A woman wearing a bra has her hands in restraints

The cost of living crisis, which is the worst recession the UK has seen in over 60 years, affects a lot of our choices from how much money we put aside for energy bills, to which types of food we purchase when dining out and at home. But a lesser-known expense that’s up in the air thanks to the current financial crisis is the cost of kink. 

The BDSM lifestyle can cost a lot of money. For some people, kink is a small indulgence in their life that takes up little investment. But for others, who are part of the lifestyle on a more regular basis, it can get expensive. From sessions with dominatrixes to sex party tickets to the clothing one might wear to be part of the scene — often featuring expensive materials like leather, latex and lace — it’s easy for BDSM bills to rack up quickly. Here’s how kinksters are cutting costs amid the crisis.

The cost of kink

32-year-old brand consultant Jackie* says she and her partner used to spend thousands of pounds per month on BDSM. “We are very much in the lifestyle and spend between £500 ($601) and £2,000 ($2,405) every month on everything from equipment, clothing, sex party tickets, sex shows like burlesque nights and we also use sex workers to experiment with new kinks,” she tells Mashable.  

Before the cost of living crisis, 35-year-old copywriter John spent at least £500 ($601) per month on BDSM activities. He tells Mashable, “I used to go to a few sex parties which are normally at least £80 ($96) per ticket. The rest would be spent on dominatrix sessions or equipment to use at parties like handcuffs, floggers, whips or fetish gear.”


“It’s sad that I’ve had to give so much of my lifestyle up.”

“I’m in a nice financial position and I know I’m speaking from a place of privilege to be spending £500 ($601) a month on anything while living in London,” he laughs. “But that’s exactly how the cost of living crisis tripped me up. I didn’t expect to be affected because I had a nice salary, but my energy bills have gone from £85 ($102) to £300 ($360), so a lot of my BDSM spending has had to go, unfortunately.” 

“I’m fortunate that it’s not my meals I’m skipping. So many are much worse off, I know. But it’s sad that I’ve had to give so much of my lifestyle up. I really found myself and awakened my sexuality by meeting other BDSM lovers and going to sex parties,” he explains. 

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Now, John is finding other ways to explore without spending too much money. “I’ve started looking at fetish gear on eBay and Facebook Marketplace to see what good deals I can get there. Obviously second hand underwear is a no unless it’s a specific kink of yours, but I’ve found things like harnesses which have been great,” he says. “I’ve also started attending sex parties set up by people rather than companies. Often they’re in people’s houses, which can be a bit intimidating, but I’m super careful.”

Why you don’t need money to explore kink

Emerson Karsh, who has a degree in human sexuality and is known professionally as the Kink Educator, says that, for many, a large part of participating in BDSM may include spending a lot of money. “When we think of bondage we think of handcuffs, tape, restraints, shibari, and St. Andrew’s cross. All of which cost money with a variation of price tags.”

“The current cost of living crisis can play a huge factor in what we are prioritising in terms of spending money. Buying our now expensive groceries is a lot more vital than buying a new leather harness,” she explains. “Because of the need to prioritise spending, some people are feeling the need to decrease their BDSM participation. In reality, kink and BDSM does not have to be about spending a lot or any money at all,” she explains.

“BDSM is about the power dynamics, exploring our sensations, and enhancing our nervous system reactions. It’s really about the way we can utilise and stimulate parts of our brain and body that are often ignored.” This doesn’t necessarily require any cash. 

How to save your money while exploring kink

Natasha Narkiewicz, head of communications and sexual wellness expert at sex toy company Mystery Vibe, believes kink can absolutely be done on a budget. “When people just beginning their kink journeys are navigating how kink fits into their lives and what it looks like for them, it makes sense that beginners will want to experience the full breadth of what kink can offer by exploring different props and accessories to elicit new sensations,” she tells Mashable.

However, she says a large part of kink is intangible — it lives and comes alive in the mind, something we can’t put a price tag on. “Kink and BDSM are subcultures and forms of sexual expression that explore elements such as the physical and psychological merging of power dynamics, role-playing, creativity, and eroticism.”

