How to Hobby on a Budget

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Sometimes hobby spending can get a little out of control.  I find myself looking for hobby projects and ways to spend my time that won’t break the bank.

I figure this is something that most of could likely benefit from so I typed up my short list below.

I’m TPM, the host of Forge The Narrative.  We talk a lot about this sort of stuff in addition to the tournament scene on my podcast and our during our weekly live webcast over on google plus/YouTube.

Here are just a few ways I plan to keep myself hobbying on the cheap:

Number 1

Paint What I Already Have.   This is something that I have been at a while.  I love to collect and because of that I have a lot of models just sitting on the shelf or near my hobby area.  I talk about this on my show, Forge The Narrative, a good bit but I have been just sitting in my paint chair and attempting to paint everything within arm’s reach.

So far I have completed 10 grey knight terminators, a Dread Knight, 10 Daemonettes, 20 pink horrors and two Dark Angel Raven Wing bike squads.  I’ve been at it a couple of months but it is nice to see the backlog of figures clearing out.  I plan to keep at it to help me feel like I am still getting my hobby on without having to spend anything else.  In this pic the bases are still a little WIP, but you get the idea.

holiday hobby

Number 2

Rebase an Army.  This sounds tedious, expensive and mind numbingly boring but let me explain.  I have a couple marine based armies that were done pre 32mm bases.  On schedule now, is to go back and re-do my Grey Knight army.  All the Strike Squads and Purifiers are currently on 25mm bases.  As an aside I am not all that happy with the way they look and I know I can do better now than when I originally finished them so in addition to filling the hobby time I am also going to be giving them a little bit of an upgrade.

For not much money at all (buying bases on ebay or whatever) I can get a few hours of solid hobby time in and make a significant difference to the way the figures look and perform on the table.

Even if you don’t need to convert an army from 25mm to 32mm there may be an army sitting on the shelf that you aren’t especially proud of now that your painting skills have improved.


Number 3

Make/Buy Scenery.   Not many of us have perfect tables at home and Line of Sight blocking terrain is essential to balanced game play.  Our terrain game is pretty much the last thing we focus on and with the increase in laser cut terrain manufactures out there, the time is now.  I just picked up a four pack of 28mm shipping crates.  I can spend a day or so making those look sharp and the will have an instant impact on my tabletop.

If you are looking to get a little more hands on, a hot foam cutter can be picked up from hobby lobby or amazon fairly cheap.  This will allow you to carve up some of that packing foam you may have left over from holiday gifts to make boulders, walls or whatever.  The foam cutters are extremely easy to use and with just a little practice you can make some usable terrain.


What did I miss here?  What are a few other ways I can maximize my hobby time on a small budget?

If podcasts are your thing, I’ve included episode 125 below.  Please check us out and subscribe!  Thank you.

  • Severius_Tolluck

    Yeah, always good advice, build, and paint what you have. I know I have a tremendous back log. I think for me is to go back and finish half completed projects that got aborted due to rule changes or replacement models came out before I got to them. Finish them and paint them to my current standard and maybe auction them off. Either way Will save me from spending. However nice shiny things always beckon me, and I will someday complete my nearly all air force force org from forge world that is now almost legal muahaha

    • I have a backlog to my backlog. at last count, I have close to 400 unpainted minis. mainly because while assembling mini is a relaxing thing for me, painting them is something I have absolutely no time for these days. maybe this summer, if all goes well.

      • Severius_Tolluck

        right there with you, I think my backlog is even greater… >.>;; so many aborted projects come from game systems that i wanted to try and never panned out.

  • euansmith

    This article completely lost me at point Number 1… I simply don’t understand…

    • jeff white


  • Mud_Duck

    Point number 1; If you finish everything that isn’t finished, isn’t that like a death sentence or something?

  • Shinnentai

    Switch to 15mm – I’ve been really impressed in both the number of companies supplying sci-fi minis at this scale in recent years, and in the quality of the sculpts (some really great vehicle designs out there).

    • euansmith

      There is a bloke called Jason Monkman who is working on a range of grim dark 15mm minis to be released by Skulduggery Press. They aren’t out yet, but the level of detail on the masters is quite frankly bonkers; especially because they are being hand sculpted.

      • Shinnentai

        Yeah the 3d sculpts of the dropship they’ve been showing off look excellent too.

        Looks like a little *too* much detail on the infantry for my painting skills though!

