Card making on a budget is possible. Read these money-saving tips and suggestions for cost-conscious card makers.
by Melony Bradley
When people discover that I make my own greeting cards, they immediately assume that I create cards not only for their uniqueness and beauty, but also because making them, versus buying them, offers significant cost savings. True, I spend much less time searching for the perfect greeting card among store options than I do crafting one, and time is money, right? But the cost of materials to make the cards can be considerable. Let me present my top-ten tips for making cards on a budget.
1. Take Stock Card stock that is! Card stock comes in an impressive array of colors, textures and patterns. It is often less expensive than patterned paper and far more versatile. It can be inked, sanded, cut, punched, torn, stamped, pieced, scored, etc. Solid-color card stock also provides great versatility, making it useful for many different applications. One of my favorite card-stock techniques is to use a watermark ink pad and rubber stamp to subtly add a background to darker colors of card stock. The rubber stamp can then be used to stamp a colored image on a coordinating color of card stock for the foreground.
2. Stamps & Punches Unlike stickers, chipboard or rub-on embellishments, acrylic and rubber stamps, and paper punches can be used multiple times in your card making. This makes them great investments. Choosing generic images for stamps and basic shapes for punches offers the most bang for your buck. For instance, a stamp with a baby image, while adorable, would likely be used for a new-baby welcome, shower,etc. On the other hand, a stamp in a bird motif can be used for a new-baby card, spring greeting or an Easter card. The bird is more general and therefore more versatile. For punches, general shapes like circles, ovals, hearts, stars and flowers offer more design options, as opposed to more specific shapes like palm trees or baby’s feet.
3. Economical Techniques There are many wonderful techniques you can use to spice up your cards without spending a lot of cash. Many of these ideas allow you to stretch your supplies by using them to achieve different looks. For instance, color washes bring beautiful pastel effects to your cards. You can create color washes with purchased products, but you can also achieve the same effects with powdered drink mixes diluted with water. Doodling only requires a pen, paper and your imagination, and allows you to create various playful effects for your cards. Stamp kissing, a popular technique that involves a solid stamp, paired with a patterned stamp, enables you to stretch your stamp collection by creating different looks with them.
4. Get Organized Whether you have the most extensive collection of card-making materials or the most limited, if your supplies are not organized, you will waste a lot of money buying things you forget you have, cannot locate, or things that have been damaged due to poor storage. For instance, consider how you might store quilling papers. Instead of immediately taking them out of the bag, keep colors separated in original packaging. This will keep you from searching through a potential tangled mess of papers looking for that perfect color for your card. Also, keep card-stock scraps together (an envelope for each color works great) and check these first when you need just a small piece to use in your card design.
5. Up-Cycle Your Stuff The “green” movement could not have come at a more perfect time. We all are looking for ways to save time and money, and help the environment. There are a whole host of household items that you can “up-cycle” and use in your card making—used dryer sheets, cardboard salvaged from empty cereal boxes, junk mail, catalogs, postage stamps, corrugated cardboard from boxes, old maps and calendars—the list is endless. If your collection of discarded items does not grow fast enough to keep up with your card-making appetite, ask a neighbor to pitch in and help. They will love the idea that their trash is being “up-cycled” into something beautiful and useful. To thank them for their efforts, you can present them with a smart and beautiful card created from items they donated.
6. Card-Worthy Bargains Using coupons, shopping sales and buying off-season are the most common ways of saving money on card-making supplies. Sign up for a free membership and then download free card designs at FreePatterns.com. One of the more innovative ideas I have seen from a local paper-crafting store is frequently held “garage sales.” They allow customers to bring in unused supplies and sell them at a significantly reduced prices to other customers. Save those 20 percent, 40 percent and 50 percent-off store coupons for larger purchases such as tools, trimmers, etc. Many local stores will honor coupons offered by the larger chain retailers. Hardware stores, office-supply stores and dollar stores offer some of the supplies similar to those available from crafting stores. For instance, brass brads can be purchased for a dramatically reduced price from office-supply stores. You can then customize them with sanding, inks and paints.
7. Take Care of Your Tools & Supplies Spend time sharpening tools and cleaning supplies. Paper-punch blades benefit from regular sharpening by punching through aluminum foil sheets several times. Blades tend to dull from repeated use, and
this keeps them functioning well. Monitor papertrimming blades and change as needed. This is a big one for me. I have wasted many sheets of card stock by not changing the blades when needed. This leads to frayed edges and a lot of frustration. Adhesive and other material can build up on scissor blades, which can dull them. Regularly remove buildup with a cleaner especially designed for the job. Use a stamp cleaner to clean acrylic stamps and stamping blocks to keep them in top shape. Spend time caring for your tools, and they will last for years to come.
8. Be a Minimalist Less is more. To save money, use fewer embellishments on your cards. Today, lines are cleaner and more sophisticated, which affords you the opportunity to use fewer products on your cards. Do you really need five different embellishments on the front of that birthday card? Two or three carefully and well-chosen embellishments will make much more of an impact.
9. Get Plugged In Use the Web to search for “free card-making templates” or “free fonts,” and other free material. There are an abundance of sites that offer envelope templates and shaped cardmaking templates for free. Likewise, many fonts can be downloaded for free and used to create attractive and thoughtful sentiments on cards. A scanner is another useful tool. Simply arrange attractive elements such as leaves, pressed flowers or other natural resources, and scan to make attractive “patterned papers.”
10. Get in Line Many card markers swear by the assembly-line method of creating cards in an effort to save time and money. Supplies can be purchased at all at once, in larger quantities, and cards can be made several at a time, often with friends and family members pitching in over coffee. Thank-you notes are an ideal project to make in large batches. One note on this: Name your card designs and keep a running list of who receives which card and when. The card will be unique and the recipient will surely notice if they receive the same card twice.
Use these tips when possible and you’ll soon be card making on a budget.