Saturday, March 28, 2015

Saving money on craft supplies (Or, an ode to JoAnn's)

So with my intense crafting binges come the need for a lot of supplies. I do spend more on craft supplies than the average person - there's no way around that. (Exactly how much, I'm not sure. I've been loathe to add up my receipts and see how much of my original savings has dwindled away.) But I've learned a few tricks that help at least cut down on the cost.

#1 - Coupons.

I am in no way one of those extreme couponers that goes around to all the drugstores and essentially gets paid to buy 100 tubes of toothpaste. I mean, I would be, if I could make heads or tails of it - just think, free toothpaste for life! - but I'm not talking about grocery and household couponing here.

I frequent three craft stores - JoAnn Fabrics, Michaels, and Hobby Lobby.

JoAnn's has fabric, yarn, and various other craft supplies. I always go here first, because they have a fantastic coupon policy. For example, I can take in:

- A printable online coupon from RetailMeNot for 40% off one item (that doesn't show up on the JoAnn's website)
- A printable 30% off one item coupon from the JoAnn website
- A printable 50% off one cut of fabric coupon from the JoAnn website
- A printable 20% off your entire order coupon from the JoAnn website
- A 30, 40, or 50% off coupon from the JoAnn mailer - which you can sign up for free - if I've gotten one recently
- A coupon texted to my phone
- A printable 40% off coupon from the Hobby Lobby website
- A printable 40% off coupon from the Michaels website
- A coupon from a sales flyer I grabbed in the entryway, either on a previous trip or that trip

...and, theoretically, use them all in the same order - there's no policy against it. Now understand, I probably won't be able to access ALL of those coupons at once. In-store sales flyers are getting rarer. A lot of times the duplicate coupons (ones sent to my phone and the ones from the mailer) are each a 20% off your entire order coupon, so I can't use them both. BUT:

You can use 40% off coupons from the mailer, the internet (one printout from the JoAnn's website), a sales flyer, AND your phone (if you happen to have them all) IN THE SAME ORDER! That's a 40% discount off of multiple items. Plus, the competitor coupons. They have to be for an item both stores have, but I have yet to have a shopping trip where they haven't allowed it for something. (I could see them not allowing a Michaels coupon on fabric, for example, though, because Michaels doesn't carry fabric.)

Not only do they allow them, the ladies are extremely friendly and helpful in guiding you through using your coupons. I've had employees ask me, "Do you have any more coupons?" or the like, and the reason I found out about the coupon policy was because, when they asked this, I pulled out a Michaels or Hobby Lobby coupon and realized, sadly, that it was for the wrong store. "Oh, that's ok, we take competitor coupons!"

They have great customer service in other areas, too. I went in recently to buy fabric for a quilt and really had no idea how much I needed of each fabric. The girl I asked advice of went and found the quilter employee of the bunch and that lady DREW UP A DIAGRAM and helped me figure out exactly how much I needed of everything, how to cut it, how big a twin size quilt was, etc.

So, I always stop there first - I definitely have a strong loyalty to this store. =)

 Michaels has lots of craft supplies, but a rather poor yarn selection. (In my opinion - they have yarn, but not a lot of the basic stuff I need to buy a lot of.)

They take competitor coupons as well, but it has to be for a different denomination. I.e., if you have a Michaels coupon for 40% off, you can take in a 30 or 50% off JoAnn's coupon but not a 40% off coupon from another store.

I stop at Michaels second.

Hobby Lobby has to be the most enormous craft store on the planet. (Except for maybe a JoAnn's Etc, which we don't have nearby.) I get extremely confused just walking in there, but I've learned. mostly, where the stuff I need is - then I go there, do what I need to do, and leave! They have an enormous yarn selection, the largest of the three stores, including lots of natural fibers - wool, bamboo, and the softest cotton yarn ever. They have an enormous, gorgeous bead selection. I don't do jewelry, typically, but I like to look at it!

I typically stop at Hobby Lobby third, mainly because of their coupon policy - they don't take competitor coupons - unless I know the other stores don't have what I want.

Note: You can only use coupons from any of these stores on regular-price items. It's kind of my pet peeve to go in and realize they're having a 30% off sale on the item for which I had a 50% off coupon. On the flip side, though, Hobby Lobby had a 50% off sale on an item I needed to buy 5 or 6 of.

It's definitely worth the extra 5-10 minutes to find and print multiple coupons before you head for the store! I typically knock a lot of money off my total - not uncommonly, as much as $16.

 I will note: all three of these stores are in the same plaza at our mall/shopping center, so it's totally feasible for me to visit all three at once.

#2 - Yarn repurposing/scavenging

I generally only buy yarn at the store when I have a project to go with it. However, I like to stockpile yarn from another source - used crocheted or knitted items. I scrounge thrift stores on half-price day for items made from yarn - afghans, scarves, etc - in colors I know I will use. It definitely takes some extra work to unravel everything, but it's often worth it. I once got an afghan with a ton of colors for $1 at a garage sale. I don't typically pay more than $3 for anything, ever. I got seven scarves for $3.50 (50 cents apiece) last half-price day at Goodwill and they yielded a lot of yarn! Bonus: I get scraps of many, many colors that I can save to use in projects like my nativity sets. I hate to have to go out and buy a whole ball of an odd-colored yarn just because I need a tiny bit for one shepherd's robe!

#3 - Friends

Once people know you are really into this crafting thing, they will sometimes gift you with yarn/supplies they no longer need. Well, maybe it just happens to me because I'm going to Africa. But it's one idea. =) I want to make things with plarn (plastic grocery bag yarn) and I'm sure many people would not mind saving their excess plastic bags for me!

#4 - Save everything.

This is the one that will wreak disaster on your house. But it's true - I almost certainly WILL use whatever it is in a craft project, and when I do, I'll be glad I haven't sold it/thrown it away/donated it, as the cost of replacing it would typically be greater than any amount for which I sold it. I realize many of you "save it to use it someday" and never do, so the "if you don't use it in a year, toss it" advice might work for you, but it typically costs me money when I find out I did, in fact, need the thing.

Example of when saving was profitable: my journals. I bought children's books years ago - a whole box of them! what was I thinking! - to make upcycled journals. The box sat in the garage FOREVER. This year, I dug it out, thinking, "Stop buying more supplies! Use what you have!" and made 22 journals and sold 12 so far, raising quite a bit towards my support. Now if I could just find something to make with the insides of the books - I only used the covers. I have a lot of ideas pinned, but so far, probably nothing that would sell.

There are a few tips! If anyone has anything to add, please comment below! =)

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