The funniest thing I’ve ever read about Kickstarter was that it was like QVC for hipsters. Though I don’t think that’s completely true, it is on the mark enough to generate a chuckle or two. Just like an actual shopping network though, it is very easy for you to spend far more money than you ever intended.
It’s like going grocery shopping when you are hungry: you shouldn’t do it.
The other day I found out just how much money I have spent through Kickstarter (thank you Mint.com.) Though I am not yet willing to share that figure, let’s just say that I found it to be surprisingly, but not shockingly large. Backing a few projects a month really adds up after a while, and though I knew I had some impulse buying tendencies, I suppose I should have been more vigilant in this new commercial arena.
Tips on how to check yo’self before you wreck yo’self? Follow me.
When I was younger, I made a regular habit of buying things I really didn’t need, and didn’t actually want all that badly. The worst offenders were always DVDs and Video games. What is the point of buying a movie instead of renting it when you are only going to watch it once or twice? What is the point of getting a $40 game if you’re going to play it for less that twenty hours?
Since then, I have made great strides in resisting these urges, with a few simple rules:
- If you really want it, you’ll still want it in a week. Don’t grab something as soon as the urge strikes. See if it fades; it usually does.
- Don’t be a day one buyer, wait for the reviews. How many bad movies would you have missed seeing, how many bad books would you have avoided buying, if you had just waited a week to see what other people have to say?
- Budget, budget, budget. I do this one pretty religiously these days, so I’m not sure how Kickstarter escaped the net, honestly. It works, especially if you are trying to find more ways to save for large goals.
- Wait till something is on sale. If you are a PC gamer, this is especially true today. I wanted X-Com the day it came out, but knew I wasn’t going to have time to play it till after Wardenclyffe was finished funding. I snagged on a Black Friday sale for 50% off, only a month after it’s release.
Only the rule about budgeting really applies to Kickstarter directly, and I’ll be the first to admit that tempting stretch goals and add on’s destroy a well crafted budget. When spending money on Kickstarter, it is more about triage; where can you spend your limited resources in a truly effective way. I try to keep my rules top of mind in these situations.
- Need (not yours, theirs.) Do the creators need your money, or is this just a cash grab. If they don’t need it, wait till retail – then you can find out if it is even worth picking up.
- Consistency. In an effort to reduce my belongings, I try only ever to get digital rewards except when board games are involved. Even though I find myself straying on the occasional game book or comic project, reinforcing the minimalist reasons behind this choice is often enough to get me to lower my pledge back to the more appropriate tier.
- Deal. Are they giving you a deal appropriate to compensate for your dual risks: not knowing if the product will ever materialize, and not knowing if it will be any good? If not – waiting costs you nothing.
Anyone else brave enough to talk about how much money they spend on Kickstarter, or the ways they reset the urge for same?
I think waiting definitely helps. I force myself to wait a few days or a week without thinking about it. If the project is still on my mind, I’ll take a second look and consider backing. There aren’t many projects where the Early Bird discount makes instant support a must, but there are a few of course.
The first month I was on Kickstarter, before any of the projects I backed had ended, I thought maybe I was spending a bit much, so I threw it all into a spreadsheet. Yeah, it was a bit much. Over $700 was going to come due over the next month. I was backing games and comics, and there were some really good ones available, but I couldn’t afford that. So I wound up cutting WAY back, over half. If you asked me now what the projects were that I cut, I MIGHT be able to tell you, but I’d probably forget a few. “Wardensomethingorother Cliff”?
I kid about that one, but I did cut a lot. Mostly games, as I recall. The $5-10 I could save of retail price, assuming I even want the game later, just wasn’t worth the drain now. The bonuses and stretch goals just didn’t make them essential for me. If the difference between a good gaming experience and a great gaming experience is that couple of extra cards you get, your game is just not worth buying.
Comics can be a little harder, I think. I mean, it’s easy to see when a writer can barely form a complete sentence in their project pitch that their comic isn’t going to be good. It’s easy to see when an artist can’t draw all that well. And it’s easy to see that three 48-page books for $12 apiece just isn’t worth the cost no matter how good it is. But the comics industry is weak right now, and indie creators need support. If your book looks like a professional product, and your price is good, I’m going to give you my money. Unlike you, David, I actually prefer the physical book as my reward. I could probably get away with paying less for a PDF or CBR file, but there’s something I like about a tangible reward in comics. I’ve been converting my books over to Kindle, and largely jettisoning my floppy comics collection for CBR versions, but my graphic novel/trade paperback collection just expanded to another bookcase.
The question of “do they need my money” can be a little harder to answer with comics, since popular creators have been launching projects. Gail Simone and Jim Caliafore, formerly of DC’s “Secret Six” and others, launched a creator-owned title, and I backed that. They probably could have worked out some kind of deal with Image, Avatar, or some other small publisher, but they wanted to do it themselves, and I have no problem with that. They’re not rich, and they didn’t get rich off the project. And I KNOW it’ll be a great read. I didn’t back “The Order of the Stick” project because I came late to the party, but I would have, even after it got stupidly overfunded, simply because the creator seems like a good guy, the webcomic being collected is really good, and I would be happy to reward him. Top Cow trying to relaunch Cyberforce on Kickstarter? Fuck them. If you need KS money to relaunch an original Image property, it’s not worth it. Especially since they were raising money to print issue #1 so they could give it away for free. Which, as it turned out, wasn’t enough to entice readers. Good. Seriously, fuck those guys.
So…huh. I don’t know that I actually have any ADVICE on how to save money, beyond “Don’t back things that suck” and “Don’t back things that look good until you’ve decided that it’s worth the money.” Which are about up there with “Don’t drown” and “Don’t set yourself on fire” on the helpful/obvious scale. Maybe there’s this: Don’t be afraid to cancel your pledge. Oh, I know it sucks, and you feel like you’re letting down the creator who you believe in and want to succeed. In some small way, I guess you are. But you owe yourself more than you owe them, and if you’ve overextended, then it’s a necessary evil. If it’s a worthwhile product, it’ll succeed without you, and you can give them your money later.
My new Kickstarter rule is to use the ‘notify me’ feature so that I get a reminder when the deal is almost done. Unless it’s less than five dollars, that keeps me thinking more long-term about whether or not I want to make the investment.
As for things like Steam sales, I think my Steam library reviews have proven: I have no control!
Definitely some smart advice. I’ve yet to back anything on Kickstarter personally because i already have some budgetary issues but good advice is good advice. I’ll be thinking about this once i strongly consider backing something.