Pen Budgeting: January 2015 Instalment

Last fall, Matt of the Pen Habit wrote a blog post entitled "Radio Silence" where he explained his reasoning for going on a YouTube hiatus. The first and primary reason had to do with the haters on YouTube and the snarky and uncharitable comments that they would leave. 

Being a content creator is a tricky thing. To do it well, and to build a community around your content, requires a lot of work. You have to pour yourself into it. There’s no doubt I did that. I worked my ass off on these videos. I gave it away for free. I made a pittance in YouTube revenues. And then, after dedicating so much time to my videos, I would wake up the morning after I posted a new video only to find things like this posted on my account…
— Matt Armstrong

The second reason though was the cost of the super fancy pens he reviewed had gotten out of hand and he had allowed himself go into debt to indulge his Pen Habit.

In my first 18 months of using fountain pens, I believe I spent somewhere in the range of $13,000-$15,000 of my own money on pens, ink, and paper. It was money I really couldn’t afford to spend: thousands of dollars of credit card purchases on cards with exorbitant interest rates, money that should have been put into emergency funds and retirement accounts, and money that should have been re-invested in my business ventures. Instead, my pen purchases often got put ahead of my monthly bills, which is STUPID.
— Matt Armstrong

This was the first time that I had seen a blog post that talked about pen finances in such frank terms. 

At New Years, Andi at the Fountain Pen Physicist posted a YouTube video discussing how she had put together a budgeting plan for 2015. This got a lot of chatter in our community and was expanded upon the following week by Doug at the Modern Stationer. Doug's post talked about the mechanics of ensuring that you keep on budget as well as saving up for larger purchases. Both were good posts and struck a cord with me.

Let's be honest, people don't use fountain pens today because it is a less expensive form of writing instrument. People who are reading this post from their 3G enabled pocket computer are likely not the most cost adverse audience but there has to be some amount of reason injected into our hobby. To quote Shawn Blanc:

We can have anything that we want but we can’t have everything that we want.
— Shawn Blanc

To this end I have followed Andi's example and set a $50 per month hobby budget for my pens. In my case it is $50 Canadian. 

So what is covered by this budget:

  • The purchase of inks: I have reached SABLE but I still intend to buy more.
  • The purchase of pens and pencils.
  • The purchase of pen related gadgets and supplies such as micro mesh for nib smoothing or ultrasonic cleaners (This one on Amazon is so worth $30). 
  • The taxes, shipping costs, duties and brokerage fees attached to all of the above.

So what isn't covered by this budget:

  • The purchase of bottles of ink to replace ones that I have emptied. LOL! I will wager that this will never happen but the caviate is recorded here now.
  • The purchase of ball point and roller ball refills to replace ones that are used up.
  • Paper: Some people are paper junkies but that is not me; yet. I view my paper supply like I view the gas for my car, I want enough on hand to get where I need to go but I have no need to fill my garage with jerry cans of fuel, nor my life with empty notebooks.
  • Envelopes and stamps: This is a real cost in Canada, our postal rates are 85¢ within the country, $1.20 to the US, and $2.50 everywhere else. InCoWriMo postage could very well approach $50 this year.
  • Pens that I receive as gifts: Typically I get to choose a nice pen for my birthday or Christmas and my wife wraps it up for me. Since they are a gift they don't come out of the budget.
  • Pens that I give to others as gifts: Most people appreciate receiving a good quality gel pen or nice pencils as stocking stuffers at Christmas or in an Easter basket. I don't get to use them so they don't come out of the budget.

To be able to keep within my budget I have had to have a long hard look at what are the conditions that make me pull the trigger on a purchase. These seem to be:

  • If something is a limited edition or has just been discontinued I feel that I should get one before it is gone.
  • If upping the purchase size will get me free shipping, I usually toss other items in the cart that weren't on my list.
  • If something is crowd funded I tend to be interested. Sometimes the products are good, sometimes mediocre, they are never delivered on time.

So how will some of these triggers be reduced?

  • I have unsubscribed from the Massdrop mailing list. I have purchased quality pens at great prices from this site but the limited time nature of the site makes me pull the trigger too readily.
  • I will stop lurking in FPN and eBay.
  • I will think twice before backing stuff on Kickstarter.
  • And finally I have unsubscribed from Ink Drop. This isn't a trigger but it simply doesn't make financial sense. With international shipping and the current exchange rate, a month's worth of Ink Drop costs $18.75 Canadian. $1.87 per ml is too much for ink. If I want samples I'll order a boat load all at once, and likely from a Canadian retailer.

So how did this month shape up budget wise? In January I sold a TWSBI 540 as well as a TWSBI Diamond 50 inkwell. The sales of these two items netted $41.26 Canadian after currency conversions. This brought this months budget up to $91.26.

During the month I read this blog post by Thomas Hall where he uses a glass feeded nib made by Morriset for ink testing. He had Shawn Newton of Newton Pens make a holder for the nib. The combination of the two sounded interesting so I contacted Shawn and ordered one up in black ebonite. It should hit the lathe in April so with any luck it will be here in time for my birthday in May. Cost of the nib and holder after currency conversion was $88.49 Canadian.

Johnny Gamber of Pencil Revolution linked to this post where a father and son review some well known pencils and came up with a very unexpected first place. Since these pencils are carried at Staples I decided to buy a dozen. $3.23 Canadian after taxes. The graphite is smooth but the point retention is not this pencil's strong suit. I prefer my Golden Bears.

For those of you who neglected to bring their calculator, I'm entering February having spent 46¢ more than my allotted budget.