Comic books have always been one of my money demons. Geeky, but true. I used to buy the actual comic magazines: Superman, Spider-Man, X-Men. As an adult, however, I graduated from spending just a buck or two for a comic to buying hardbound compilations and trade paperbacks costing $20, $50, or more.

No matter how smart my money choices, I’ve made it a priority to keep detailed records of my finances. Tonight I dug through four years of Quicken data to see if my comic book spending habits have changed. (They feel like they have, but I wasn’t sure.) Here’s what I found:

  • In 2004, I spent $1640.10 on comic books. That fall, I decided I wanted to eliminate my debt.
  • Apparently my finances weren’t a big priority, though. In 2005, I spent $2810.52 on comics.
  • My spending peaked in 2006, during which I spent $3,202.91 on my beloved DC Archives and Marvel Masterworks.
  • This year, however, I’ve only spent $807.89 on comics!

My worst period of comic book spending came just before I started Get Rich Slowly. From October 2005 to March 2006, I spent $3519.34 on comics — almost $600 a month. (That money would nearly have been enough to fully fund a Roth IRA!) During this time, I was spending everything I had freed from paying off debts — and my Christmas bonus! — to buy comics.

Times have changed. During the past three months, I’ve spent only $93.33 on comics. Here are some steps I’m taking to limit my spending:

  • I purchase comics on DVD for those titles that are available. (For example, you can buy every X-Men comic ever published for $40. Or every Spider-Man comic. Or every issue of the Fantastic Four.)
  • I purchase only those titles that interest me. This sounds like common sense, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to come home from the comic book store with a stack of Aquaman books. Aquaman? Good grief.
  • I’ve begun to narrow my focus to collecting comic strip compilations, which I find more interesting than comic books.
  • I’m allowing myself a budget of $500/year. This should be ample for collecting the material I truly love and intend to read.
  • I am selling the parts of m collection in which I have no interest, the things I bought just for the sake of buying. (Such as the afore-mentioned Aquaman books.)

I’m already happier about my collection. I don’t feel guilty about it anymore. It feels fun again. It’s not wrong to indulge in a hobby you enjoy so long as this doesn’t come at the expense of other financial goals.

When you track every penny you spend, it’s easy to explore your personal finances in this kind of detail. It’s one reason I log my spending in Quicken. Wesabe and Mint (and other online personal finance tools) let you do the same thing. When was the last time you took a look at your past few years of spending?

This article is about Choices, Odds and Ends, Real-Life