As with many crafts and hobbies, those looking to start scrapbooking are often put off by the apparent cost of getting started. If you want your layouts to look just like those you find on YouTube and Pinterest, you need to splurge on all the kits, tools and accessories, right?
In this Cheap Ass Guide to Scrapbooking, let me show you why and how you can save money on this awesome hobby, while still making your layouts look Insta-worthy.
A little disclaimer before we begin:
My aim in this post is not to discourage anyone from buying scrapbooking kits or other supplies, or even to say that these are bad things. Everyone is different, and if you find enjoyment in using ready-made kits and they are worth the money to you, that is wonderful! This post is aimed at helping those who don’t have the money to find affordable alternatives. And who knows, maybe you’ll find a nice creative challenge for yourself in some of these tips and tricks ;).
And now, here are 10 ways you can save money when scrapbooking. Many of these I learned while taking on my own 30 Day Scrapbook Challenge, so all of the photo examples will be from there.
1. Save on the basics
Albums, paper, adhesives, cutting tools, photos and embellishments. Those are the basic elements of scrapbooking. And you don’t have to break the bank on any of them!
If you make your layouts on separate pieces of paper, you’re going to need somewhere to store them, and there are a number of different album options available. Alternatively, you can buy an album with blank pages (as opposed to page protectors/plastic sleeves) to work in.
But a really cheap option which is great for those just starting out is to use a regular old ring-binder file with A4 plastic sleeves. Decorate it to add your personal touch (unless you really enjoy that speckled, grey aesthetic…). I have a feeling that A4 layouts (rather than 12”x12” ones) are going to be the next big thing in scrapbooking!
As far as paper goes, my suggestion is to start out with plain old white card and paper. The A4 variety will do just fine, and it will go with that ring-binder I mentioned above. You can buy white paper/card in bulk from most grocery and stationery shops (Checkers, Pick ‘n’ Pay, PNA, CNA, etc.). The great thing about white paper is that it’s incredibly versatile! You can read more about making your own patterned paper and embellishments using it in tips 3 and 4.
If you want more colourful options, look no further than those A4 paper pads by Butterfly. You know, the ones you buy for children’s art and school projects. You’ll find a surprising variety, plus they are a lot cheaper than paper made specifically for scrapbooking. Of course, you don’t need to buy the pads made specifically by Butterfly, but these are the ones you’re most likely to come across.
The cheapest adhesive to go with is Pritt (or any other glue stick. But really, no one actually calls it a glue stick). While Pritt gets the job done, it has the tendency to be difficult to work with, and it can leave dark marks and smudges on your work if you’re not careful.
Double sided sticky tape is a bit more expensive than Pritt, but considering you don’t actually need that much of it to make your bits and bobs stay in place (that sounded weird), it can end up coming to the same amount at the end of the day. Minus all the dark marks and smudges. Yay!
Step aside guillotines and paper trimmers! There is a surprising amount that you can do with just a pencil, ruler and scissors. No layout of mine is complete without the help of these simple, but essential tools. The good news is that you don’t need to spend a lot of money on these. I don’t think it’s even possible to spend more than R50 on a ruler. Correct me if I’m wrong. Plus, you’re very likely to have these items floating around your house already.
Sometimes I also bring in the help of a maths set (protractor, compass, those triangular ruler thingies)(ah, my educated sister tells me they are called set squares) for less straightforward cutting. This is also something you’re likely to have lying around from your school days. If not, you can pick one up for less than R20.
Photos are arguably the most important part of scrapbooking! If you follow all the other tips in this guide, they might end up being the most expensive part too. However, I think that getting good quality photo prints is worthwhile. They are the stars of your layouts after all!
If you have a printer at home, invest in some photo paper. If you don’t have a printer at home, track down a friend who does and ask them if you may use it. Bring your own photo paper, and be sure to repay them for their ink in cash or chocolate.
If you don’t know a friend with a printer, you can always get your photos printed at a print shop (or any shop with a Kodak machine). Keep in mind that the more photos you print at once, the cheaper it gets, but don’t pay R300 for 100 photos if you’re not sure you’re going to use all of them. Rather pay more per photo, but less in total.
The really fun part about scrapbooking is making everything look fun/pretty/hardcore/elegant (you decide) using embellishments! Check out tips 4, 5, 7 and 9 for great ideas on how to make your own embellishments, or get them for really cheap.
Tip No.1 was pretty long. The rest are short, don’t worry!
2. Believe the hype about acid-free products, but don’t pay extra for them
If you’ve done some research on scrapbooking, you’ve probably come across the term “acid-free”. This refers to products that have a pH level of 7.0 or higher, and which are meant to preserve your photos and layouts without fading them over time. People can get pretty crazy about acid-free products, and often scrapbooking supplies are specifically marketed as acid-free, for a higher price. But you don’t need to buy specialist items just to be sure that they’ll be kind to your layouts.
That’s because most regular craft supplies that are suitable for children will be acid-free. That includes the previously mentioned Butterfly paper pads, good old Pritt (or double sided tape), and stickers from your usual stationery shop.
More good news is that over the last few years, more and more everyday products are being made acid-free. This really isn’t something you should obsess over unnecessarily.
3. Make your own patterned paper
Not only is making your own patterned paper a cheap alternative to buying, it’s also tons of fun! I’ve noticed that there is a penchant lately for watercolour backgrounds, and these are especially easy to recreate using some basic art supplies. But you don’t need to be restricted to watercolours only! The possibilities are only as endless as your imagination (and I know you have a pretty rad imagination).
You can spend a lot of time experimenting with different techniques and mediums. And if you’re stuck for inspiration, Pinterest is always your best friend. Let me know in the comments below how you would create your own unique patterned paper!
