Your (financial) gear buying frames of reference?

As we know, music can be an expensive hobby. I’ve heard various conversations here about going as far as spreadsheets (I have one too.) But I’d be interested to hear about any mental rules of thumb that you hold yourself to when thinking about what to spend, and what you think is over the top.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with spending money you have on something you enjoy. So let’s say you cross the “can I afford it” threshold and put that to one side for a second - what are some yardsticks you give yourself to keep spending in check?

For example, do you index vs another non-essential family buy (eg: yearly holiday?) Or do you anchor it to something objective like a % of your net wage that you are not allowed to exceed? I tend to think that in years 1 and 2 of production (although correct me if that’s just confirmation bias people!), you will potentially commit more funds to their hobby as you explore and find what works. So you might put a bit down initially, but I have also heard more experienced producers actually operating a zero based budget where they have to sell in order to buy anything beyond a certain point.

I appreciate this equation can sometimes be different if you’re a hardware vs a software buyer, but it would still be interesting to hear if anyone has a simple way of rationalising what cash they put into their hobby?

1 Like

Not sure I really budget it as such - but I do often consider resale value - if I’m buying something new that I may not keep forever then I find it much easier if I know I’ll get most of that money back when I move it on. If I’m buying used and can get a good deal then I don’t see it as being that different to putting the money in a savings account.

I think the amount I can justify has increased steadily over time. There are lots of behavioural economics reasons for this, mostly to do with anchoring, but little to do with output or skill or return on investment.

i.e. when you’re new to the hobby even spending a couple hundred [currency units] can feel lofty IMO, but spend enough time GASing and you adjust to the comparitive costs, and eventually gear that costs a couple hundred can start to seem cheap.


First rule of hobbies, for me, is no borrowing money. No loans, no CC debt, no payment plans.

Next rule is essentials get paid for first. I like to keep a fairly substantial buffer so I can tell the boss to stuff it because my psychology is that if I’m able to quit it’s easier not to. :sweat_smile:

I coordinate with my wife on spending, domestic tranquility is something you can’t put a price on.

My other expensive hobby is sailing. I will impulse buy gloves and boots and other < $100 stuff, but I spend months to years budgeting a boat purchase. That has worked very well for me - saddest day for me is selling the boat, unlike the old story where happiest days are buy day and sell day.

For music gear I don’t really budget but I mentally balance whether a purchase will impact my wife’s travel budget or the sailing budget. If so, more planning required. If not, I think carefully and avoid impulse buying unless my wife signs off. (She has hobbies too and appreciates a good deal)

I also keep a prioritized list of cool old gear and prices. If I see something amazing for cheap I’m likely to jump on it. It took two years to find a Korg Z1, but I paid rock bottom dollar for it.

As far as spend over time goes, it can go up or down. Some people find the perfect set of gear and are done. Others are always chasing the new and weird. I’m more the latter. Life circumstances and space dictate what I’m willing to spend and manage. I buy far more than I sell these days, but I’ve been at it off and on for a few decades.

I said no CC debt but my wife loves to travel (together :sweat_smile:) so all purchases go through her credit card reward points optimization scheme. Between boats and synths we go to some really nice places for not a lot of additional money. :sunglasses: remember that thing about domestic tranquility? Also, no kids so that frees major budget.


I never buy anything I can’t pay for cash in hand. That puts a natural limit to what I can and cannot afford.


If only I’d known before it was too late.


I put a hard limit of 500 euros on any piece of gear I want… Which means I mostly buy second-hand. I also limit myself to a total of 5 pieces of gear including FX. Less is more.

Actually 500 euros for a “brain”

250 euros for a synth

150 euros for FX

I always resell before I buy something new if I for example wanna switch “brain” so I end up with extra cash to put into something.

Less is more … Maybe?


Yep same - if I can’t pay for it with money at hand I don’t buy it. I don’t use any household income to buy gear either, I buy gear from selling other gear/stuff, music advances/royalties, etc. I have been doing this for about 35 years and always stuck to this rule, at times it meant I never had any gear at all, but rather that than debt.


