Episode 46: Scrapbooking on a Budget

Alice Boll
Alice Boll

Show Notes

Scrapbooking on a budget is possible! Scrapbooking can be an expensive hobby, but it doesn’t have to be. These frugal tips will help you save money on your photos, storage and supplies.


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Welcome to The ScrapHappier Podcast, where we share quick tips, tricks, and techniques to help you create scrapbooks you love and be happier while doing it. I’m your host, Alice Boll. I’m so glad that you’ve joined me for this episode. Scrapbooking can be a very expensive hobby, but it doesn’t have to be, so let’s talk about scrapbooking on a budget. I’ll be sharing some frugal tips for photos, storage, and supplies, and we’ll talk about how planning at each stage can really pay off.

First, let’s talk about photos. There are two main ways we can approach our photos when it comes to scrapbooking. We can order prints or we can print them at home. When you order prints, you’re going to want to find a place that has a quality that you like. Not all photos are printed in the same quality. The paper consistency itself can be different, the prints can have different brightness, maybe the finish on the photo is different. Find one that you like and then just stick with it.

But just because you want to save money doesn’t mean you have to settle for bad-quality photos. Here’s a tip: Sign up for emails to get notified of discounts, coupons, deals, and sales offered by the good-printing place that you like. Be ready to take advantage of the really good offers when you order like a hundred or 200 prints by being ready to place a bulk order of the photos that you need. Just by making a plan to place that bulk order, you can get a really good price on your photos. What about if you’re printing at home? You’re still going to want a good-quality printer and use good paper. Be cautious: Cheap or inexpensive printers are not always cheaper and expensive in the long run. Is that low-cost printer actually a good deal? What does it cost for ink? What does it cost for the paper?

I used to have a printer that only costs about a hundred dollars and it printed really nice photos. I was very happy with it. That was until I had to replace the ink. The ink cartridges cost $80 every time I had to replace them and it felt like I was always replacing the ink cartridges. I think between the hundred dollars and then $80, $80, I probably spent $800 just on that printer. That’s totally ridiculous. That’s just way too much money to be spending on your printer. My high cost was the ink, it wasn’t even the paper.

Then I found out about the Epson EcoTank printers. They have large-capacity ink storage, so you put a whole bottle of ink in there and it lasts for ages. Since then, I bought the printer, it was $320, and I’ve had to refill the ink once in two years. I’ve saved a ton of money, and even on the refill, I spend less than $40. Now, my greatest costs when it comes to printing photos is the photo paper. But now that I know what I’m using for my photo paper, I watch for the sales and I buy it on sale. Here’s a tip: I always like to make sure I have extra paper and ink on hand.

There’s nothing like being left in the lurch when you’re in the middle of a project. “Left in the lurch,” isn’t that a funny phrase? It’s such a funny idiom. It means being abandoned or left in a difficult position without help. Apparently, this phrase, “being left in the lurch” relates back to a French board game, lourche, or lurch, which was similar to backgammon and it was played in the 17th century. Players suffered a lurch if they were left in a hopeless position from which they couldn’t win the game. If you play cribbage, you might be familiar with this term. If you’re in the UK, the lurch line, or the skunk line, as we know it in North America, is the point where if you don’t cross it before your opponent reaches the finish line, it’s like they win two games against you. Definitely not a position you want to be in.

Okay, back to scrapbooking. I couldn’t help the little detour. One great thing about having a reliable printer is that you now have access to the world of free or inexpensive printables that you can print and use on your pages. Moving on from photos, let’s talk about storage. A lot of scrapbooking storage solutions can be pretty pricey. You’ll find really good storage solutions in the office supply section, kitchen storage, hardware, fishing supplies, tackle boxes. There are so many really cool ways that we can find storage that is suitable for our scrapbooking supplies. You can also look at the dollar store for inexpensive baskets, drawer dividers, plastic bags, and so much more.

