic hand glove with plastice stone pieces, would not be Rs. 6000. With no powers whatsoever, not even the abilty to make Thanos like sounds, it definitely sounds like a rip off. But such is the power of multi-billion franchises, a lot of which is manifested into merchandise. Infact today, it’s not just limited to references and pieces from the movies or books like Thanos’s gauntlet. We also have ancilliary merch coming in. For instance, there is a website which has designed a Harry Potter themed planner. Nowhere in the history of Harry Potter was there a mention of a daily planner being used by Harry. And yet, we have one in the world now!
I decided to closely inspect one of these by checking out the description. It was a normal planner, with a few Harry Potter bonus features. So the cover had the Hogwarts crest, there was a version of the Marauder’s map inside etc. All this for the low, low, low price of Rs. 1499. Oh our fortune!
Now let’s look at this extremely objectively. A regular daily planner starts at a price of Rs. 249 on Amazon. It’d take me 10 minutes to find a Hogwarts crest sticker and take a printout of the Marauder’s Map, stick them in the planner and boom! My DIY Harry Potter Journal. I could make a video of making this journal, put it up on YouTube and monetize it! It’s like getting paid for my Harry Potter journal. In all likelihood, through some hacks I can make my own Harry Potter Journal for less that Rs. 500. And that’s after splurging on a fancier journal and fancier paper for the printouts. Wouldn’t this effectively make my Rs 1499 journal, redundant? Yes it would. Then why would I buy it and what’s the point of even having all the fandom merch? Because it isn’t just for books. There’s sports merch, music merch and now even YouTuber merch!
A lot of these fandoms are part of our childhood memories. We have grown up with these characters. So it makes perfect sense for us to buy and store the memorabilia because it takes us back to when times were simple and priorities were very clear. It’s literally your childhood in a box or a hoodie or an action figure.
Support and Loyalty to the Fandom
A lot of times its just about showing loyalty and love for your fandom. How else do you explain someone buying a Hufflepuff knit scarf or having three different fandom hoodies in Mumbai? We’re barely cold enough for one of them.
It feels like we’re buying into a community. You go out on the street and spot someone with merchandise of the same fandom, you definitely share a smile and some mutual respect for your tastes. Sometimes that moment leads to conversation and boom! You’re suddenly a part of something larger than you.
‘Collector’s items’ and other such ranges, bring with them a certain sense of elitism and exclusivity. Who wouldnt’t want to have a collector’s edition Harry Potter wand, complete with lights and sound? It’s like buying into the VIP section of a club at a seemingly reasonable price. You’re going to be everyone’s envy at Comicon! It’s a small price to pay for envy and respect at the event!
Illusion of Utility
Fandom products have evolved and gone in two different directions today. The first being pure and simple memorabilia, such as action figures. No matter what happens, aside from their use for imaginary storytelling and gathering dust on a shelf, they serve very little practical purpose. On the other hand there is the more utility based path with jewellery, notebooks, candles and clothing which gives you a sense of utility. You’re buying something useful when buying these fandom products. Or so you think.
I’m not going to go on to debunk the reasons I’ve mentioned above because they’re more emotion than logic. I personally believe in a lot of these reasons. Hence, I do buy into the whole premise. Plus it’s a lot of fun! But before we go stark mad (pun intended) the next time we go to a fandom based store or event, we should keep this in mind.
The Price is for Name, not for the Product
If i were to offer the plastic sillhoutte of a doll for Rs 500, of no character whatsoever would you buy it? Most likely not. However if I were to offer you a Black Widow Funko for Rs 1000, chances are bright that you would buy it. Now if you think about it, both would serve similar utilities. Neither of them will perform any task and both of them can gather just the same amount of dust on your shelf. And yet, you’d probably be willing to pay double the price for Black Widow. I know I would be. You’re paying a premium for the name. Whether of the character or the fandom, irrespective of the utility.
Let’s take an example of one of the more useful products, say jewellery. Even for a jewellery fanatic like my who has extremely eclectic tastes, it becomes extremely difficult to justify wearing an inifnity gauntlet ring or a Mockingjay pendant with my work or outside outfits. So they sit with pride in a Harry Potter themed box, rusting away to glory.
Naturally, this has some sort of impact on our lives money wise and that’s what we are all here for!
The last two Comicons I’ve spent an average of Rs. 8000 each time. This does not include the entry pass. This. is just on memorabilia and baubles. This includes planners I never used, jewellery I never wore and hoodies I didn’t wear. The good news is that the Funko Pops are currently on my shelves, so they’re technically being used. There’s a wide spectrum of reasons for the stuff lying unused, right from covers being too cute to warrant use of the notebooks to a lack of occassions to wear the clothing.
