Hey, there! Looking to make some cute little knick-knacks for your friends, but your budget is small? It may seem like the cheapest thing to do is just getting them something that’s already made – lies! Lies and falsehoods, I say! Making gifts for your friends does not have to break your bank. Unless you’re buying your friends five dollar gift cards, it’s probably cheaper just to do it yourself. And it’s easy! You just have to adhere to the following:
- Stick to a budget. Seriously – this is crucial
- Know where to shop. Also crucial.
- Keeping a list of supplies – this will help to keep you from over spending
- Know how much you need – again, will also keep you from over spending
- Invest in a few staple products – there are things that you can use over and over again. It will save you time and money
First on the agenda – stick to a budget.
I know, I know. This may seem like common sense. However, if you’re like me, your eyes will get all googly around arts and crafts items, and you may end up buying crap you don’t even need. Don’t do it. You made your budget for a reason, now stick to it! I suggest keeping your maximum to about $25 to $30 total when buying supplies. That means that you shouldn’t be spending more than $5 to $6 per person when you average it out. However, my budget does not need to be your budget. Do what works best for your wallet!
Next, know where to shop.
This is almost as important as sticking to a budget. Knowing where to shop can save you a lot of moolah, and as a college student working a part-time job, that means a lot to me. Some of my favorite places are:
- Wal-Mart – they price match on a lot of items. Don’t be afraid to ask about it at the register. Just make sure that you’re price matching from a reputable seller, and that it’s the exact same item. Otherwise, they won’t honor the price match.
- Michael’s – sign up for their mailing list online. They send out coupons all the time, and they have sales quite often.
- Amazon – which is especially awesome if you have Prime (I caved and signed up for Amazon Student, which comes with Prime – one of the best investments I’ve ever made in my life). They often have great deals and free shipping on orders over $25. If you’re a Prime member, all items marked Prime come with free two-day shipping, or one-day shipping starting at 3.99. Again, great deals and great sales.
- Target – not always the cheapest option, but things often go on sale, and they have great coupons.
- JoAnn’s Fabrics – they have more than just fabric, however. This is a great place for any crafter. Join their mailing list. They send out coupons all the time, and there’s a sale of some sort almost every weekend.
- Thrift Stores – Goodwill, Salvation Army, Epic Thrift, and whatever happens to be in your area. I’ve found many a gem going to thrift stores. Don’t be afraid to go hunting there. Just be sure to wash whatever you buy once you get home.
- Any type of dollar store – Dollar Tree, Dollar General, 99cent Only stores, 99ȼ& more stores, Family Dollar, whatever is in your area. These places are my absolute favorite because everything normally is – you guessed it – a dollar! Sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less (depending on the store), but these places are cheap. I will say that if you happen to find something that you really like/need at a dollar store, be sure to swoop it up. Once they run out of something, they rarely get more of it. I’m still peeved at the 99cent Only store for getting rid of my favorite body sprays – it was a knock off of Love Spell, Pure Seduction and Pear Glacé from Victoria’s Secret. They got rid of the stuff a few years ago, but I’m holding a grudge.
- Health Stores – if you’re not sure if there’s one in your area, a quick Google search will probably turn up a few results. These places often have dried herbs and flowers, empty containers and other little gems.
Prices obviously vary by location, so go to places that work best for you. Do your research when it comes to price matching and see if your store of choice works with your budget.
Make a list – know what you need and how much to get.
This may seem like common sense, but going in to shop without a list can result in you buying things that you don’t need. I’m speaking from experience – I’ve gone into a store with a “mental list,” and I’ve come out with maybe a quarter of the list and a bunch of useless crap. Plan out what you need before you even leave your home. Write it down, put it in your phone, email it to yourself – do whatever you have to do to get a concrete list, and stick to what you need on your list. Don’t worry about how cute that ribbon you don’t need is. Don’t buy that stamp that you don’t even have an ink pad for. Stick. To. Your. List. You will save money this way – trust me. Be sure to buy the correct quantity, as well. If you’re buying supplies to make gifts for six people, get enough only for six people. Don’t get ambitious. It helps if you put the quantity you need to buy next to each item on your list. For example: if you need mugs for four people, write a “4” next to it. I know, I know, common sense. But it really helps on days when you may feel forgetful or scattered. Take the extra step, use the extra pen ink, save yourself some money.
Invest in staple products – this really helps
A lot of projects are going to utilize items that you may have used in a previous project. These are the items I suggest you splurge on, or at least be sure you have them around before you start making any type of project! A few that I like to have around no matter what are:
- scissors (dollar store or any craft store)
- measuring cups and spoons (also found at the dollar store)
- glue gun with glue sticks (some dollar stores and any craft store)
- paintbrushes (I found some for $2.27 at Wal-Mart)
- tubes of acrylic paint (any craft store, and I found tubes starting at $.50 at Wal-Mart)
- ribbon (dollar or any craft store)
- any type of silicone mold (I get all of mine from thrift stores)
- metallic markers (found some cheap ones for $.94 at Wal-Mart)
Now these are just a few things to keep in mind when getting staple items for your projects. Items like these come in handy for many different projects, and most times they are very easy to come by! I suggest getting a cheap bin or container to hold everything that you use most often for projects and putting your staples in there.
A few more gems for ya.
Be willing to compromise items on your list. I do this all the time when I shop. I get everything I want and put it in the cart, and then I edit what I absolutely need from what I want so that I don’t go over budget. I don’t just do this for projects, but for every shopping trip (clothes, food, even textbooks). Based on your own personal budget, you may not have the funds for everything on the supply list for any given project – just be sure you have the bare essentials, and you should be okay.
Save unused items from past projects! I do this all the time. It will save you serious money. If you’re going to spend extra money, spend it on things that you can reuse for many projects to come. The ribbon used in one project can be the ribbon you use in another – it cuts down cost, and you may not have to compromise on a shopping trip for a new project. Recycling is a good thing!
Go to as few stores as possible. Gas doesn’t pay for itself, and we’re all about saving money, here. If you can get all of your supplies at one or two stores, do that. It’s better than running all over town. This especially holds true if you’re taking the bus everywhere. Public transit can be a pain, and the last thing you want to do is run around town hopping from bus to bus, or train, or cab. Make as few trips as possible and save yourself some time – and stress.
Be sure to keep checking in! Projects will be up by March 13th! But in the meantime, where are some of your favorite places to shop? How do you like to save money? Offer up your money saving gems in the comments! Thanks for reading!