Before you go shopping, you might be able to just have a look around your own home. You can upcycle or reuse supplies that you already have in other places in your home. One of my favorite things to do is cut down cereal boxes or other cardboard boxes to make drawer dividers and separators in my scrapbook room. When my kids were little, we had a lot of metal cube storage. They were great for storing all of the kids’ toys when they were really little and had 10 million toys. As they get older, they didn’t have quite the number of toys anymore, and I was able to repurpose some of those cubes in my scrapbook room. What I’ve found is that with some zip ties, I could use some of the cube pieces to make extra shelves inside one of the cubes. This created the perfect shelving unit for my 12-by-12 paper and I was able to reuse something that we already had.

I don’t know if we can mention scrapbook room storage without talking about the Kallax unit from IKEA and the Raskog cart. These two handy storage units have made their way into many scrapbookers’ crafting rooms. If you want to see some fun ways to use your IKEA units to their best potential, then you just have to go to Pinterest and search “IKEA craft room storage.”

While we’re on the topic of storage, let’s quickly talk about digital storage. I am not going to pretend that I’m an expert when it comes to digital storage, but please find yourself a way to back up your photo library, to back up your photo library on a Cloud or online in some way. My preferred site is forever.com, but there are many different sites where you can back up your photos to make sure they are safe and secure. One word of caution: Sometimes with free photo storage options, you get what you pay for. Make sure you know how permanent your storage is, how reliable your storage is, and what that free actually costs you in trade-offs.

Since we’re talking about digital storage, we should also talk about digital scrapbooking supplies. Digital supplies can include cut files, printables, and of course, digital scrapbooking kits and templates. Now, digital scrapbooking could be a less expensive endeavor for some people, although that really depends on how you do it. One of the benefits of digital supplies is that they can be used over and over again, although I will caution you, will you use them over and over again? That is the question, isn’t it? You can reuse the supplies, you can resize the supplies, but my word of caution is that they still cost money. You’re still going to have to pay to store them in some way, and once you’ve made your pages, you’re still going to want to print them and have a physical copy in your hand.

Just because some of the digital kits might be more inexpensive than buying a paper kit, they still add up, and it’s way too easy to collect too many of them. You can take advantage of discounts, shop for good deals, take advantage of sales, and of course, sometimes there’s free samples. If you’ve been to Costco in this last year when we couldn’t have our free samples at Costco, you’ll know the value of those free samples, so get them where you can.

Now, let’s talk about supplies. There are a lot of ways to get scrapbook supplies on sale or discount. You can find them online at local scrapbook stores. Sometimes you can even predict sales. You know that Black Friday, there’s going to be some great sales. You can also look in clearance sections from stores and online stores as well. You may also find some good deals on supplies through garage sales, through eBay, Facebook Market, Craigslist, or at a swap table, at a local scrapbook store, or a crop. One way I like to take advantage of sales and discounts is by buying the staples that I need all the time, not just staples, it’s things like cardstock and adhesive and photo paper. These aren’t the fun things that I like shopping for, so I like to just pick them up on a regular basis when I see that they’re on sale.

A great way to scrapbook on a budget is to buy kits. This can be really great if you find a kit that suits your style and has the right amount of supplies for the amount of scrapbooking that you do. One con about ordering a kit is that it’s not always your choice and some of those papers and supplies might not suit the kinds of projects that you want to scrapbook. One thing that helps me be a little bit more frugal with my scrapbook shopping is to actually shop my own stash. You can build your own kit from the supplies in your stash. If you need suggestions on how to do this, then I suggest looking up the Facebook group called The Counterfeit Kit Club. Super fun and free to join.

Another way to really get the bang for your buck out of your kits is to take a challenge that helps you kill a kit where you use up all of the supplies in your kit. I don’t know about you, but if you have any in-person scrapbooking friends, when they have leftovers that they would just put aside and not really do anything, maybe toss a few scraps back into their stash, if they’re willing to give you their leftover supplies, nothing is more fun than playing with somebody else’s leftovers.

