Monday, December 30, 2013

A Cheapskate's Guide to Buying Idol Merch

♫'Tis the season to buy idol merch! Fa-la-la-la-la~ la-la-la-la!♪

Or it was. Even though Christmas is over, I still consider it to be the season until the end of December! And besides, that means all the after-Christmas sales are happening right now! A few days ago I went to the mall for said after-Christmas sales, and there were so many people there that just getting to any store was like fighting my way through a horde of zombies! I do not recommend shopping the day after Christmas; it's insane and will only end in pain and frustration. But it doesn't matter, because I can always do online shopping! And that is exactly what I've been doing: frequenting Amazon and Steam looking for an assortment of goods for decent prices! I'm sure most of you idol fans are doing more or less the same thing and going on various sites to look for idol merchandise! I like doing the same thing too. After all, with a lot of idols not selling their CDs internationally, trying to find their merch online is like a long, sometimes-overpriced treasure hunt!

I must admit though, I am not one of the more active buyers of idol merch. I don't own any posters or concert DVDs or concert-exclusive items. Why? 1. I haven't taken the time to look for any of those things and 2. I'm a shameless cheapskate when it comes to buying idol merch. Oh yeah, and there's also the fact that I do have other more important things I need to spend money on like gas and food and other miscellaneous items. But even when I do have the money to buy idol merch, if it's over a certain price, I just can't bring myself to do it. My parents raised me with the idea that there is always a lower price if you look in the right place, so I've developed this mindset where I'm always looking out for deals and sales and cheaper prices on things. And that's probably the best thing to do, but since idol merch is very difficult to find, let alone at good prices, it can get a little inconvenient at times. But I'm sorry, I'm not going to spend $30 to $50 to even $100 on a CD. Not when I could possibly spend that same money on say, three CDs if I look hard enough.

That is all the idol merchandise I own. You might notice that it's all Perfume. What I'm trying to do is collect one copy of every single Perfume's released along with all their albums. From there, I might try finding other idol albums to buy, but right now, I'm not looking too hard. Besides, this is a collection that's been built up over the past year. I've got a long ways to go! Still, if I do find a cheap idol CD, I'll probably buy it! Other J-pop CDs I own include Mizuki Nana's Impact Exciter, two Meg albums, and Shiina Ringo's Shouso Strip (but it's in really shitty condition). None of those singers are exactly idols. Then again neither is Perfume depending on who you ask... Anyways, what I'm trying to show is that by no means is my own personal collection huge, but I think every single purchase I've made has been worth it! And the best part is I got most of the CDs for under $15! About half of them were $10 or less, which is wonderful when you're trying to buy imports.

I figured that surely there must be other idol fans out there who are just like me and don't like spending a ton of money on idol merch! And I thought I could possibly help said fans out by writing my own little guide to how I buy idol merch! Now you might be wondering how the hell a teenage girl with no real experience in handling money could possibly have decent money tips. And you're right, I am inexperienced in taxes and bills. But I'm not talking about taxes and bills! All I'm talking about is buying idol merch. And these tips may not work for you! Which is completely okay, I wouldn't expect the tips that work for me to work for everyone else in the world. Everyone's economic situation is different, and there are a lot of variable to take into consideration. But if you yourself have any tips, I'd love to hear them via either comment or email! At the end of the day, what we all want is to jam to idol CDs, and this is just my collection of tips toward achieving that goal!

I have six rules I made for myself when it comes to buying idol merch. While they won't work for everyone, if you're like me and don't like spending a ton of money on idol merch, maybe they'll work for you too!

Rule #1: Keep track of your money

- I think this is more of general rule of How to Succeed in Life Instead of Living Under a Bridge Selling Crystal Meth. And if you're a functioning adult, I'd hope you already at least have a grasp of this concept! As many of us know, money is what makes the world go 'round, and unfortunately, some people have a whole lot more of it than others do. Now life would be much easier if we could just print more money, but that leads to inflation, so everyone's stuck with managing whatever pile of money they've been dealt with, be it a large pile or a small pile. And unless you're in the small minority of spankin' rich people, then you've probably got to keep track of how much you spend on idol merch. You don't want to blow say, all your food money, for the Limited Edition of Game. What I would do is set aside a small amount of money each month for specifically idol merch. That's kind of what I do right now. Every month I receive an allowance that helps me pay for gas, food, and other miscellaneous things. If there's any money left towards the end of the month, that's usually when I like to go online and look for idol merch to buy. Until then, all I try to do is keep in mind any CDs I want to look into purchasing, then wait until the end of the month to actually do so if I have enough money. And there are some months when I don't have enough, and that is perfectly okay.

