Monday, January 31, 2011

Newbie Papercrafters, Shop Craigslist!

When you pick up a new crafty hobby, part of the fun is buying all the new and exciting supplies, right?  It would be great if supply money grew on trees! Then you could just go down to the nearest scrapbook store, throw down $1000 and buy everything your heart desires.

Unfortunately the real world doesn't work that way, or at least not here in my real world.  I keep my craft supply money strictly separate from my "day to day life" money, otherwise we'd be broke.  My tag and jewelry business keeps itself running and also funds my other crafty pursuits, so I keep a close eye on those finances.

And of course the startup costs to get into an entirely new hobby can be high - new tools, new consumable supplies, new storage and workspace, etc.  The list goes on.  So I try to save money where I can, especially on supplies.

One of my super-secret (ok, not really) resources for supplies is Craigslist.  Here in Seattle, it's a very active site, so you can find all sorts of deals.   For those who aren't familiar, it's a free local classified ads site, available in many parts of the world.   Transactions are carried out in person, and the site just hosts the ads - it's not responsible for any part of the transaction.  You contact the person via the email address in the listing and work out the details from there.  The site is more active in some locales than others, so check your own city to see what's going on.

Many crafters turn to Craigslist to get rid of old supplies, especially if they're moving on to a different craft, clearing out space for a new baby, or just one day realize they have way too many supplies.  (I can't imagine how that would happen!)

Scrapbooking seems to be a popular craft to downsize, so there's almost always paper and rubber stamping supplies to be found.  But you need to do a little legwork and research on your own to determine whether you're really getting a good deal.  Since you're just buying from another individual, there's no "money back guarantee" if you're not happy.

[caption id="attachment_61" align="aligncenter" width="524" caption="Photo by "]Letter stickers purchased from[/caption]

My tips for supply shopping on Craigslist (CL):


  • Look for photos.  CL has lots of listings without photos.  It's hard to know exactly what condition and type of supplies you're getting without them.  Listings with photos tend to have more responsive and honest sellers, in my experience.  It's worth sending a message to see if someone has photos of a listing you're interested in.

  • Know retail prices.   I occasionally see supply listings on Craigslist asking for full retail price or more (!).  If I'm going to pay that much, I'd rather buy my supplies at a shop with a return policy.   CL is for bargains and deep discounts.  For example, with scrapbook paper, I know the high end stuff typically retails for $0.75 to $1.00 per sheet.  I don't buy paper on CL unless it's 20 cents a sheet or less.  And I'd only pay 20 cents for the high end designer stuff.

  • Ask questions.  This is especially important for tools.  Ask if they're in good shape, still in working condition and whether they have replacement parts.  Do some online research to find out if the replacement parts are available - for example, if you buy a circle cutter, can you still find replacement blades?  Ask how old the tool is and why they're  selling it.

  • Be safe.  CL has gotten a lot of bad publicity lately, with people getting into bad situations after agreeing to meet.  Don't go to someone's house to pick up your items - meet in a public place in daylight hours.  This is probably less of an issue with someone getting rid of craft supplies, but you just never know.

  • Expect some disappointments.  Yes, sometimes you'll buy a "grab bag" of paper and embellishments and then find out that none of them are your style.  Maybe you can swap with a friend, donate them to a school, or resell them.  Minimize this by researching what you'll get before you spend the money.

  • Calculate the real cost.  Someone might be selling a whole boatload of awesome supplies for $5 but they live 50 miles and a ferry ride away.  If it's going to take me all day to get there and back, is it really worth it?  It's not just the price tag, but your time and effort as well. 

  • Bargain confidently.  In general, Americans are not comfortable with bargaining.  I know, because I'm one of them.  But with CL postings, I always ask if a specific lower price is possible - somehow over email it seems less intimidating and awkward.  For example, if they're offering a lot of paper for $25, I ask if they'll take $20 for it.  The worst they can do is say no.  And the secret truth is that I'd probably still buy it anyway.  But it's always nice to spend less money, if the person is willing to take it.  Settle on the price before you meet to pick up the item to avoid awkwardness.

  • Keep checking back.  In active locations like Seattle and the Bay Area, new listings are constantly posted.  Check often to get great deals and jump on them as soon as you can.

I've gotten some really great deals on Craigslist.  I especially like "grab bags" of supplies where I have a general idea of what I'm getting (paper, stickers, stamps) but don't know the specifics of everything that's included.  Part of the fun is getting everything home and then going through it!  I'll highlight a few of my really great finds in some upcoming blog posts.  Happy shopping!

Now, your turn!  Have you used Craigslist to buy supplies for your craft?  What were your big scores?


  1. I never thought of looking on craigslist for paper supplies. It might be a good resource for teachers who are looking for cheap craft supplies. Nice post.

  2. Thanks! Yeah, I've seen lots of kids' craft supplies as well, like big plastic beads, pipe cleaners, etc. that I think teachers could use.

  3. You might also find some supplies for free on Everything on the site is free, and your very first post has to be an offer. After that, you can just reply to anyone who has any stuff you want, or you can post Wanted: scrapbooking supplies or whatever it is you are looking for that day. Be sure to join a couple of locations like South King & Eastside because if one doesn't have it, the other one might. This is the new dumpster diving.


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