I will admit this freely: I am not a shopping enthusiast. I own about four pairs of shoes, only one of which I wear on a regular basis, I hate clothes shopping, and groceries are as boring as milk toast to me. But I do love to shop around for one thing: hobby supplies. My main hobbies are almost in constant flux, with new gadgets put out quite frequently, and everything updating to the digital age. Whether I am looking for paint supplies, scrapbooking, cooking, or other… it is so much fun to look at the new stuff and imagine all the things I could do with them. Unfortunately, I have to be realistic. Most of this stuff likely will not get used, or I won’t like it after I get it home, or don’t have any real use for it… you name it. Also, there is a budget to think of. I know I don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars everytime I go on a hobby run. And my time budget is always precious. So, here is a list of tips I have garnered from personal experience, both good and bad, to help you stay on target with your shopping excursion.
Rule #1: MAKE A LIST OF WHAT YOU NEED FOR THE WHOLE PROJECT. Include on your list everything you need, even if you already own it. For baking, I even put down the oven (and temperature), pans, pots, wooden stirrers, spatulas, everything. Shopping trips for hobbyists should begin in the home. After you have made the list, go through your hobby area (for this example, my kitchen and pantry) and cross off everything you already have. Take this opportunity to put everything in one convenient place, so when you start, you will not have to stop to go looking for the cardamom, or something else you rarely use.
Rule #2: SEE IF ANY ITEMS CAN BE BORROWED. This is true in all my hobbies. It is great to have a circle of friends who all do the same thing. When I lived in Auburn, I would scrapbook on Saturdays with a friend of mine, whose nickname is Six, and we would spend a good deal of that time using each others die cuts, stamps, inks, trade papers, you name it. It saves a lot of time if you have an item your friend needs, and vice versa. This also cuts down on the amount of stuff you own but rarely use. This rule is also a blessing if you don’t follow the next rule, because friends often want stuff you do not anymore.
Rule #3: ONLY BUY WHAT IS ON YOUR LIST. As a scrapbook paper hoarder, please learn from my experience. Even if you are just starting out scrapbooking and have virtually nothing: DON’T BUY EVERYTHING YOU LIKE. I have a ton of paper that I bought in those giant paper books that I think are so boring and atrocious now, I don’t think I will ever use them. Everything looks good in the store, all nice and unused. Your tastes will change, so don’t buy just because they look cool. Buy only what you need. And along with this tip, don’t buy any bulk items unless you are making bulk items. Don’t buy a Big Stack of paper wtih designs for pets on it, unless you are making a pet scrapbook. The only exceptions to this rule are neutral cardstocks. Black, white, and the browns are okay, just don’t buy a ton of them.
Rule #4: STEER CLEAR OF SPECIALTY ITEMS IF AT ALL POSSIBLE. Back to scrapbooking again. I can always talk myself into buying specialty paper, like vellum or mulberry, because I like to use it. But this rule relates back to rule #3. If you buy a lot of things you don’t need for this project, they will get lost, forgotten, what have you. And when you need them, you may not even remember you have them. I have about 100 sheets of clear vellum for this very reason. Specialty items get easily lost. Specialty items also include new equipment, three-dimensional stickers, the ten thousand different ways to stick stuff to paper, oddly shaped baking sheets, a new keyboard… anything you don’t already have that you didn’t know you needed.
Rule #5: IF YOU CAN MAKE IT, DON’T BUY IT. This sounds easy, but it can be tricky. I can make most of the things I put on a scrapbook page myself. Three dimensional stickers are totally simple to make, thanks to Xyron machines. But, you have to include in this equation how much time you have to make these things. If making accents for your page takes up half the small amount of time you have to scrapbook, I would consider it likely too hard to make, and would buy them. The same goes for baking. I can make my own blended spices, whipped cream, icings, and glazes, but sometimes I just can’t budget for the time.
Rule #6: CHECK PRICES ONLINE FIRST. All of my hobby stores are online, and I have those saved as favorites. Hobby Lobby and Michael’s both have weekly coupons that I treasure. Some websites can even tell you if the item is in stock at the store before you go out to get it. Heck, order online if you don’t mind waiting for it. Many stores have free shipping if you are willing to pick it up at their physical store. And price check with online only stores, like Amazon. If, again, you are willing to wait for the items, sometimes it is cheaper to order it there.
Rule #7: SET LIMITS WHEN BREAK A RULE. Don’t be hard on yourself if you slip up on one of these rules. It is a hobby, not a job. You won’t get fired if you just have to have that adorable new baking pan for mini donuts (guilty). The trick to not getting depressed here is what you mother probably did for you when you were little and she needed to go shopping herself: set a limit. If you just have to buy the new toys, limit how much money you will spend. If you forgot to check for coupons online, see if they have paper ones near the entrance before buying items full price. If you decide that the Jolene stickers are way better than what you think you can make, go ahead but keep the purchase small. If you were so excited about going shopping that you forget to see if your friends already have some of the stuff on your list, just buy what you are sure they don’t have. I wanted to get something shiny for baking the last time I was at Bed, Bath, & Beyond. So I decided a little baking sheet was much cheaper than the awesome baking sets I saw there. And the end result is: this weekend I am making mini donuts.