Rule #2: Look out for deals

Finding cheaply priced idol merch is kind of like hunting. Or... you know, what I assume hunting is like. Looking for idol merch at a decent price sometimes takes some time, especially if the CD you're trying to find isn't as massively produced or popular. Believe me, it can be infuriating knowing that the only copy of BiS's Idol is Dead I can find is $35.00 and yet AKB48's 1830m is available on Ebay for $5.00. You just have to wait it out until something comes along. Until then though, it's always good to at least browse on a few websites looking out for any deals that randomly pop up. One of the sites I frequent most is Amazon, because their shipping rates aren't abysmally long for me (unlike CD Japan). And what's nice about Amazon is they have a bunch of different markets with different prices listed. So sometimes certain markets will pop up selling the same CD with a lower price than other markets. Like the LE edition of Mirai no Museum on Amazon was $8.00 at one point. I might have bought it had the single not been... well, Mirai no Museum. But I think being on the lookout for good deals only makes finding them all the more gratifying. It's like finding buried treasure before someone else! So you definitely have to have a lot of patience, but if you're willing to wait for the end results, keeping an eye out for deals can be an extremely satisfying process!

Rule #3: Wait before purchasing something

I know when something new comes out and you really can't wait to have the CD, you want to buy it immediately. I get that way all the time with Perfume's releases. The worst was with Level3 though! I was dying to have the album, and when the prices showed up, I half-considered buying it for like $30.00. Despite the temptation, I did end up convincing myself to wait until I could find Level3 for a lower price. I ended up waiting a month after the release of Level3 until I found a copy of Level3 for $14.00. And that copy came with the DVD. So was it worth it? In perspective, one month was a relatively short wait, so yes, I think it was very much worth it! I saved $16.00! The most I have spent on an album is $25.00, and that was to buy Game. Considering Game is such an amazing album, I think it was worth it. But then I found the same album later for $10.00... so that was kind of a bummer. What I've found works for me is waiting on CDs that have decent but could-be-better prices. If no better deals show up in the next week or two, I'll usually buy the CD. But don't wait too long! Especially if you're on a site like Ebay; you never know when another prospective buyer is lurking in the shadows! Especially if the CD is from a less popular group; there's lot less supply of those in international markets than say, an AKB48 CD.

Rule #4: Make sure it's worth it

I think this closely ties into Rule #3. Being a cheapskate is difficult sometimes. Because no matter how hard I tell myself not to buy something, I can't just completely ignore my impulses. And when I first see something on sale, I want to buy it. But usually my rationality kicks in and reminds me that no, Nia, you can't afford that, and even if you could, you could afford it at a better price. For stuff like Perfume's CDs, doing that is easy. I know they're a popular enough group internationally that I'll probably always be able to find most of their CDs. Except Omajinai Perori and Kareshi Boshuuchuu, but I'm not exactly clamoring to find either one of those singles. It's groups like Tokyo Girls' Style and Bump.y and BiS that are usually more tempting. None of those group's releases are impossible to find, but it's difficult to find them at decent princes. I'd use CD Japan, but their shipping rates to my location are god-awful. So when I see a rarer CD pop up for sale, my immediate reaction is to go ahead and buy it. And if it's a CD that is really hard to find, usually I will! But that's because I know the price is worth it. I'm not gonna spend $25.00 on a copy of Perfume's JPN, but I might on Bellring Shoujo Heart's Bedhead. Any time I find a CD for sale, I just ask myself "Can I find this anywhere else for a lower price?" And If I say no, then I buy it! Easy as that!

Rule #5: Space out your purchases

I know there are fans who like to binge-buy, and that's totally cool if that's what rocks your socks. But personally, I prefer to space out the time between my purchases rather than buying a bunch of stuff at once. When you space out your purchases, it's like going on this fun little journey, picking up treasures along the way. There are some days when I wish I had a whole collection of Perfume CDs, but I think part of the fun is finding each CD at a good price! Usually I'll buy a CD or two once a month or every two months. It all depends on how much money I have left at the end of the month! What I've found with spacing out my purchases is that my collection builds up over time! And if I keep spacing them out, it'll keep doing that! And it's just fun looking back on my progress every so often. Sure, it'd be kind of nice to buy everything at once, but where would the fun in that be? It's the quest that really makes it! Man, I'm starting to make buying idol merch sound like Lord of the Rings! Ah well, this is one of those things that can be diffcult, especially when I'm in a more impulsive mood. But as of now, there are a ton of CDs I want to buy, and perhaps one day, years later, I'll be able to look back and say, "My collection's complete!" Anyways, if you have the patience and the time, I recommend spacing out purchases not only to save money but also for the fun of it!

Rule #6: Have fun!

Have fun spending money!? Is that even possible!? I think this rule is pretty self-explantory. After all, you guys are buying idol merch for the fun of it, right? Because shouldn't following your oshis and buying their merch be fun? If it's more of an obligation, I don't see how or why on earth you're doing it. Oh well, for me, buying and collecting idol merch should be fun. Otherwise, I'd be collecting something else like, I don't know, VHS tapes! My point is, have fun, guys.

And that's all I've got! I don't know if any of this is helpful, but if it is, I'm happy! And if it isn't... sorry? But these rules work for me, and maybe they'll work for someone else!

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