Beading on a Budget

Beading is such an addictive hobby. We love to buy new beads! It’s always more exciting to make jewelry with new beads instead of the old ones we’ve got stashed away. So it’s especially difficult when times are rough and money is tight and you want to do some bead shopping. Here are some ideas to maximize your beading dollar and still be able to find some great beads to add to your inventory.

Shop at Craft Stores vs. Bead Shops

Both Michaels and JoAnn Fabrics carry good quality beads and supplies. You don’t HAVE to shop the bead store in order to get nice beads. Grab that Sunday paper and look for the Michaels and JoAnn Fabrics store flyers. These usually have 40% off coupons and it’s how I buy a lot of my supplies from Michaels. Check the ads to see if there are any beads on sale. Usually there is something! If there isn’t much in what you are looking for and you can hold off for a better sale, perhaps wait until the following week. The sales on the various beading product lines are usually offered in a rotation and are on sale at least one week out of the month. If you don’t find a sale, at least make sure you use your 40% off coupon. Michaels usually accepts their own coupons and a Joann Fabrics coupon at the same time, which works out great to save you money, time (and gas!) in having to go back to the store multiple times. Ask your friends, co-workers and family members to save their coupons for you too. Try to shop with a friend, significant other (or even child) and you can have them check out with you and use more coupons!

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If you do go to your local bead store, try to plan your trips around sales (if possible) or shop their discount bins and clearance sections. Sometimes you can get some great, high quality semi-precious stones at a discount. Sign up to be on their mailing list or e-mail list, and check their website frequently to see if they are running any specials or trunk shows.

Gift Certificates – Ask for Them!

Most likely your friends and family know that you make jewelry. Make sure they know where your favorite local bead shop is, especially if they sell gift certificates! What better gift for you than a free trip to the bead shop! And even if you don’t have a local shop nearby, gift certificates or gift cards from Michael’s or JoAnn Fabrics would also be a much appreciated gift. Next time someone asks you what you what for your birthday or the holidays, tell them how you would love a gift certificate to your favorite shop!

What about Walmart?

What? Did I just suggest bead shopping at Walmart, of all places? Yes, I did! Most Walmart stores have craft departments, and I was pleasantly surprised when I ventured down the beading aisle and found a lot of pendants and jewelry findings at great prices. I also found a nice-sized box of glass pearls that were priced right and great for use in my designs. So don’t discount Walmart or other drug/department stores when you’re looking for places to buy beads and beading supplies. You may just find a really good deal. Another idea while you’re there would be to check out the jewelry department, and in particular, their clearance racks or bins. Being a jewelry maker you could fix broken clearance items, or better yet, use your imagination and creativity and buy their finished, or even broken, jewelry for “parts”. Take it apart and use it for your own jewelry designs.

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Thrift and Resale Shops

Thrift shops and consignment or resale shops can be another good place to find beading supplies, especially if you like to incorporate found objects, retro or antique components in your designs. If you like to take “old” and make it “new” again, perhaps you could ask friends or relatives (grandmas may have some great finds in their jewelry boxes too) if they have jewelry they don’t want anymore, and let them know you’d be interested in taking it off their hands to incorporate it into your jewelry designs. If you make custom bridal jewelry, this may be a really great way to combine “something old” and “something new” honoring family and tradition and breathing new life into a piece of heirloom jewelry all at the same time.

Savings in Numbers

Several of the online bead supply companies offer discounts when you buy in bulk or offer a percentage of savings based on the number of items ordered. Firemountain Gems does this, as well as a few other stores. If you know other people who bead ask them if they need any beads or supplies. Order together as a group and you can save money…plus you’ll save money on shipping costs by distributing it among everyone who orders. You can also try looking online for other beaders who do group orders to get discounts from bead suppliers. There are some Yahoo groups available for this, as well as several beading forums (such as the forums on Beading Daily) where you can interact with other beaders who may be interested in doing this as well.

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A new twist on “Girls Night” – have a bead swap meet

If you have friends who also bead, why not have a bead swapping party? Go through your bead stash and sort out beads that you no longer want (ok, this might be a challenge!) and have your friends do the same. Plan an evening to get together and have a bead swap. You’ll all get some new beads to play with, without spending any money! Plus you’ll have a fun night with your friends.

Swap Online

If you don’t have a group of friends to trade with, why not look online for other beaders looking to swap beads? Here’s a network you could try – Bead Swap.

With today’s economy, crafters and jewelry designers not only need to think creatively when designing, they also need to get creative when it comes to buying supplies. Bargain shopping, discount ordering and bead swapping are great ways to add new items to your inventory without breaking the bank!