Tattoos and personal finance are two things I’m rather passionate about—which is probably a good thing, because at the end of the day tattoos are a luxury item, and luxury items require some personal finance skills. So, to begin, if you’re currently on the vibe that budgets don’t work or just aren’t for you, then this guide may not be for you.
However, while this isn’t a blog post about why budgeting is useful, budgeting is a skill you’re going to want in your back pocket if you’re saving up for any luxury item. I am in no way the most tattooed person in the world (I’ve only just hit double digits), and when I was 19 and Adam did my first tattoo, I paid for it in money scrapped together from various student-y jobs. However, since I started getting larger pieces and committed to having more of a tattoo ‘collection’, financing tattoos have been a whole different ball game.
The Price of Tattoos
When considering a new tattoo, cost is often one of the first questions people will have. Which is understandable! You need to know how much to save, and plan for an appointment that is far enough in advance that you’re going to be able to afford that cost. (Side note: If you’re ‘shopping around for the best price’, keep in mind that this is a something that is permanently on your body—do you really want to cheap out on that?). However, getting a tattoo isn’t like buying a car, or a new phone. Some pieces may take longer than expected because of their size, detail, or how your skin reacts. You’re not only paying for the inks and needles, but for the artists’ time, drawing time, artwork, and the ability for us to ensure you’re being tattooed in a safe, comfortable, and sterile environment. So when we give a quote, we’re trying to give you the most realistic expectation. We’re transparent about our rates, and we want to spend the time with you to ensure you’re going to happy with this piece of art living on your body. Therefore, it’s always best to budget for highest number in the quoted price-range, so you’re not caught out.
The Real Price of Tattoos
The cost of a tattoo doesn’t end with the bill you pay at the end of the session though. There are so many factors to consider when you’re saving up for a tattoo. To name a few:
Are you travelling to get the shop? Do you need to set aside $20 for a uber or bus fair? Do you need to pay for parking while being tattooed? (You don’t here! But if you were getting tattooed at Till Death in Newmarket, and aren't down with public transport, you may need to).
If you’re driving up from somewhere, do you need to consider $50 or $100 for petrol? If you’re coming from overseas, there may be visa costs (as well as plane tickets) to consider? Do you need to book accommodation (particularly if you don’t want to travel on freshly-tattooed skin).
Do you need to chuck $10 or $20 into your tattoo budget for some aftercare cream? While second-skin (or “wet-healing”) is becoming more popular, some artists still use more traditional (“dry-heading”) methods. Likewise, an artist may choose to not use second-skin on certain tattoos if they think traditional healing with get the best results. In that case, if you’re caught short on healing cream and need to pick things up, that is another cost to consider.
(At the shop we sell After Art® in case you’re caught short, but make sure you follow your artists’ advice before putting anything on a new tattoo).
Foooooood! Even if you’re not travelling, and don’t have to factor in food-costs, if you’re coming in for a longer session it’d probably worth bringing in some snacks, or keeping aside some cash so you can go buy lunch in the middle of your session. Alternatively, (if you’re like me) I NEED to eat ASAP after being tattooed, and love to treat myself to something yum and nourishing after being sitting in pain for 3-6 hours!
This might not apply to all, and is probably something I will cover in more depth in a later blog post, but to feel as comfortable as possible, some people have specific clothes they like to be tattooed in that make it easy for the artist to access the area being tattooed. If you’re being tattooed somewhere other than a limb, it can be a bit uncomfortable (and a bit chilly) to disrobe for a few hours. Plus, it’s good to be in clothes you don’t mind getting tattoo ink on (just in case). So, you may want to get a cheap singlet top, pair of loose shorts, dress, or even some nipple pasties, to make the experience better for you. Therefore—another cost to factor in.
This is also something that might not apply to everyone, but anyone whose been to our shop will know we also sell prints and nerdy merchandise! So, if you know you’re going be tempted by an exclusive Pop! Figure we have in stock, or want to take home a print to accompany your new tattoo, maybe factor that in as well ;)
These are some main ideas, but your individual situation may also include a bunch of ‘hidden tattoo’ costs too! Personally, because I’m not living a 9-5 life, I can’t take annual leave to get a tattoo—so I need to factor in that the day/s I take off to get tattooed, I’m not working, and I’ll need to make up those hours somewhere else.
These points aren’t in here to scare you off tattooing! But it’s good to really know the price of something, instead of getting a financial hangover because your tattoo actually cost 30% more than you thought. (Or worse, depriving yourself of snacks or a comfortable taxi home on the day because you can’t spare the cash).
The Nitty Gritty
Okay so we know now how much it’s really going to cost to you get tattooed, how are you going to save up for it? There is a lot of information on different saving methods, but these are my recommendations.
This is my #1 method of saving for a tattoo. I have a “drain and refill” bank account solely for tattoos and their related costs. Tattoos are included in my saving goals, and I put a certain amount in the account each month. Also, I use the trick of naming my back accounts—so if I know what I’m getting tattooed next and when, my account name had that information there to motivate me (i.e., seeing “Marvel Bicep March 2020” would be far more exciting and encouraging to me than “Savings Acc 3” or a string of numbers).
And the best way to have a dedicated savings account? Make those saving goals per month non-negotiable with yourself. Personally, I love the feeling of transferring money into my saving accounts, but I know I’m in the minority here. So, if you are likely to forget (or get the sads seeing your chequing account depleted), set up an automatic payment to your own savings account as soon as your regular pay comes in (if you get paid on a regular date); or give yourself a date every month to pay it forward for your tattooed self.
If you can’t trust yourself not to touch your tattoo fund though, you can ask the studio if they offer a pre-pay option. At Shop 9¾, we offer the option of prepaying a tattoo in full (say, if you get a big windfall) and in instalments.
The good thing about this method or having a dedicated account that you put a little money into each month, is that it doesn’t feel like a saving a huge lump sum—it’s just a regular payment in your financial landscape that occurs every week, fortnight or month.
If this method suits you but you’re going to a studio that doesn’t offer that option, you also have some options. Firstly, you could ask someone you trust A LOT to keep the money for you. Secondly, you could take the money out in cash and save it in an envelope (somewhere VERY VERY safe). Thirdly, if you just need a little bit more of an incentive to not touch that savings money, you can put it into a higher yield savings account that only lets you withdraw once a month or quarter (this is a good option if you only get tattooed once a year or less, plus you get some sweet interest on your hard-saved dollars!).
At our shop, we don’t offer any afterpay services. This is because we don’t want to put any of our clients in a position where their tattoo is causing them financial stress. At the end of the day: You can dip into a savings account if there is an emergency, or stop contributing into it if something comes up—but if that emergency happens after you already owe money, the situation becomes even more stressful (and we don’t want to put you through that).
That being said, if you choose to use a credit card, you are absolutely within your right to (and as someone who loves credit card hacking, no judgements here!). But we recommend treating tattoos like the luxury items they are: No one needs them, so only indulge in them when you have the money to—and hopefully this guide gives you some more ideas on how to save that money!