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.
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.