4. Make your own embellishments
If I haven’t mentioned it before, combining DIY and scrapbooking is loads of fun. Making your own embellishments from scratch also means that you can get exactly what you want, when you want it, instead of ending up with leftovers from a kit that you’ll never use, or trawling craft shops for that specific walrus-licking-an-icecream sticker. That would make a cute sticker. I’m going to go make one for myself. See?
Once again, the sky is the limit, and you can really flex your creative muscle doing this. Start seeing the potential in your simple white (or patterned) paper. (Psst, remember your good old pal, Pinterest?).
5. Use ephemera from events as embellishments
I save a lot of tickets, programs, paper decor and other ephemera from events. I keep them in a file until I scrap that certain event, and then I instantly have cool, relevant and basically free embellishments for that layout!
If relevance isn’t such an important criteria for you, don’t be shy to use these things on unrelated layouts as well. If they go with the colour scheme, or if you’re using them for texture and hiding most of the details, they will work well anywhere!
6. Learn calligraphy (or make peace with your own handwriting)
If you’ve been following my blog for a while now, you’ll have noticed the ongoing love-hate relationship I have with my handwriting. While it may not be perfect, it does save me a lot of money when it comes to titles and journalling on my layouts. Brushstroke fonts are very in at the moment, and they are something you can easily DIY. Practise your calligraphy by referring to examples online, whether you use a regular pen, koki or an actual brush.
And if all else fails, you can always download a font, type up your title on the computer and print it out. Either way, you’ll always get the exact wording you want!
7. Save every scrap!
Hoard people, hoard! This is the excuse you’ve been waiting for!
Okay, but in all seriousness, start seeing the value in leftovers, cut-offs and bits and bobs you would otherwise discard. There are lots of great videos on YouTube of scrappers using just scraps (seems fitting, doesn’t it?) to make beautiful layouts. Also, see where you are wasting supplies and can use less of that in your layout. Hiding half an embellishment behind a photo? Cut off the unseen half to use again later. Matting your photo on some pretty patterned paper? Cut out the middle of the mat so it’s more of a frame, and voila, you’ve got some paper left over.
Personally, I’ve found many embellishment possibilities from old cards and invites. The silver doily in that Leclair layout above? That was salvaged from a fancy invite. And don’t get me started on all the Christmas cards I’ve kept because of the scrap-worthy pictures and patterns on them.
8. Make big purchases that will save you money in the long run
I once paid R15 for a piece of paper. Sure, it was 12”x12”, and it had a pretty sheet music pattern on it. But it was still R15. For a piece of paper. And I bought two of them.
From that moment on, not only did I profess to be as frugal as possible when scrapbooking, but I also decided to never spend that amount of money on single-use items again. (Maybe I’m overreacting, but in hindsight, I still can’t believe I spent that much on a piece of paper when there are starving children (like me) in Africa!).
Certain scrapbooking tools and equipment like stamps, paints, punches and even that Silhouette Cameo we all (read: I) lust over, have the potential for saving money in the long run. You can use them when creating your own patterned paper, embellishments and titles. But the best thing about these tools is that they can be used over and over again.
Now, if you’re just starting out, don’t go off immediately to buy ten punches, a Cameo and a hoard of stamps. See what you can do with just the basics, and if you find that you enjoy scrapbooking, then you can look at buying a couple of stamps and one or two punches. You don’t need “all the things”, but choose some really versatile ones that fit your needs and style. The last thing you want is to spend a small fortune on these things, only to find out that you’ll never use them more than once.
9. Look further than the (online) craft store
Remember how I said you could find patterned paper at Checkers? Well, I also found three fantastic mini albums at a church bazaar, and beautiful embellishments at the Crazy Store. All at a great price. The point is that sometimes you can find scrapbooking gems in unlikely places, and so you should always keep an eye out for these.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t support local craft shops. They have tons of amazing supplies, and it’s always good to support local businesses. But don’t rule out other shops that don’t have “crafts” or “scrapbooking” in their names, and don’t think that Scrapbook.com is the only place to find decent supplies.
10. Ask for what you really want for your next birthday/Christmas/other gift-giving occasion
If scrapbooking is something you really enjoy, why not ask your friends and family to gift you with some supplies or even an online voucher for your next birthday or other gift-giving opportunity. If someone wants to spend money on you, they may as well spend it on something that will bring you endless hours of enjoyment! This person will likely be pleased that you’ve shared something about your hobbies and interests with them. There is no shame in asking for what you truly want. In the end, there is less waste, and it makes everyone happier.
Bonus tip: Don’t let perfectionism stop you from getting started.
No matter what supplies and tools you have at your disposal, the best time to start scrapbooking is now! You don’t need a specific kit or accessory to make a beautiful layout, and you don’t need to be skilled at scrapbooking to get started. There are no rights or wrongs. You may have gotten a wonderful kit for a good price, but it’s still a waste of money if it just sits in a cupboard, unused.
So, what are your money-saving tips for scrapbooking?
What do you do to save money when it comes to scrapbooking? Did I miss anything in my list above (I’m pretty sure I did!)? Let me know in the comments down below!
Be sure to share this blog post with your scrapbooking friends (frugal or otherwise)! These tips aren’t just for saving money: they’re also a great way to challenge yourself to be more creative!
I had a lot of fun writing this guide for all of you! If you’d like to see more cheap ass guides in the future, be sure to let me know. And subscribe to my weekly newsletter to never miss an update. I post a new blog post every week. For those looking for more frequent updates, you can follow me on social media (links at the top and in the sidebar) for daily posts and shenanigans.
As always, thank you for reading this post, and I’ll see you in the next one!