Be a crafty saver
So The Bargain Queen's going to share her tips for crafting on less money - but first a brief disclaimer. Embroidery, sewing, painting, beadwork and stuff that goes through the printer are The Bargain Queen's favourite crafting pursuits, so these tips will be skewed a little bit that-a-way. If you have a different favourite and have some tips to share, leave a comment! :)
Now for the tips:
- Use materials frugally. The people who manufacture craft kits really don't want you to run out of materials before you finish the kit, so they put a heap more stuff in there than you'll use. After all, a few extra strands of thread cost a lot less than a cranky customer! If you use them sparingly, you will often have enough left over to make a little something else later. For example, The Bargain Queen is still using pretty shiny pink beads that came in an especially generous kit... four years ago!
- Take extra-good care of your tools. When The Bargain Queen was a wee lass, she was the lone scholarship kid at a ritzy private school. There she saw some heinous crimes against beautiful sable paint brushes. Since the brushes were 'only' $20 each, there were many girls who didn't bother to clean them - ever. Why bother when Daddy can always buy you more, and shouldn't they have a cleaner to do that anyway? But The Bargain Queen lacks rich parents, so she learnt to wash her brushes thoroughly and lay them flat to dry after every use. She now uses the same technique for keeping makeup brushes in fantastic shape (still uses the set her mother bought 25 years ago) and applies the same principle to all her other tools too. While she doesn't oil her pliers or service her sewing machine as often as she really ought, she does make the effort just often enough to keep everything running, so she rarely has to buy the same thing twice.
- Save all your excess materials... You never know when you'll need a couple of meters (yards for my American readers ;) of mid-green floss for a piece of embroidery, or just one sheet of shiny printer paper, that last bit of really dark yellow paint. If you have a good stock of leftovers on hand you don't have to head down to the craft store to buy those last bits and pieces. Not only do you save money on your current project; you also avoid a trip to Alladin's Cave and if you're anything like The Bargain Queen, that means less chance of impulse buying more pretty stuff.
- ...within reason. There is definitely such a thing as too many craft supplies and some of them really won't get used, ever. If your supplies are so disorganised you can't find the things you need when you need them, it's time to have a cull. Ditto if your nearest and dearest are complaining about all the 'junk'. If you don't know where to start, getting rid of supplies for any craft you don't enjoy doing is a no-brainer. Then start to remove anything that's neither practical nor gorgeous and inspiring.
- Make crafty friends so you can borrow tools, swap patterns, donate leftover materials to one another, discuss your project ideas and most importantly, trade tips on the best (and cheapest) places to buy your supplies. If you don't know where to make crafty friends... well, The Bargain Queen doesn't know either. None of her friends share her zest for cross stitch unfortunately. (Awwwww)
- Shop around. Craft stores are great for finding exactly what you need but they can be very expensive. Finding the cheapest craft store in your area is good for starters, but to really save money on your supplies, look in other places as well. The Bargain Queen has picked up great kits, books, magazines and other supplies in op (thrift) shops. Post-Christmas is the best time because most of these start life as unwanted gifts, although unappreciated birthday presents are donated all year round. A serious art supplies store is also a great place to check; many of them have selected craft supplies at good prices. Just beware of the trendy art supplies store, where nothing at all will be cheap. Hardware stores, office supply stores and dollar stores are worth a look too. And if your city has a garment district, look carefully for fabric sales there, where designers offload amazing fabrics cheaply.
- Don't buy too quickly. When The Bargain Queen is feeling fired up about a new project, she's always tempted to buy everything she needs to complete it immediately. Depending on the project though, it can be years before it's finished - and in the meantime she's lost the grout and tile sealer she bought when she started it. She now tries to buy the bare minimum to start each project, then commit more funds as her progress justifies the extra spending.
- Ignore crafting fashion. Fashions in craft can be as fickle as shoe trends. But really, who cares if gingham ribbon is so last year? If you like it keep using it! And if the craft fashion police get you, tell them The Bargain Queen said it's OK ;)