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Art Supplies: Buying Smart

Present Tense

Michaels and ACMoore are two large craft store chains that are devoted to craft making. I've shopped at both of these stores and have found that they carry an extensive collection of craft and hobby supplies at competitive prices. The stores are fun places to shop for materials, get ideas for projects, or take a class on a new art form.

Making a homemade gift doesn't always mean you'll spend less money than what you'd pay for a store-bought gift. When you consider the prices of craft materials and factor in your time, you may have a significant investment in the project. That's why it pays to shop around for craft supplies and buy them in bulk whenever you find a good price. I've found five sources for obtaining the goods you need to make homemade gifts: stores, the Internet, catalogs, garage sales, and home recyclables. Depending on the price you want to pay, you could get almost everything you need at a major craft store like Michaels or ACMoore. However, if you like to shop smart, you might want to take a look at some of the following buying tips.

Shop Until You Drop

Present Pointers

If you're a novice at crafting, I recommend buying a kit with all the necessary supplies to complete a project. For example, you could buy a kit that teaches you step by step how to make a mosaic stepping stone. Usually a kit contains only enough materials to make one or two projects, but it's a good introduction to the art. It also enables you to try the craft without spending a lot of money. If you like the craft, you can always buy larger containers of the ingredients the second time around.

If you buy a complete kit for making a new craft (such as candle making), you can also avoid the problem of missing an important supply when you begin your project. Kits may cost a few cents more, but the advantage of having complete instructions and all the necessary ingredients is worth the extra money for first-time crafters.

The Gift of Knowledge

If you use sewing supplies in your projects, you might want to check out fabric and discount stores for bulk supplies of material, lace, yarn, elastic, and so on. You can buy burlap and felt by the yard for a lot less than you'll find it in craft stores. Occasionally these stores will run half-price sales on special categories of materials (like home décor or seasonal yard goods).

Present Pointers

Party supply stores are a good source for wrapping and decorating presents, putting the finishing touches on a gift, or adding items to a gift basket. You can also decorate a gift with a bouquet of helium balloons to mark a special occasion.

Let's start with probably the easiest and most accessible source for supplies—stores. You can find supplies at craft stores, department stores, party stores, home-improvement, and discount stores, to name a few. You could purchase all your supplies at a craft store for pretty reasonable prices, or you could shop around for the best deals. For instance, I noticed that the prices in the craft section of a local discount store were slightly better than the craft store prices, but the selection wasn't as good. I found some items I needed but still had to go to the craft store for others. If you watch the papers for sales, you can find weekly discounts on many supplies in your local craft store chain.

One of the benefits of shopping for supplies at a craft store is the wealth of information you can receive for free. If you browse through the aisles, you'll most likely see displays of the current trends in craft projects and free how-tos. The stores are willing to give you ideas whether or not you use their products, but chances are you'll get hooked and end up buying their supplies. Many of the stores offer free craft classes (or charge only the cost of supplies). You may even discover the perfect gift for someone on your list by hanging out in a craft store.

You may find better prices at home-improvement stores on items such as paintbrushes, clear acrylic finish spray, larger unfinished wooden objects, cement for mosaics, clay pots, potting soil, plants, varnish, paint, and so on. If you like to cut wooden objects out yourself, check the scrap boxes at lumber mills. I've found some quality woods in these bins that are perfect for small projects.

Another clue to buying discount materials is to shop for seasonal objects after the season has passed. That way, you can stock up on next year's supply of Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah items when they go on sale in January. You should always check the clearance section in craft and discount stores for discounted materials to use in future projects. When you're buying a lot of supplies, it helps to shop smart.

You probably won't be buying craft supplies at the larger department stores, but I thought I'd mention them because you may find sales on glassware (for glass etching, mosaics, candle making), silk flowers, bows, candles, and so on. You might also find items to use in your gift baskets, such as teapots, gourmet coffees, cooking utensils, candleholders, baby supplies, and so on. If you look for these objects when you shop for home furnishings, you could pick up some nice bargains.

Browse through a local party store occasionally to find unusual items for decorating and wrapping gifts, such as shrink-wrap for gift baskets, candles, stamps, stationery, and so on. You'll be surprised at the variety of decorating supplies that you might not have known existed.

Put That Little Mouse to Work

Present Pointers

When shopping at garage sales, check out the “free” boxes. Lots of times people throw objects that they don't feel like pricing into a free box. You might find a loose paintbrush, a can of paint, ornaments, bows, decorations, and many more items that you could use in your projects.

There are literally thousands of sites on the Internet for buying craft supplies. While I was browsing for mosaic supplies in my local craft store, I learned from a fellow crafter that she bought the supplies cheaper online. That prompted me to check out sites to see what you can buy over the Internet and compare prices.

It appears that you can buy any type of craft item you could possibly need online! The prices are comparable to craft store prices unless you buy in bulk, which may save you some money. You also have to consider shipping and handling when pricing Internet supplies, but many companies will waive these fees if you spend a certain amount of money. If you don't have a craft store chain near you, you may be able to find supplies on the Web that you can't find locally.

Of course, if you don't want to shop online, you could also shop at home using mail-order catalogs. The catalogs are convenient because you can browse through them at your leisure and order supplies quickly and painlessly over the phone. (One word of caution: Once you get on these mailing lists your volume of mail will increase.)

More on: Crafts for Kids

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Making Great Gifts © 2001 by Marilee LeBon. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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