Film photography is expensive! I am very confident, that all of you will agree with me on this, it's #shootfilmstaybroke not for no reason. Whilst the investment in film unites all analog photographers, some have it better than others. Shopping for film in the US is way cheaper than in the UK and Australia is basically out of the picture, when it comes to film prices. Since I am based in Germany, where film prices are quite reasonable usually, I will base this article on my experiences here, but I am pretty sure that you will have very similar results in other countries. Just a quick disclaimer, I am not affiliated with any shops mentioned in this article!
buy in bulk
This is probably the most logical tip, because most things are cheaper when bought in bulk and film is no exception. The price differences range from minor to "holy shit I'll buy 50". That's me in New York btw, where I bought 50 rolls of HP5+ in 35mm for 198$ which is more than 50 dollars short of what I would have payed here in Germany. These bulk deals don't only exist in the US however, you can get amazing deals on most films, if you buy them in larger numbers in almost any country. Generally, there are two meanings behind "buying in bulk", first being buying a lagre number of already rolled and packaged films and the other meaning that you buy film as an uncut roll, which you have to cut up and roll into your own film canisters. The second option will be cheaper if you shoot a lot of film, I mean A LOT of film. There's about a 100€/$ dollar investment involved, because you have to buy a bulk-loader and film canisters (you could use old canisters lying around of course!). I personally am planning to start bulk loading my film, as soon as I use up the 35+ rolls of HP5+ which I have left. For shooting 120, bulk loading is definitely not an option. Whilst it would technically be possible to roll your own 120 rolls, buying the uncut film is nearly impossible and spooling the film would be a nightmare, I assume. Color film is also incredible hard to acquire in uncut rolls, I am pretty certain that most C41 and E6 films aren't available at all. Kodak Vision 3 movie film might be a worthwhile option, but that is a topic for another day.
This probably sounds incredible stupid, but waiting for the best moment to buy film is incredibly useful. Just as an example, I bought my 50 rolls of HP5+ for 198$ in NYC at b and h photo in January, doing the same thing would cost 250$ today. This illustrates the huge differences in price. Usually, they tend to go down before winter, because the demand in film declines. This might not be a valid option for you, if you need to buy your film in smaller quantities and shortly before using it, but it is an amazing opportunity to save money when buying larger amounts. I also noticed quite a big difference when buying color films like Portra.
don't buy "new" film
I spent 70€ for 13 rolls of Portra 160 in 120 and 5 rolls of Fujifilm Reala 100 (which I am brutally exited about) on eBay. Buying the 13 rolls of Portra alone would have been over 75€ and getting Reala would be impossible, because it's not even being produced anymore. Some of the Portra expired in late 2016 and the rest will in a few months, but it was continuously stored in fridges and is completely fine. I mean, the seller could've lied to me, but I doubt that very much and the results I got from one of the rolls definitely suggest that the film was stored properly. Ebay is great for buying "old" fim, even tough the film isn't even old most of the time, getting perfectly new and unexpired film is not unusual. Most of the time, the offers are "best offer" which means that the seller is open to negotiation. I also love Facebook for buying film, there are some Facebook groups I would suggest. The Film Photo Group is great, but mostly centered around the US and The Kodak Pakon Group isn't really about buying film, but there are some offers here and there. Weirdly enough, you will have the best chances of finding color C41 120 film, it seems as if 35mm is not offered nearly as often as Medium Format film. I don't really know why, but if you're looking for some sweet 120 Portra you'll probably find something.
I hope that some of you are able to make use of the tips and would love to get some feedback from you! If you manage to buy some cheap film, mention/tag me on Instagram (@enzogohlke) or leave a comment on this post.