Throughout my life, I keep hearing that artists don’t need math. This is a very narrow-minded view of both the arts and career management. Geometry is an important part of fine arts, but today I want to focus on a simpler following point. Artists need to be able to manage their finances and do it well. A task as simple as buying art supplies at the right price can help to stay on budget.

A photo of brush cleaners, oil medium, art wax, and canvas ground in bottles of various sizes.

The smart thing to do is to plan buying supplies and wait for a sale. This is not always possible if the product is needed right away, but in all other cases it is the best thing to do. Big stores always have sales, especially around the holidays. It’s a good idea to save up and wait. However, the trick is to pick the right items in the right size.

Let’s say an artist needs to buy walnut oil for painting. This particular oil comes in five different bottle sizes. Which one to get? The cheapest one? Is it really the most advantageous choice? Let’s compare prices, and to see the actual product cost one needs to divide item total by bottle size. Therefore, $9.98 divided by 2 oz is $4.99 per 1 oz of product.

2 oz – $9.98 – $4.99 per 1 oz
4 oz – $19.98 – $4.99 per 1 oz
8 oz – $34.98 – $4.37 per 1 oz
16 oz – $49.98 – $3.1 per 1 oz
32 oz – $89.98 – $2.8 per 1 oz

Judging from the chart above, one should buy the largest container to get the most value. However, it is a pretty costly investment, and for an artist that paints less than 40 hours per week it’s probably a little over the top. Therefore, I chose the second cheapest and reasonably sized option of 16 oz at $49.98. I know that it would last me a while, and is the best option for me. For other artists, the 32 oz could be the cheapest AND the best option.

The bottom line is, do not buy the cheapest option if you can afford to invest a little more. In long term, usually a larger or medium container costs less than several smaller containers. Use math, artists!

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