"I'd really like to get _____ but the cost is so high" Oh I hates that phrase it's poor people thinking at best. The only time I consider cost is in relation to the quality of the item. If I drop $250 on close up pad I expect to get a high quality close up pad that will last through several years of use. If I spend $450 on a set of shells for the three shell game I expect to receive an expertly cast set of pure silver shells. At no point do I think that I won't buy those items at those prices because sitting here imagining doing the shells with silver shells using a white "pearl" on the Victorian close up pad is like mental porn.
When I was significantly younger I remember hearing a quote that stuck with me, "A poor person thinks 'I can't afford that', a rich person thinks 'How can I afford that?' " It's not a question of how much the item costs it's a question of how do you align your finances in a way in which you can afford it, which may take time and patience but if you really want something it's possible. Now I do understand buyers remorse where you get something and it turns out to be crap. At lest in the magic world you have the benefit of reviews out there so do your research to avoid that. But that's way different than avoiding something simply due to the price. Price alone should never be the deciding factor.
This complaining mostly happens with cards. "I like the look of ____ deck but at $___ it's a bit much." Then go use standard bikes if cost is your deciding factor. The idea that a deck of card should be longer lasting just because it cost more is also annoying.
Lets say there are three levels of magician; hobbyist, amateur, and professional. The hobbyist enjoys magic, it's a fun way to spend time and waste money. Like a regular person and sports, an average sports fan may watch the game and chat with folks about it, he may own some memorabilia like a hat or tee-shirt and if invited he may attend a game but he'd never go to one by himself. The amateur loves magic, loves it, is devoted to it, and he may never be paid to do it, but still has a room devoted to it. In terms of sports fans this is the guy with all the swag half naked painted team colors that buys tickets to as many games as he can. And lastly the professional is anyone that makes money with magic. This is the guy that buy and sale sports memorabilia, that turned his love of the game into a career about it.
Now when it comes to the hobbyist, his purchases should be things he wants that help him enjoy his hobby. He really lacks the drive or need for the big ticket items. But if it meets those two criteria (wants it/makes the hobby enjoyable) he has no reason to balk at the cost. Now the amateur is in it for the love of it, he needs it all and so lacks a reason to balk. Lastly and with the least reason to balk is the pro. Because with pro his magic items cost him less because if he's doing it right his customers pay for his items. Lets say I charge $80 for an hour of strolling magic. To me it breaks down like this: $20 for wear and tear on my gear and props, and consumables (flashpaper, cards, etc), $15 travel, and that leaves $45 for my time. In addition some of those props are bound to be tax deductible. When I sold steak knives any thing I bough to cut up in my demonstration was tax deductible. So at the very least I bet you can deduct cards.
What inspired this rant, well tired of hearing that load of bollocks first quoted, a lack of sleep probably too, but what pushed me enough to write a post about it was the forum posts for the Victorian close up pad that I read while looking for color pictures of it. The idea that a <$50 roll up pad was just as good as the more expensive pad was a bit annoying. First from an actual standpoint of the item themselves. While they may have changed the Victorian pad currently for sale is two sided and stiff. Besides the fact that it has two usable sides which you would only get from the other if you glued two pads together the fact that its stiff mean that you don't need a table to use it, you can lay it on your lap or find a pair of willing hands. This next point applies to the pros more but is still valuable across the board. As a magician what you are selling is not the magic anyone can do magic, what you are selling is yourself. Your image is what sells you to the customer and it sells the magic to the spectator. Anything you can do to help that is a good investment. Is a card clip and fancy pad necessary to do magic, no, but they do help you look like a professional. Obviously you want ones that fit with your character but other than that there's no good reason to not have them. I mean you don't really need all that stuff to be a magician so if you're going to get them why cheap out. I can't think of any effect I do that absolutely need a close up pad, I had some bad props that wouldn't function properly without one (needs close-up pad is some info that should have been on the package), but I got better props. I have no need for a close up pad from a 'make my effects work' stand point but, it helps me look like a pro and provide my close up work a stage to perform on.
Now I don't want you to think that I'm saying to go out and buy the most expensive version of everything. I mean I like nice things, I wear suits all the time, it's not beyond expectation that I would have a close up pad that costs a pretty penny. You need to get what suits you best.What I'm saying is if you want it the cost should not be your sole reason to not get it. And what ever you do don't listen to the guy that said to glue some fabric to four mouse pads and call it a close up pad, unless your performance character is a hobo.