This is one of the most overlooked and dangerous things about working in the film industry. Some people can afford to spend thousands of dollars on equipment and not loose any sleep over it, but I remember the days where I was working 2 jobs and as much overtime as I could to get one thing at a time. I even went into debt trying to get stuff. Obviously, that's a no-no. The question still remains, How much should you spend on equipment?
First of all, getting a loan should be off limits. Trust me, I learned the hard way. Avoid the bank loans or credit cards by any means necessary. So what can you do? Easy, SAVE! Well, it may not be so easy for some people. If you were like me, you probably have tons of bills you owe and don't have time to think except that you need to get to work. Having the mindset that you're only option is to borrow money is reckless and dangerous and it could cost you more than what that piece of equipment is going to be worth after a year or so. You don't want to have a credit card statement and pay the minimum payment and end up paying 4 times what you spent in the beginning.
Think of it this way, if you're looking at buying a camera crane that costs $200, save for it. If you try to get a PayPal card and pay the minimum payment of $17, after interest you may end up paying around $310. You may have got what you needed at the moment, but you payed more than what it's worth and once you realize you only needed it for that one project, you'll try to sell it and you may get lucky and be able to sell it for $150. So in reality, you paid $300 for something that was really only worth half the cost and someone else ended up benefiting from your mistake. I don't know about you, but I don't like getting ripped off. That's exactly what happened to me and I'll never let that happen to me again.
If you're in a time crunch and need a piece of equipment right now, take a step back and think logically about it. Ask yourself, "Do I really need it or do i just want to use this?" If you can figure out a way to accomplish your project without the desired equipment, do it! If not, RENT IT! Especially if it's just a one time project and you aren't guaranteed further work using the equipment you desperately needed at that time. Renting is the best thing you can do for your project. Even big time Hollywood companies rent stuff. It makes sense from a business standpoint. Why own the stuff if you can rent it and get that much more money? A RED Scarlet camera body to rent for 3 Days on Borrowlenses.com is $584. That's a whole lot better than spending $12,000 for the body and still having to get the lenses. A producer in Hollywood would look at that and say, "There's my Christmas bonus for this movie and we can still stay under budget!"
The whole point of this article is to open your eyes to a whole new set of possibilities. You can use a RED camera for you project (if you can afford it) for a fraction of the cost of owning one. All you have to do is plan ahead. You don't have to buy the camera and THEN spend your time planning a project that may never happen. If you are hell bent on owning the camera of your dreams, save for it. Don't be a slave to PayPal or all these other credit lenders. Buy your equipment cash, but also remember, get the equipment you can afford. If you only have $500 cash to spend on equipment, then that's all you should be spending until you get more cash.