In our household, The Wife* controls the finances. She pays all the bills and makes sure the checkbook doesn't bounce and all that fun stuff. The down side to that, for me, is that my personal comic book budget isn't controlled by me.
I am allotted twenty dollars per week to spend at the comic book shop, including taxes. I'm entitled to buy whatever I want at that shop -- comics, trade paperbacks, action figures, whatever -- so long as it doesn't exceed twenty dollars in any given week. So, like most other collectors, I have to make constant determinations about what comics to buy and what comics to pass over.
I tend to collect around $90 in new comics every month. Which means that I don't have very much cash for back issues, action figures, trade paperbacks and the like. Today, I was in the shop and picked up the new books that I was looking for: Books of Doom #4, Local #4, Aquaman #40, and Gødland #8. At $2.99 each, that only came up to $11.96, so I figured I had some room to try something else.
Well, I noticed that the second issue of Next Wave had just come out. I had heard good things about the first issue, and I do like Stuart Immonen's work, so I grabbed #2. I figured that I'll give it a try if I could pick up a copy of #1 as well. So, I started flipping through the back issue bins...
"Hey, here's a copy of Marvel Nemesis: The Imperfects #6! I've been looking for that."
"Hey, here's a copy of Marvel Tales #26 for only two bucks! That's been on my want list for a while now."
"Hey, cool! Next Wave #1. I'm all set."
So then I started adding up what I had in my hand. Another $2.99 for Next Wave #2, $3.25 each for the Imperfects #6 and Next Wave #1 (my shop adds an extra quarter to recent back issues because of the bagging and boarding they do) and $2.00 for Marvel Tales... that comes to $23.45 before tax. Twenty cents more than I can afford even if I pass on one of the books, since the tax would bump me back over $20.00 again. So I have to eliminate two books from my hand.
Aquaman? No, that was the last copy. Same with Gødland. There were two copies of Local, but indie books are tough to get if you miss them the first time. Books of Doom? No, I'll need to post the issue information on my Fantastic Four web site. I can't pass up on Marvel Tales either. Two bucks, and I've been passively looking for it for a while? I'm not going to see a deal like that any time again soon.
That means that I have to decide among two issues of Next Wave and the final issue of Imperfects. Next Wave #2 was new this week, so they'll probably still have a few issues left next week. There were three copies of Imperfects #6, and it really wasn't that good of a book in the first place. Since I was only getting it to complete the series, I put it back and kept Next Wave #1. If I like the book, I can probably pick up #2 next week or maybe the week after and be completely caught up. If I don't like the book, I can grab Imperfects instead.
I figure that's about as close to a win-win situation as I'm going to get here. But it's frustrating having to go through that every week. I tried buying a trade paperback once because it was only twelve dollars. But that meant I had to spend the next month or so trying to play catch-up with my new issues.
It'd be easy to slide into a "comics are too expensive" diatribe, or a rant about the growing gulf between upper and lower classes (indeed, I was a whole paragraph into that rant before I saw where it was going and deleted it) but what first prompted me to write about this dilemma is the notion of an individual making their own purchasing choices and what criteria they use in making their decisions. I try to be logical in my purchases of even the most frivolous items, but what might've prompted the next person to put back Aquaman or Local or whatever? How many other people would've made the same type of decision path that I did? Food for thought.
* Side Note: I use "The Wife" as a title of respect, hence the capital letters. I don't see it any differently than people using "The President" or "The Queen." As far as I'm concerned, there's only one woman worthy of the title "wife" so it deserves a definite article and capital letters.