July 25, 2011

Ways to Save Money Reenacting

 Reenacting can be expensive. If you add up the cost of gas for one event, the price of your gear, the cost of food and the price to register, you are talking about a lot of money. Many people are surprised to find out that reenactors are not paid to do what they do and, in fact, actually pay to be there. Most reenactors also buy their own cookware, tents, clothing and other equipment. 

Civil War Reenactor Reenacting

Become a Nonprofit. If you haven’t already, make sure your reenacting group is registered as a nonprofit organization so that your clothing, weapons, equipment and gas mileage is tax deductible (save your receipts.) 

Focus on one impression. Would a poor farm-girl have 10 dresses? Probably not. Would she really want a new dress? Probably. Wanting what you can’t have? Priceless. Do you know how the guys talk of those magic moments on the battlefield when it “feels real?” It feels real when you sit outside of a ball, just listening to the music because you don’t have a nice dress to wear and your poor farm-girl couldn’t afford a ticket anyway. (If you are poor in the day, be poor at night. If you are a man in the day, stay a man at night. If you portray a wealthy person, make sure you have the money to do so properly and can afford nice dresses, bonnets, jewelry, ect. If you choose to be a wealthy person, it is much cheaper to not have a “farmer’s wife impression” and a “nurse impression” and a “general’s wife impression in addition to it. When you are ready to take on an entirely new impression and after a lot of research, you should have been able to have saved up enough money for it. ) 

Buy secondhand or trade for things you need. Once you have created a new impression that you like and want to keep, you can get rid of some of the old things that you don’t use anymore by selling them to reenactors that need them and buy things that have already been used. Used clothing has the added bonus of looking like it is worn everyday and not just one weekend a month for half the year. 

Do without. Limit yourself to what you bring to an event. It would be nice to be able to bring a dish for anything you might possibly want to cook but it’s costly, not practical and period incorrect. 

Learn to Sew. You might spend a little bit making mistakes when learning to sew but the mistakes will pay for themselves when you can make your own clothing. If you are truly a beginner, try to find someone to help you sew something simple to start out. 

Try to keep your “gear” to a minimum and sell the rest. In my tent, there is a rule that if something isn’t 100% necessary (dress, shoes, gun, cartridge box) than it must serve at least 3 other purposes. We have a tiny skillet that we use to move coals, dig holes, cook and as my plate/dish. Our 99 cent skillet has replaced a possibly expensive shovel and eating utensil. Less money and less to carry. 

Do research then buy at unexpected places. If you study fabrics and research well, you can find cheap, appropriate fabrics at thrift stores and yard sales. Make sure you are very well researched first, though. This works for cookware and furniture too. 

Share equipment. This can cause problems so be careful. Hammers, cooking utensils, some clothing can be shared. Make sure you are respectful and courteous to those you share with.   


  1. Great post! I love being cheap, especially with reenacting because everything is so darn expensive. I buy a lot of stuff used which helps the cost A LOT - I bought a hoop skirt this weekend for $10 used. Huzzah! How did you like the 150th Manassas??? Did you stay as cool as you could? It was so absurdly hot!

  2. I spent $30 for my first hoop and it only lasted through one event. That's a great price!

    It is starting to really get expensive for us. For this weekend, registration was $20.00 food was $30 and gas was expensive but we were very lucky to get to carpool.

    We had fun but we have to scale back for next year. It's just way too much money to spend in one weekend.

    We were really hot, some people in out group had to get aid. It seemed like it would have been a nice event if it wasn't so hot. The sweat was giving everyone rashes.

  3. Great post! I am posting a link to my facebook page - most of my friends are reenactors and they need to read this!

  4. Yeah, nearly my whole group had to make multiple trips to the nice cooling tent! The grass gave me a really really bad rash all over my legs and I got 2 ticks. Yuck! I agree it was very expensive. I can't believe we had to pay $4 for ice though! That really irritated a bunch of guys in my group.

  5. Mary, did you see those red velvet ants? :D Something we don't have here in PA. I didn't know that ice was that expensive. I know that over the weekend, we bought about 5 so that is expensive. I would have died without the ice.


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