This. My only purchase the last 18 months has been a 2nd hand Digitone, because of other priorities (like buying and furnishing a house :p). I’ve been wanting a Syntakt since it launched but I’m playing the long GAS game. No disposable income that doesn’t need to go to something else = No gear.


I’ve also “had” to sell substantial portions of my gear for moves or to avoid temptation when I really wanted to focus on my day job. I’m fairly advanced in my career now so the latter is less of a problem, but we do like to travel the world. My studio is probably the biggest factor keeping us from moving to Japan. :sweat_smile:


If I couldn’t sell it for the asking price then I don’t buy it, which means I mostly buy used gear.

1 Like

I don’t have strict rules for myself, but I also have no kids, live car-light, and the mortgage is low.

About what I’d pay for a “nice” bicycle is my limit of what is comfortable for a synth or other discrete piece of music gear, so that’s $3500 give or take a few hundred (I build my own, frame up these days, but I go for modestly priced frames - they don’t call cost that much, I think my singlespeed ended being closer to $1800).

Credit card debt that lasts more than a month is not good so I usually don’t do that (when it slides to two months it is usually because I am awaiting reimbursement for work travel or some other thing like that - but it is quite rare for that to coincide with a large purchase that also wasn’t more or less in cash). I do make nearly all online purchases via a CC for the fraud protection.

Same - my wife and I share a car that is nearly 20 years old. Sailing is more fun than driving.

I’ve definitely had to sell gear to make ends meet when I was still freelancing and there was a drought, and have also definitely sold to finance other purchases. I’ve also never re-bought anything I’ve sold, so I guess I have enough of a healthy relationship with money and gear? :upside_down_face:

1 Like

We’ve been one car for nearly a decade. Recently a good condition used ~15 year old outback fell into our laps for under bluebook, and it is actually a hassle to make sure it gets driven enough!

1 Like

It takes work to find a good place in the US where you don’t have to drive all the time, but absolutely worth the effort. Turn the gas budget into GAS budget. :upside_down_face:


That work was an eternity of grad school and 3ish years of academic job market dread and angst, then sheer dumb luck. Music suffered, but I don’t think I could have done both.

1 Like

I think this varies between a professional (who earns money from playing with the gear) and a hobbyist (who earns satisfaction from playing with the gear).

If you earn money from the gear, it’s value (or any loss in resale) should eventually come back. So limit is the return period of the investment for you.

If you don’t earn money from the gear the limit -personal opinion- Is whatever you are ok to lose in the long term (whatever is not covered by any resale value and depreciation of electronics). And -personal opinion again - this should be only pocket money.


I have a mental limit of 3000€. It’s not a strict boundary; 3200€ is also fine if the circumstances allow it. Sometimes I sell a lot and then only have a 500€ synth for a few weeks. I handle my other hobby, cameras, similarly. I also have a limit of around 3000€ there. If I want to get a new lens, I have to let go of another one or even two, depending on their value. If I want a 2000€ synth, others have to go. This requires a certain logic of justification, and it makes me reconsider whether it’s worth it.
But at the end of the day, it’s just a hobby for me. It serves as a creative outlet to balance out my otherwise intellectually demanding daily life.

1 Like

i mostly buy gear with punk/underground attitute, which is: cheaper gear rocks.
vast majority of my gear is/was less than €500 at the time of purchase. .
and i rarely even read about gear that is over €1000 – just because i’m likely not going to buy it.
my most expensive pieces of gear so far are Syntakt and a pair of IK iLoud MTM monitors.


I tend to adhere to a 1-in/1-out rule (for the most part). I also rarely ever buy anything new. When I buy something used, I typically only buy when I spot an amazing deal, where I am can be confident that I resell it for the same price or usually more. There are things I’ve sold for twice the price I bought it for (mind you I started buying stuff in the late 90s where I could score deals like a $450 Jun-106 or $500 TR-808).

Over the years this policy has basically allowed me to upgrade over time. I have to wonder if at the end of it all if I’ve spent any of my own money. I don’t think I’ve ever bought anything that cost $1000 or more, except for my Nordlead 2 keyboard about 20 years ago after buying and selling my Juno-106m JX-8P and MKS-70.