With the cost of everything going up—groceries, gas, electricity, I mean everything—and salaries staying relatively the same, we’ve been looking for ways to tighten our proverbial belts lately. The good news is not having a lot of money to spend on crafting supplies doesn’t mean you can’t afford to craft—that is, if you know how to craft on a budget. This topic has been on my mind a lot lately as I scrimp and pinch in some areas (I can be a cheap-ass) in order to spend (or splurge) in others. Here are some of the common-sense strategies I use to keep crafting affordable yet still creative and fun.
Find money in your pocket? Stick it in a jar. This strategy really works, even if you’re only saving in five-cent increments. The best is when you find a ten-dollar bill in your pocket—don’t put it back in your wallet for convenience store crap or over-priced half and half, stick it in your jar. The same goes for coins you get back as change—take them from your purse or pocket and deposit them right into your jar when you get home. Treat it like found money and spend it guilt-free. Make a deal with yourself that you’ll only spend the money on crafting supplies when it reaches a certain limit; mine is $50.
Do you know why my limit is $50? It’s because that’s how much you have to spend at knitpicks.com in order to get free shipping. Why spend money on shipping and handling fees when you can spend that money on yarn instead?
I almost always buy my yarn from Knit Picks’ catalog/website. That’s right. I don’t need super-expensive yarn in decadent fibers and colorways in order to enjoy my craft. I knit to knit, moreso than to obtain a finished object (after all, one can just go to the store and buy a hat, right?). I’ve been buying yarn from Knit Picks for so long and from so early on in my knitting career that I actually haven’t experienced many of those expensive yarns, so I really don’t know what I’m missing (I think not much, but who knows). I like the fibers, colors and feel of Knit Picks’ yarn, and they keep coming out with new and interesting yarn and colorways. They’ve come a long way since I found them in 2005, and until they do me wrong, I’m going to stay a loyal customer. The prices are right!
Find change lying around the house? Put it in the aforementioned jar. The change I find lying around usually belongs to my husband, and I started confiscating it years ago when it really annoyed me that he leaves his stuff laying around (it’s more than just a few coins). I was surprised when he started noticing the disappearance of his spare change, and it eventually motivated him to pick it up and put it in his own jar. (Damn!) But he isn’t always so neat, and after a few days on the dining room table or baker’s rack, that change is mine. I don’t think I would take Nathan’s money it if was lying around, but he’s not old enough to have his own pocket change yet. And when he is, I hope he’ll save it up in his own jar, just like his mama.
Make a list of your crafting supplies and let the list grow before you go shopping. It’s hard to stick to a budget when you buy your crafting supplies one at a time, but when you make fewer trips with longer lists the costs are easier to keep track of. Also, when you have a long list, you’re less likely to buy things you really don’t need. P.S.: Don’t forget to bring the list with you to the store. I, um, sometimes forget, which defeats the whole purpose.
Have a plan. If you’re in the craft store and you want to buy something that’s not on your list, be sure you come up with a plan for it and can really use it. It would be silly for me to say not buy something that’s not on your list in a craft store (although that’s my general policy for staying on-budget in non-craft stores)—it’s one of the best places to get lightening bolt ideas and formulate awesomely creative plans in the blink of an eye. So when you do come across something great that you didn’t expect to buy, be sure you have a plan for it before you leave the store, even if it means buying one or two more things for the project before you leave.
Get reacquainted with your stash. Go through your stash of crafting supplies every few months to remember what you have. You’ll be surprised about how many items you’ve forgotten about; I did a recent sweep of just my yarn alone and found lots of yarn—and nearly finished projects!—that I had forgotten all about. It’s astounding, really. Maybe you’ll get some new ideas to use up the supplies you have and postpone a trip to the craft shop.
Be resourceful. Save crafty or otherwise useful items you think you’ll be able to use in a craft, but do so sparingly. Before I throw something away, I ask myself, Can I really use this? Often times the answer is no, but sometimes I get a yes. I don’t want to become a hoarder, so if I can’t immediately think of a possible use for an item and it’s not particularly special, I chuck it. The special ones, like my Huckleberry tea tin from our honeymoon in Yellowstone, are worth saving even without a plan. I saved a faux leather box from my husband’s wallet to make this awesome photo box for his Father’s Day gift.
That’s all I have for now. If I think of any other ways to craft on a budget, I’ll write another post—maybe it’ll become a series!