I think when we’re talking about saving money on our scrapbooking supplies, we have to talk about the value of planning. When you are buying specifically for a certain project, it helps to prevent excess supplies creeping into your stash. By not having too many supplies, you’re not only saving on the cost of buying that item, but you’re also saving yourself on the storage of that item. Storing our stuff costs money in our storage containers, our storage system, and just the energy that we expend trying to save our things. Depending on how you scrapbook, you might be able to go with a more simplistic style. Maybe you’re going to use fewer embellishments. All of these things can go into your planning to help you create the scrapbooks that you really want to create. If you’d like to examine your reason for why you scrapbook go back to episode two and explore why do you scrapbook. When you know why you scrapbook, it helps you figure out how you would like to scrapbook.

Another great way to save money is to have frugal usage. Okay, so what does that mean? Obviously, scrapbooking is kind of all about scraps. Actually, lots of times now, scrapbooking doesn’t have anything to do with scraps, although we did talk about that in an episode, too. Episode 15 was all about putting the scraps back in scrapbooking. But as we’re making our pages, we have scraps, we have things that are left over. There’s a certain amount of that that we can save and use on other projects.

One thing I can’t help but do when I’m using a bunch of layers on some scrapbook pages, I often cut the backs out from behind the layers. It’s what I did in my early days of scrapbooking and I still can’t stop myself from doing it now. Besides, sometimes you just need that extra little bit of pattern paper. Another way I stretch my scrapbook supplies is by getting creative with my lettering on titles, mixing and matching different sets of thickers, doing a little bit of creative letter construction with some of the letters. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve turned an F into an extra E. I also like to DIY embellishments and papers from time to time. I use some metal dies to cut flowers or letters for titles. I use water to create the perfect color of backgrounds for some of my pages. I sometimes use memorabilia as an embellishment. It’s a great way to bring the memorabilia in and get some free embellishments out of the deal.

Let’s talk about strategic use of tools. Depending on how you scrapbook, an electronic cutting machine might be the perfect solution to save you a few dollars. I know, it’s not going to save them upfront, but in the long run, if you’re not buying thickers and stickers and alphabets, then that electronic cutting machine can save you a bundle and give you a lot more flexibility and creativity in making your pages. I think that really great alphabet stamps are a good way to add titles to my pages without having that big expense. I love buying stamps, don’t get me wrong. I have a ton of stamps, but most of my stamp sets don’t pay off in the long run. I buy them, I use them once or twice, and that’s it. But alphabet stamps, those things are earning their keep.

Another way to be strategic with our tools is to actually spend the money on good-quality tools. If you’ve ever used a poor-quality cutter to cut your 12-by-12 paper, then you know what I’m talking about. Buy a good cutter and save yourself the money of buying a bad cutter and then buying a good cutter afterwards because that’s what happens. If you can limit your color palette when you’re buying stamps sets or markers or anything that comes in a rainbow of colors, they’re not Pokemon, we don’t have to catch them all.

Another thing that can be a bit of a big expense upfront but it looks like a really great deal can be those really thick paper pads with all of the different patterned papers. Unless you have a really big project where you’re going to be using tons of that paper, it might not be the best deal, after all. You have to know how you’re scrapbooking and what you’re going to do with all of that paper. Sometimes too much of a good thing is just too much.

The cost of scrapbooking can vary, but it can be done on a budget. No matter whether your budget is big or small, I think the question to ask is: What is the cost of not scrapbooking? For me, scrapbooking is about documenting and cherishing my memories of a life that I love and enjoy, and for me, that makes scrapbooking worth it.

Thank you for joining me for episode number 46 of The ScrapHappier Podcast. You can get the show notes at scraphappy.org/episode46. ScrapHappy is an online community for scrapbookers just like you and we would love to have you join. You can get more details at scraphappy.org. Don’t forget, you can sign up for a free trial of our LOAD Mini Scrap the Rainbow Challenge anytime you like by going to scraphappy.org/load. Take the Layout-a-Day Challenge and you can scrap the rainbow. I hope that this episode will help you save a few dollars on your scrapbooking supplies and help you scrap on a budget. Happy scrapping.

I was fascinated when I heard that the skunk line was actually called the lurch line over in the UK when I was reading all about being left in the lurch and I just had to share that today. My mom and dad both are avid crib players and we always play when we’re together and I recently got skunked, or left in the lurch.


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