  • James DeGrey

    Terrain is an excellent way to hobby cheaply, the very best terrain can be built form things such as coffee stirrers and cardboard. this takes a long time to achieve good results but is toallly worth it in my opinion.

  • take old and badly painted minis you did ages ago, get rid of the paint and give them a do over.

    Or: take old minis that you won’t use again for their initial purpose and turn them into something else: a scenery element (the old plastic marines from the second ed of 40K were perfect for statues), corpses to litter battlefield scenery or monsters’ bases with, or just hack them to pieces and rebuild them into something else, says the man currently converting his old blood angels-space wolves combined force into red corsairs.

    • jeff white

      i ripped up some old ork vehicles and made some awesome terrain with some added plastic bits and pipes and plastic screen ripped from a broken strainer found in the garbage. modeled it up to look like ad hoc scavenged fortification

      • Yellow Sigmarine

        Every bit of the last trukk is brilliant for terrain!

  • MightyOrang

    If I painted my backlog to completion then I would die. That’s how the hobby curse works, right?

    And I’d add that for hobbling on the cheap, also think about other games systems. GW too much? (Of course it is). Well then what can you get with other systems ?

    Or just a but Fallout 4 and play that for 150 hours.

    • jeff white

      yeah, virtual reality is cool, but it always disappears when i turn the machine off.

      • euansmith

        That does save on storage 😉

    • euansmith

      I’m looking to play some “One Page Kill Team” and I’m eyeing up a box of German Fallschirmjäger from Warlord. That’s 30 nice multipose plastic minis for £26; plus the bonus that they are slightly smaller than Cadians, so my Marines will look bigger by comparison.

      • jeff white

        that is a great idea imho, and the bonus is genius due inspired living. bravo!

  • effinger2

    REBASE?! No way. I ain’t doing that. It’s a waste of time. No one around here is so there is no reason to spend one second of my time. Dumb idea.

  • Frank O’Donnell

    Building your own terrain is a very cheap way of doing thing’s & I’ve found that cork tiles are great also plants for fish tanks plus if you live near an ikea they have a good range of plastic plants that you can use.

    Here’s a link to a post my blog to a very cheap way of making good looking tree’s

  • Tabletop on a budget… uhm… forget 40k and play X-Wing or Infinity?

    • Shiwan8

      Want better space combat games for cheaper than xwing? Play Halo Fleet Battles.

      • … Halo Fleet Battles is pretty expensive. 80€ for the starter set.

  • ted1138

    My tip: Ebay. Sell all the stuff you don’t use and invest the money in stuff you will. Better to have fewer miniatures and models, but that you want to paint and play with, than boxes of ones you’ll never do anything with.

    • William Bellamy

      I’ve been doing that with my 40k stuff in favor of Warmachine and X-Wing, which I actually play. Still hanging on to my Chaos, though.

    • Shiwan8

      What do you do when you want to play something but the designers in the company say that you can not because…because? That’s the reality for all the CSM and Nid players.

  • Other suggestion would be to buy non-branded, but equally high quality tools and brushes for painting and modelling: Currently GW sells brushes for 11-15 USD each, which is just crazy!

  • Gavin Henning

    All these are pretty much great tips. The other is looking long and hard when you search on google for cheap hobby store hidden gems, the place I work for is one for UK based hobbiests as it has 20-25% off RRP and if an item is backordered it ships in 3 days from your order.

  • JP

    Number 4: Stay the hell away from Games Workshop products.

  • Captain Raptor

    Download the old Mordheim, Necromunda, or Gorkamorka rules and play some skirmish. Chances are you have more than enough models for a warband. It’s a great change from 40k and making terrain will keep you busy for a while. An added bonus is that you can give your conversion and painting skills a workout by individualizing your Warband/gang.

    There’s also a plethora of great small scale games that other manufacturers produce.

  • Ben_S

    It depends what you really want from your wargaming.
    If your main interest is playing the game, then you can pick up a bunch of cheap plastic army soldiers from your local £/$ store. With like-minded friends, those would work fine for something like Bolt Action or even 40k IG.
    Of course, if you’re invested in the hobby side as well, then those cheap figures aren’t going to cut it. But if your main interest is modelling and painting, then you can get quite a lot of modelling and painting done without spending a fortune on models. Pick a skirmish gang and really lavish the attention on individualising your gang/team/whatever.
    Obviously, there’s no easy budget way to play 40k Apocalypse games complete with Titans (that aren’t toy proxies) and the like, but you can’t have everything on a budget – there’s a lot that you can do though.