Before we dive in here, I have to admit I stole the headline for this article from Tom Schadle. He mentioned it in one of his own blog posts and it was too good to pass up. It really tied together all my thoughts for this article into one concise phrase and I've got to give him the plug and credit for it. He coined it in his article on the new GW Toolkit, that can be found here.
I won't rehash why it's a bad decision to purchase that Toolkit, as Tom does an excellent job. Go clicky-clicky and read it from him.
I do, however, want to address the main theme as it relates to our hobby overall. I'd also like to bring up that the pendulum can swing both ways in regards to Tom's words of wisdom. As much as you can easily over spend in this hobby, you can actually under spend as well.
"But Tim, this is an expensive hobby. If someone isn't okay with that, then they shouldn't be playing the games!"
I never said this was about the raw cost of our hobby. I'll address that in a completely separate article. This is about intelligent decisions with regards to purchases that support our expensive hobby. These decisions can sway us to spend more than some think we should, and at other times less. It's not about the amount spent, it's about the reasoning and common sense behind the purchase that is important here.
Let's just go ahead and start with addressing the tools we use in a broad sense. There are the intelligent decisions and then the ones that leave us shaking our heads when it comes to what we need to make this hobby work. The ones that would leave us shaking our head do indeed include buying the new tools from GW. I will also go a bit farther to say that they also include buying ANY tool from GW from glue to paint brushes. Their glue is one of the worst purchases you can make. Why on earth would you spend $6.60 for .7 fluid ounces for their thin plastic glue when you could buy a full fluid ounce of Testors Plastic Cement for $3.95 with a quick google search? If you don't want to pay for shipping, then you can get it for about $5 from your local hobby store. Green Stuff is the same. GW is selling 20g for $10. You can buy 4 ounces (over 110g) Blue/Yellow from Amazon for $15!!
Why spend so much money on a "Detail Brush" when you can easily order Raphael Series 8404 size 0? Is the Raphael cheaper? Not really (unless you find a sweet sale at Dick Blick online like I recently did), but the quality is so much better. As a note, I do believe this is one of the only things I would pay more for purely for the quality.
What about buying models? Are there more intelligent decisions we can make with regards to actually purchasing these expensive models? Of course there are, though these decisions tend to have their roots more in the planning stages rather than in the sheer cost analysis that the tools we use do.
Think of it like this: You have a friend who wants to get into 40K, and he just absolutely loves Space Marines. What kind of advice would you give him? Would you want him to just venture into a local shop and buy one of everything he thought looked cool? No! You would want to help your friend by playing a game or three with your stuff first, help him or her understand the Force Org chart and what they need to get started with so that they don't waste any money on a unit that they may not actually like at all. Even if it does look cool. Help or encourage them to build a list to buy for and play with first, then they can expand their figures into a collection later. The last thing you want is for them to get quickly discouraged by huge mounts of plastic sprue that they need to assemble before they get to roll dice with everything they just dropped a couple hundred dollars on.
If you would want to do all that for your friend specifically because you don't want them to feel discouraged or overwhelmed, why would you do that to yourself?
I'm not going to go into the benefits or pitfalls of buying from online retailers or ebay. What I will say is that if you have a local store, try and support them first if possible. If they just dont carry what you want, or can't get what you need, then hop online. If you are strapped for cash, and the many online retailers who offer a 20% discount help you continue in the hobby, then I can't deny that being a good option either, but still toss some cash at your local FLGS. It'll help keep their business and the community alive.
I'm also not going to get into the cost differentials between the various games out there. This is an expensive hobby no matter what game you play, and that particular topic is it's own ugly beast that I plan on addressing in another article.
In the end, it all boils down to intelligent and planned decisions. I know we all get caught up by the "Ooooh, Shiny!" Syndrome, but eventually you wallet, or your wife, screams in pain and anger while you bleed out your bank account.