Typically, Goth is perceived as expensive. And for sure, custom or hand made designs are pricey; and brand name Goth gear is rarely what you could call cheap either. If you're in school, or simply operating on a low budget, travelling to gigs and festivals to meet your fellow spooky kids is not easy either. I recently had a Goth acquaintance express surprise that I have never been to Wave Gotik Treffen, but it would cost my life savings just for the trip there and back again! (My time will come...)
Readers, I encourage you to share your own tips and advice for budgetgoths in the comments. Goth doesn't need to be an expensive frivolity reserved only for those who can afford it.
- Modern babybats who want to learn more about their scene have an advantage over spooky kids from generations past. Nowadays there are dozens of reference books all about the world of Goth, written by those in the know, such as Jillian Venters, Nancy Kilpatrick and Gavin Baddeley. You can access such resources for free in a very simple way - get down to your local library! I was most amused to discover that my small-town library hoards such titles as Goth Chic and The Goth Bible. You can also brush up on your Gothy reading material by looking for authors such as Neil Gaiman, Anne Rice, Poppy Z. Brite, Mary Shelley, Tanith Lee, Storm Constantine, Aaron Alexovich, J O'Barr, Bram Stoker, Clint Catalyst, P.C. Cast, the Brontes, Poe, Paul Magrs, and Edward Gorey. Some libraries also stock CDs and DVDs for a small additional borrowing fee, so your library could actually be a one-stop shop on the way to immersing yourself in Goth culture. Look for well-known bands like The Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees, though, as the average library probably doesn't stock Diva Destruction and Johnny Hollow.
- Get online and see if your town or county has a wardrobe department. I live in Hampshire, and here the council helps local re-enactment groups and drama departments by providing something called Hampshire Wardrobe, which stocks costumes of all kinds, in all sizes, from every era you can think of and a few which never existed. These costumes are made available for hire by local groups. But, darklings, every few months or so, Hampshire Wardrobe has a sale. Last summer I happened to be working in a building just on the other side of town, and I made my way across and snapped up a black replica Medieval gown with a three-foot train, a very unusual vintage sort-of cape/dress (black) and a pair of replica Victorian bloomers, which just need a little fixing up. £25 for the lot. ;-)
- Bored of that hair colour? If it's a dark colour, hairdressers may advise that you use a special - expensive - shampoo to help fade the colour. Know what the key ingredient in that shampoo is? As I was informed by a hairdresser, it's tea tree. Save pounds by buying a cheap tea tree shampoo from your local supermarket - just make sure it isn't marked as 'colour safe' - to achieve exactly the same effect.
- If magazines such as Gothic Beauty, Spider's Web, Orkus and Bite Me are currently marked in the 'would love to, but just can't afford it right now' section of your brain (mostly due to postage, probably), fear not. Not all Goth magazines come with a price tag! If you pop over to the Attitude Clothing site and sign up to receive their free catalogue, you'll discover that their catalogue is now part magazine, interviewing rock and metal bands and alt models, offering advice on Goth and alternative ensembles, make-up tutorials, and a beauty columnist with a purple 'hawk. Those in the USA and Canada can receive a free subscription to Asleep By Dawn Magazine - click here for more info.
- We all know that Halloween is the best time to stock up on accessories and home decor at bargain basement prices. But did you know that Poundland offers black faux roses all year round?
- When browsing charity shops, all you need to create a basic Goth wardrobe is simply this - some black bottoms, e.g. skirts, trousers or jeans; and some black and jewel-coloured tops, e.g. T-shirts or vest tops. It's really that simple. You can then add rips, safety pins, badges and lace trim (40p a metre in my local craft store) to your satisfaction. If your budget will stretch to fabric paint, go for it. A handy hint from an insider on UK charity shops, by the way - many of them run by large charities now have to operate according to price guides. British Heart Foundation and Oxfam are the most expensive on the whole; then Blue Cross and PDSA, with YMCA, NeighbourCare, MIND and the Salvation Army being the cheapest. Do bear this in mind when bargain-hunting! Some UK villages have their own charity shops - these are often very cheap too so keep an eye open on your travels.
- Many online alt stores have an 'under £5 section' for those buying gifts. Bookmark these sections and keep an eye out for things you love.
- Sign up to Last.fm to take advantage of free music downloads from great bands like Dead Sea Surfers, Devilish Presley and Rising Shadows. You Sound Like A Robot also offers free sample MP3s. These are a great way to build up your knowledge of Goth music and discover new bands as well as boosting a sparse music collection, although I don't recommend illegally downloading albums as this is not at all fair on musicians!
- See if your local recycling centre has a sales area. In my county, each site has a sales shed where they sell off functional electrical equipment, furniture, etc. Why is this interesting? Because they also tend to rescue boxes of CDs, DVDs, videos and vinyl records. Most of my vinyl collection originated from the dump at 50p a throw - vinyl records can be hung on the wall and used as home decor as well as providing audio delight.
- Speaking of home decor, if you can't afford or don't want to repaint your entire room, but would like a Gothier feel to your decor, head down to your local DIY store and pick up a sample-sized paint pot in a colour that goes well with your existing wall colour (for example, my walls are blue so I used silver; if you have cream, purple or pink walls try black). You may not be able to find a stencil that suits your tastes, but I was lucky enough to find a stencil pack called 'Gothic' in my local Focus store. If you can't find a stencil, follow Sebastian's tutorial here to make your own, but use stiff card instead of paper. Affix to your walls with masking tape and get painting - you can frame your posters, add a frieze, do designs around your door or just a flock of bats across one wall...