The struggle between wanting to buy ALL THE THINGS and also, y’know, actually saving money is real tough.
So many pretty paints, stamps, inks, and brushes! Not to mention washi tape, scrapbook paper, stickers, notebooks, fibers and yarn, beads and buttons and all other kinds of doo-dads to add to the craft pile. It’s so easy to keep buying, buying, buying and only worry about money when the credit card payment comes due.
Unfortunately, though craft stores are fun to visit and shop at– they’re also the most expensive place to buy new craft supplies. Even with a coupon or three, buying new supplies at barely-discounted prices can quickly add up.
What if I told you there was an easy way to immediately save money on art supplies? And that you could do it from the comfort and safety of your own home?
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Save big money on art supplies
Once upon a time, I REALLY wanted a set of Dylusions inks sprays. I loved the colors, loved how easy they were to use, loved the effects you could get with inks + water + stamps. I thought they’d be great to use in my mixed media journals, so I had to get my hands on some.
There were two major problems. First, I didn’t want to buy them at retail cost. Each bottle retails for about $6, which would add up quick if I got multiple colors. Second, I wanted to have an actual good selection of colors to choose from, and my local craft store never seemed to have any in stock. Can’t use a coupon if the product isn’t in the store!
Eventually I realized that, hello, I could buy a set of them online. Maybe I could even get them on sale, or on a website that uses coupons. So I checked the typical online craft stores and…ugh. No sales. Lots of product, but at a higher price point than I could justify spending.
Then I remembered my secret weapon: eBay.
If you haven’t heard of it, eBay is an online ecommerce site where individual people and business list new and used goods online for sale. It’s like Etsy, but for anything and everything. It’s a great place to find collectibles, home goods, clothing, and even cars! I’d never used it to buy art supplies before, but I didn’t think it’d hurt to try.
So, I checked on eBay for the Dylusions spray inks.
And wow! Someone had an entire set of 12+ ink bottles listed for a VERY good price. True, they were used, but there was still plenty of ink left and the price was so good that I honestly didn’t care if I wasn’t the first person to use them.
I ended up spending less than $2/bottle for the set, saving enough money to be able to buy ANOTHER set later on.
Ever since finding that first set on eBay, I’ve been finding amazing used or deeply discounted art supplies and adding them to my collection. And I’ve found some really good stuff! Like: 12 sets of Dylusions rubber stamps, a set of Dylusions paints (new and unused!) and a new box of Dina Wakley’s Scribble Sticks. Fantastic!
eBay’s not the only eCommerce marketplace that has amazingly good deals on new or gently used art supplies!
Etsy is the standard for art supplies shopping now, especially if you want interesting papers or ephemera.
Mercari lets you send offers for items, sometimes scoring even better deals.
Facebook Marketplace lets you search for local deals, which can be a big benefit if you need to buy in bulk. If you can pick it up in person, you won’t have to pay shipping!
Craigslist sometimes has good stuff in its Free section. If you need vintage books for your collages, you can usually grab a box of them for free or for very cheap.
Tips for Buying Secondhand Online
If you’d like to save a little money and try shopping for secondhand art supplies online, here’s some tips:
Read the description.
Whatever you’re buying, wherever you’re buying it, be sure to read the seller’s description on that item. It’ll give you a lot of valuable info and ease a lot of worry.
Is the paint new and unopened? Read the description.
How much ink is left in the bottles? Read the description.
Are these pen nibs in good working condition or are they being sold only for decor? Read the description.
Were these fabrics stored in a house with twelve cats for twenty years? You got it: read the description.
You get the picture. It’s important to have all the facts for a specific item before committing to buy it, especially if it’s used. And if an item doesn’t have any useful info in the description, feel free to contact the seller and ask. The worst that’ll happen is that they won’t respond and you’ll have to find someone else to buy from.
Search brand + keywords to narrow down listings.
If you ONLY want to look for used supplies, be sure to include that in your search (or use it as a filter if the site will let you). It’s a simple enough thing, but it’s the most important step in this whole process.
Example: search for “used” or “partially used,” or “crafter’s lot.” Or maybe “opened but unused,” which would be a bonus because it’s basically new, then.
Search for misspellings of brand names.
Some platforms will automatically bring the correct spelling of the thing instead of the mis-spelling, but I’ve found several good things on Mercari because they’ve been misspelled or put under the wrong brand name. For instance: searching for “Dina Wakely” (as opposed to the correct “Dina Wakley”) brought up different items!
If you’re an eBay shopper, FatFingers.com can help you find eBay listings with misspelled brand names. Type in the correct spelling of what you’re looking for, and it’ll automatically search different misspellings for you.
Check different applications and sites.
Though it’s easier to just stick with your favorite website or app, I recommend checking at least three. Sometimes a specific item will be in higher demand on a specific site, and so the price gets raised higher than on other sites. For instance, paper ephemera tends to be higher-priced on Etsy than on other sites, for whatever reason.
Be sure to also check for coupons or cash-back codes to use on those sites as well. Rakuten is a good resource to find discount codes for eBay and Etsy, for instance.
>>> Never used Rakuten before? Use this link to get $10 off your first purchase.
Sometimes you’ll be able to get a promo code during holidays or major shopping events. Be sure to check your email on those days and see if Mercari, eBay, or Etsy sent you a discount code to use.
Some apps also let you send in offers to the sellers, which can be basically the same as using a coupon. Sellers will accept them, more often than not!
For instance, I sent in a (relatively) low offer for a set of new Dylusions paints on eBay, sure it would be rejected…and it was ACCEPTED. You never know what people are okay with, so send in an offer and see what happens.
Set search alerts.
Sometimes, the thing you want isn’t available on an app yet. Or sometimes it’s REALLY EXPENSIVE (for whatever reason). It can be annoying to check for new listings on multiple apps or websites every day, and it’s tempting to give up and just buy the thing full price. However, if you’ve gone this long without buying that stamp, be patient for a bit longer and use the app to your advantage.
Use a search alert to get updates on when new items are listed and keep an eye open for deals.
eBay and Mercari have specific settings where you can get daily alerts on new listings matching a specific keyword. Facebook Marketplace will also alert you to new listings, and Etsy has a “favorite” button you can use on a search term. These will save you time and energy by doing your searching for you!
And that’s the secret: Buy Secondhand.
I know this whole thing can seem daunting if you’ve never bought a used (or nearly-new) craft supply before. That said, once you’ve jumped in and bought your first couple super-cheap inks or pens or whatever, you’ll be addicted to the savings and the rush of finding a good deal.
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