Frugal Scrapbooking: Money Saving Tips for Scrapbookers

Scrapbookers often look for ways to save money on supplies and learn new, easy techniques and will search with keywords listed.

In the hobby and crafts industry, scrapbooking is currently the 3rd most popular craft in the US. From 2002 to 2004, sales of scrapbooking products increased by over 25%. Retails sales in the scrapbooking category were over 1.5 billion dollars in 2009. That means there are a heck of a lot of mid-West housewives, gay men and artistic maidens like myself cutting, gluing, and spending money like crazy on scrapbooking supplies. I have spent more time and money than I care to admit at Michael’s and Jo-Ann’s Fabrics and Crafts shopping for specialty paper, decorative scissors, stickers, and myriad other craft supplies. To stay within my monthly budget, I was forced to come up with some frugal ways to find supplies and more economial techniques of making scrapbooks.

The scrapbooking craze began in the early 1800s as a way to preserve poems, love letters, newspaper articles and other mementos. When cameras were invented, people began to save photographs in albums. Modern scrapbooking is an excellent way to organize and display cherished photographs, preserve memories and express creativity. I caught the scrapbooking bug 6 years ago and since then have been spending all my spare time and spare change on making scrapbooks for every occasion: Weddings, babies, school, pets, sports, and even more unusual themes such as a Harley Davidson scrapbook for a biker friend.

There are some things that must be purchased from a retailer: punches, rubber stamps, patterned and cardstock paper. All materials used to make scrapbooks should be “acid free” (with a neutral Ph) to avoid deterioration when exposed to light or heat. Using regular tape instead of acid-free scrapbooking tape would save a lot of money, but also means the scrapbook would not last very long. I try to never pay regular price for any store item. I clip coupons, wait for sales and purchase many items on eBay or Etsy, a web site that specializes in handmade crafts. I know lots of scrapbookers are watching their budgets so it I am glad to share my secrets to frugal scrapbooking:

Embellishments: Look around your home for items you can add to scrapbook pages: buttons on old clothes, fabric ribbon, paper clips, charms and beads from costume jewelry, post cards, greeting cards, food labels, and wrapping paper – check junk drawers for flat, lightweight items that will enhance layouts.

Die Cuts: If you don’t have a Cricut or Sizzix die cut machine, make your own die cuts. Look online for copyright free clip art images. You can scan and save these images and use repeatedly. Google Images is a great place to start. I needed die cuts for a baby scrapbook so I cut and pasted clip art of baby bottles, booties, and rattles and copied to a Word document. I scanned and saved the printed document then printed and cut out the images. Sometimes I glue several layers of the same image and attach to the page with glue dots to give it a 3D effect.

Original Art: I am a pretty good artist, so I draw and scan my own art for scrapbooking. I print the drawings on white cardstock, and color them with chalk or art markers. If you aren’t good at drawing, find coloring book images online, print, cut out and color with blending chalks or art markers.

Cardstock: Designer paper looks great in scrapbooks but it can get expensive. DCWV is one of my favorite brands of patterned and textured paper, but a pad of 48 sheets costs about $20. I can buy twice as much plain cardstock for the same price. I save money by decorating 12” x 12” cardstock with rubber stamps (store bought or made from household sponges). I add texture to plain paper by crumpling then smoothing it out and chalking the creases. Page borders can be made from strips of patterned or wrapping paper. (By the way, it is a violation of copyright law to scan and reuse copies of patterned paper.)

Photos: Creating double and triple matted photo mats uses up a lot of paper. You don’t need to mat every photo on the layout. Some photos can be applied directly to the cardstock; outline them with art markers or place the photo on a torn piece of patterned paper.

Page Titles: Thanks to computers, this frugal idea has saved me a lot of money. Chipboard and sticker letters look great but aren't cost effective if you are making a complete book with 20 pages. There are hundreds of free fonts available online. One of my favorite sites is Download a font and create the title in Word using the Word Art feature (most word processing programs have a similar feature). Print the title in any size or color and add to your page.

Mulberry Paper Tear Bears: These fluffy little bears are obnoxiously cute. They became so popular on the scrapbooking scene that I had to teach myself the technique. You can buy patterns and readymade tear bears but it’s much more frugal and fun to make your own. I don’t use a pattern and I skip steps to expedite the process. Tear Bears should be made from extra thick mulberry paper. I buy the paper on eBay. Some vendors sell packs of tear bear colors (brown, cocoa, tan, white, etc).  The conventional instructions call for drawing the bear pattern on a mulberry sheet, outlining the pieces with a Q-tip dipped in water and then tearing the pieces. The paper has to dry before you can complete the bear. Forget that – it takes too long. Now I just tear the dry paper free hand. Most of the bear parts are just different size circles. The head, body, ears, legs, arms and muzzle (torn from lighter shade of paper) don’t have to be perfect. With practice, you will be able to tear perfect circles and strips in just the right sizes. Here are the next steps:

  • Glue torn pieces to form the bear. “Fluff up” bear by brushing each part with a mini wire brush (about $1 at hardware store)
  • Cut out nose: Small black paper circle, glue near top of muzzle (or make nose with heart shaped punch – even cuter)
  • Shade edges of bear with a slightly darker color of chalk or marker (this will make bear look more dimensional) Use pink color to shade inside of ears and make rosy cheeks
  • Eyes: You can buy “googly” eyes at craft store or draw the typical big, sad eyes on a tear drop punched from white cardstock
  • Add fabric or paper hat, neck tie, dress or other items of apparel – and you’re done!

Scrapbook Albums: At retail craft stores, scrapbook albums cost $15 to $40. I am fortunate to live in a big city where there are many discount stores (Big Lots, 99 Cents Store) where I've found scrapbook albums for less than $10. But you don’t have to use standard12"x12" or 8"x8" post bound albums. I make 8” x 11” scrapbook pages and put them in binders with a front window. I place the pages in heavyweight, diamond clear sheet protectors and put a decorated title page in the binder window. You can also use sticker and other embellishments on the front of the binder and tie colorful ribbons to the binder rings. 

Scrapbooking is fun, relaxing and all the more rewarding now that I'm saving money with my frugal techniques.



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