Like with most struggles, the first step to exploring kink without any money is finding your kink community and getting to know your fellow kinksters. “Your kink community is your best budget-friendly resource. If you aren’t sure where to begin your search for a dungeon, the website Fetlife has listings of events and meetups. In some cities, kink classes or events are listed on platforms like Eventbrite and Meetup.com,” she adds. You can also connect with people on the apps Killing Kittens or Feeld. 

Try a kinky clothes swap

Narkiewicz says organising or suggesting a prop or clothing swap with your local kink community is a great way to save money when exploring kink. “Those who have been active in the lifestyle for a while most likely have an array of props they aren’t using any longer and would be happy to trade,” she says.

To save money on BDSM activities, 25-year-old social media manager Toni has been attending kinky clothes swaps. “There was [a kinky clothes swap session] run by [now defunct sex party company] Crossbreed before they went out of business and loads of people in the kink scene run their own [swaps] from their homes,” Toni tells Mashable. Working like any normal clothes swaps, these kinky clothes swaps involve BDSM-lovers coming together and swapping clothing. 

“Unfortunately the cost of living crisis and my discovery that I loved BDSM seemed to happen at the same time. Right when I was ready to start investing in that exploration, worrying about whether I was gonna make my rent became the norm,” she explains. But then she came across the concept of kinky clothes swaps through regular sex partiers who she followed on Instagram, and thought she’d give it a try. 

“I managed to get proper, safe handcuffs and a harness, which is mad because they would cost so much if I just got them online. And I got to meet so many other like-minded people in the scene at the clothes swap events too. Honestly, we should just do this all the time.” Of course, when attending clothes swaps, it’s important to be diligent and ensure equipment is made from safe materials and is in working order before taking it home. 

Attend local or online kink classes

The BDSM community has also been getting creative in other ways to cut costs, particularly with do-it-yourself classes for kinkwear and accessories. Toni says, “Some of the sex workers and BDSM enthusiasts I follow on Instagram have also started doing online classes, some of them free or just super affordable, where you can learn to DIY your own fetish gear and accessories from stuff you have at home, or materials that aren’t super hard to get hold of. It’s been absolutely amazing.”

Narkiewicz notes that local dungeons or community kink facilities also often offer technique classes that are either free or affordable. “Don’t let the word ‘dungeon’ scare you from exploring,” she says. “It’s just a name. Most dungeons cater to beginners by offering a variety of classes on different elements of kink and BDSM, both in person and online. Some classes are free, some are donation based, and some charge fees, but there’s something for everyone.”

Classes and community resources are great places to learn, and if the kink or activity involves a prop, sometimes those are provided by the facility or instructor to practise. 

Use household items as BDSM accessories

Equipment and accessories is where a lot of BDSM practitioners find themselves spending the most money, and making the most cuts since the cost of living crisis began. But you don’t need all the fancy bits you see in the sex shops. In fact, you might find a lot of the equipment and accessories you need to explore your senses are already in your home. 

However, keep in mind that certain tools are made to ensure quality and safety, especially with handcuffs, toggles, and certain fetishwear, so substitutes for some activities won’t suffice and aren’t worth risking your safety.

Using household accessories it’s helpful two-fold, as Narkiewicz points out it encourages erotic imagination. Walking around your house and thinking, “How could this object also function in my kink life?” can get your fantasies racing and become a kinky game of its very own. 

“You can even take it one step further and introduce a BDSM element to this game. If you’re a Dominant looking to punish a submissive, then have them pick a household object to use for their punishment,” Narkiewicz suggests.

In kink, creativity is your best asset — both for exploration and money saving. If you really need the equipment you’ve had your eye on, look for alternatives made with different or more affordable materials. For example, leather tends to be more expensive than other materials, so look for alternative materials or materials known to be more economical to manufacture. Again, remember that certain materials are used for safety purposes, so talk with more experienced kinksters about substitutes. 

Narkiewicz says to remember that, “While the accoutrement is nice, a prop is precisely that — a prop, something to help achieve a sensation or intention.” Props and costumes are only there to heighten your experiences, not create them. So, before investing in anything, including time and materials, ask yourself: What is my intention? What am I hoping to express? 

When you embrace your community, unleash your creativity and let your underlying intentions guide you, sometimes you find that spending money on props and fancy equipment isn’t necessary at all. 

* Sources are referred to by their first names only to protect their privacy.

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