Figure Financials: 2012 Budget

It’s the beginning of the year once again, which means that it’s time for me to do my annual ritual of tweaking my budget strategy in the eternal search for the perfect solution.

Raspberyl Accepts Charity

Observations from 2011

Last year’s grand experiment was making the jump from a lump sum allocation to a rolling budget. The idea there being chiefly to force a fairly even rate of spending so as not to get caught in the lurch late in the year with no money left–as was more or less the case for 2009 and 2010. In my year-end report, I charted the rate of spending over the course of the year and observed it to be roughly linear, which would indicate that the rolling budget strategy had accomplished its primary goal. But numbers don’t tell the whole story, so this is where I’ll take a more subjective look at last year’s plan and see where there might be room for improvement.

Emphasizing Preorders

My preferred collection philosophy is to focus on preorders and backfill from the secondary market relatively sparingly. Preorders ensure that you get what you want–or at least think you want–at a reasonable price. The downside to preorders is that you miss out on the windfall of bargain bin pricing, if and when it happens, and you commit to buy without any real knowledge of how the final product will turn out.

That’s the plan, at any rate. Ever since I started budgeting my figure hobby, I’ve felt like I’ve been continually running behind on my preorders, which has meant some key missed opportunities and having to resort to the secondary market more often than I would like. I had hoped I would hit a point this past year with the rolling budget strategy where I had all the figures I wanted preordered and could start building up a surplus to weather the heavier months, but that ideal state never materialized. On the bright side, I did see positive momentum heading into the new year with five figures on preorder, which is way more than I’ve had at any one time in previous years.

On the flip side, my wish list is larger than it’s ever been and that’s mostly already-released figures. I tried to keep a small reserve–about 1-2 months worth–over the course of 2011 to cover secondary market opportunities as they arose. In this, I had only mixed success. I was pleased to pick up Alter’s Selvaria Bles at a decent price from Mandarake, but that was my only notable purchase from the secondary market last year. Furthermore, my biggest regret last year came from not grabbing UART’s cold cast Ryofu early in the year and that was mostly due to trying to maintain that certain reserve.

Overall, I felt that the rolling budget strategy was fairly well suited to preorders, which can be planned fairly well in advance, and rather poorly suited for secondary market opportunities, which are generally unpredictable and have a relatively short window of availability.

Further Weakening of the Dollar

2011 wasn’t pretty for the American economy. The US dollar (USD) hit an all-time low against the Japanese yen (JPY) in late 2011. Looking back over the past several years since I started this budgeting endeavor, the dollar is down as much as 20% from 2009 and even more from prior years. For an industry so intimately linked with Japan, a 20% drop in the USD/JPY exchange rate is as good as a 20% price hike on American figure collectors.

When drawing up the numbers for the 2011 budget, I used USD prices from the 2009-2010 period when the dollar was stronger. Going forward, I plan to use current USD/JPY exchange rates in combination with JPY prices for typical figures when creating the budget plan. This will mean a bump in the 2012 budget to account for the higher cost of collecting.

2012 Budget Plan

Alright, time for the plan! This year, I’ve decided to try a hybrid system featuring both rolling and lump sum allocations in order to try and play both to their respective strengths. The rolling budget will be reserved for preorders whereas the lump sum money will be open to anything, but primarily intended for backfilling already released figures from my wish list.

Here are the numbers for the split plan:

  • Rolling allocation: $145 (USD) per month – for preorders only
  • Lump sum allocation: $700 (USD) on January 1st – for everything else

Looking year-over-year, this is a pretty substantial budget increase to the rolling budget (25%) and the lump sum portion didn’t exist last year, so that’s even more. The rolling budget increase is mostly due to current exchange rates, but I did explicitly budget for a few exclusives where I didn’t previously. The (re)introduction of the smaller lump sum allocation should allow me to stay focused on preorders with the monthly rolling budget without giving up on the idea of whittling away at my wish list.

That’s the plan, at any rate! Check back at the end of the year for my commentary to see how everything panned out.

PS: In case anyone is interested, I’ve posted the spreadsheet I used to do my calculations on Google Docs.

6 thoughts on “Figure Financials: 2012 Budget

  1. Haha I also made a spreadsheet to figure out a budget. I like your lump sum idea. Some moths are heavier than others so a lump sum upfront would help in those cases while in the lighter months the rolling budget can make up for some of the spent money.

    And curse you weak dollar! You’re making this harder than it should!

    • Honestly, I should thank you for giving me the lump sum idea. When you mentioned the problem of heavier months in my year-end post, I got to thinking about the complaints I had with my (then) current approach and that’s when I got to brainstorming for new ideas. 🙂

      The weak dollar is definitely a thorn in our collective sides. I feel like the cost of collecting has roughly doubled since I started six years ago. I’m not confident it’s going to get much better any time soon, sadly. 😦

  2. hehe cute post picture ^^

    Inspired by your last post, in this years list I will write down my figure expenses unadorned with all shipping and custom fees.

    It’s really a shame that the Yen is so strong at the moment, I from € land also have to pay more nowadays than I used to a few month before 😦

    Your Lump sum allocation appears quite generously calculated.
    I rarely buy items on the aftermarket, I guess last year it were 2 figures and a nendoroid.
    But on the other hand I already paid upfront for 2 exclusive figures.

    Good luck for your budget plans.

    • The pic features Raspberyl from Disgaea 3, one of my favorite SRPG series.

      Nice! I’m curious to see what customs fees are like for figures in other countries. I’m fortunate that in the US figures and anime goods in general are exempt from duty charges, so I really only have to worry about shipping.

      With Europe in the middle of an economic crisis similar to the US, I expect that the Euro is similarly trading poorly against the yen right now compared to a year ago.

      The lump sum amount is admittedly generous. I based the JPY price on typical prices I see for the very highly sought-after figures like Alter’s Yoko, which typically go for 12-16K yen on sites like Mandarake. In reality, I expect I will likely get maybe one figure like that this year and a few more less pricey ones.

      I admire your restraint in avoiding the secondary market. There are good financial reasons to avoid it as the prices can become quite inflated on the figures that are most in demand. But I find there are often times when there aren’t any preorder items available that I want more than a given already-released figure, in which case I think it makes more sense to put the money toward the aftermarket figure rather than a preorder figure. On the other hand, I tend to remember that I paid more for those figures than I could have if I had preordered them, which lessens my enjoyment of the figure somewhat. 😦

      • Its always around 12 € for each figure, not so nice ^^

        Ah ok buying such popular figures on the aftermarket is really expensive.

        Nowadays I try to resist the older figures to focus more on the newer ones.
        Aside from that I have already bought the old ones I’ve really wanted,
        Well it can always happen that I see an appealing already sold out figure,
        I’ve never heard of before ;D

        I try to ignore the prices I’ve paid on the aftermarket, as long as the figure is pretty.

  3. Pingback: The figure year 2012 in numbers | wieselhead

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