This is just stuff I bought at Comicon. In the last year, I’ve spent probably an additional Rs 5000 on ordering fandom based stuff online. I could be at the higher end of the spectrum on spending on Fandom Merch, but I’m sure there are some others out there like me. If you’re not bat crap crazy like me to spend so much money on them, teach me your ways!
Now as is our ritual here, we’re gonna look at how better we can use this money. As you know, personal finance is a long term journey. But here we’re also gooing to look at some short time implications as well. We’re going to assume that my Fandom spend was Rs. 13000 last year.
- SIP: If I had invested this money on January 1, 2019 in an SIP as a lumpsum at an estimated return of 12%, it would’ve been worth approximately Rs. 14500, one year later. That’s for doing nothing except for parking it somewhere else. And if this money stays invested for 5 years at the same rate, it would be worth close to Rs. 23000.
- PPF: If one goes to invest Rs 13000 every year in the Public Provident fund scheme for 15 years, that investment of Rs 195000 would be worth Rs 377911. You would have earned nearly as much interest as the principal!
- Fixed Deposit: If I would have just let the money be in a fixed deposit (to avoid the long lock in of a PPF and the possibility of a loss in a SIP) and earned a 7% rate of interest, I would have had about Rs. 14000 on maturity, a year later.
Why Invest the Money?
There’s a very intriguing prospect that I’ve recently read in personal finance, “Never spend the principal. only the interest.” If I were to take that and apply it by investing in the lowest return giving option above which is the Fixed Deposit, I would have enough return to buy one Funko Pop/Harry Potter Journal at the end of the year. That’s like a free goodieevery year for not spending my money on them! When you start looking at the return on your investment as your real spending budget, it’s like free money! Free Funko Pops, free books, free everything.
This is possible when you take that money and put it somewhere with a return and then spend the return. You’re not harming your financial health by using the interest. One may argue that the return isn’t that big. Very true. Let’s focus on the bigger picture then.
Are your Fandom goodies, worth your Financial Freedom?
Fandom spending when not controlled, can turn out to be a huge drain. Especially if you don’t plan for it. For instance, I never pre-planned my Comicon spending. So each December I would go and blow up roughly Rs. 8k on this stuff which was a huge drain to my monthly spending as well as savings potential. All of this would go on to the credit card because I didn’t plan for it. More often that not, this would mean a vicious cycle of future credit balances as well.
In my opinion, the whole purpose of money is to give you freedom and choices. Fandom spending seems like a choice at the start of things. You’re using your money to buy you something which gives you joy. But let’s face it. The joy quickly fades away once you open that box and use it. A Rs. 299 planner is likely to get you the same productivity as a Rs 1499 Harry Potter planner. However, the Rs 1499 planner is definitely likely to take away your possibility to save more that month, invest it and earn passive income from it.
Answer this: would you have a Rs 1499 planner, the pages of which will end in a year or less or would you have Rs 1499 invested somewhere earning you passive income and using that passive income you could probably buy a regular planner (Rs. 200-Rs 300) every year to do the job?
Should you not spend on Fandoms?
There are three ways you could indulge in fandom spending. These methods may not cover huge binge spending, but a little moderation my just be what we need!
- Investing and using your returns to buy it: One Funko or Planner a year is perfect! Let’s face it, there’s only so much space in our houses.
- Sale Time: A lot of times the some websites offer heavy discounts. This is especially true with things like dated planners. So while pre-booking a planner isat MRP, if you were to buy it in March, you can get it at a good discount of as much as 40%. Granted one may think what’s point, but actually you can still finish it cover to cover. Each time you use a planner, you realise that the date page doesn’t have enough space for notes. The pages from January to March become your ‘notes’ section now.
- Planning for it: This is so that it doesn’t block up a chunk of your earnings for any particular month and then bank on your high interest credit card for survival. For instance if you know that if you absolutely must have Rs 10000 in December for Comicon, plan it and spread it out over the year. Rs. 833 a month over a 12 month period is a lot easier, that putting it on credit and then scrimping to pay the balance or interest.
Real Fan love
You can definitely save up the money, invest it and go see the wizarding world! A few Funko Pops in a year, saved can give you that opportunity. That’s a much more memorable way to show solidarity. Join interest groups, online communities and discuss for free. Watch the movies, visit Comicon and buy memorablia for the memory, not for hoarding. Support local artists who make the fan art! They deserve it too! Show the fandom and your wallet some love. Your future self will thank you for it!