How to Buy Handmade on a Budget: 5 Tips for Keeping Costs Down

handmade denim wristlet by definition of self
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It sure is easy to say “Buy Handmade.” We want to find unique gifts, support artists, and make a difference with our money but finding room in the budget to do so is another matter entirely.

Handmade goods generally cost more. Why? They tend to be made from higher quality materials, made by people like you who deserve to be paid well for their labor, and made to last instead of thrown in the trash. The stuff in the dollar aisle just can’t compete.

But all the reasons to spend more don’t matter if you don’t have the money to spend.

Beyond looking for crazy sales (I believe firmly that artisans should be paid fairly for their work), there are numerous ways to fit buying handmade & independently produced goods into your budget.

1. Choose quality over quantity.

It may be cliche but it’s true more than ever. People aren’t interested in finding a place for lots of cheap gifts bought in haste. In fact, a lot of holiday stress is caused by just figuring out where to put the new stuff we get.

This year, elect to buy one great gift for each person on your list instead of many small gifts. Choose something that reflects your unique sensibility and complements the relationship you have with the receiver.

Instead of hunting out bargains, choose to hunt down something that’s “just right.”

2. Look for well made gifts that feature less expensive materials.

One of the benefits of buying handmade is that there’s most often better quality control and more polished technique. The stuff you buy will last longer and look better.

But just because you’re looking for high quality doesn’t mean you have to go top shelf. You can often choose a design that you like and find it in a variety of materials.

Gold out of your budget? Try silver or brass.

Leather too pricey? Opt for fabric.

Wool too steep? Go for acrylic.

While not every artisan will have every material available, shopping with these options in mind can help you stay within your budget and buy things that both you and your wallet will love.

3. Combine shipping.

Need to buy gifts for a longer list? Look for shops that offer discounts on shipping when purchasing multiple items. This is a great option for buying multiple hostess gifts or small items for a group.

You can also find crafters who have more than one shop. They’ll often combine shipping costs between their two shops – making it easier to find what you need AND save a dime (or more)!

4. Involve your giftee.

If you love crafting, DIY, or creating, it’s a good chance there are people on your list that share your passion.

Etsy is full of kits, patterns, and how tos that make great gifts and great prices. Your giftee gets the experience of actually creating the final product. You save money on the cost of labor. And the shop owner gets credit for an awesome idea. It’s a win-win-win.

5. Look for complimentary gift wrapping.

Let’s face it: time is money. And gift wrapping takes precious time, especially if you’re unskilled like I am!

Gift wrapping costs can really add up. And store bought gift wrapping just looks plain ordinary when compared with the gift that’s inside it!

Many shop owners create beautiful gift wrapping as part of the full package. Not only do they take pride in the things they create but they take pride in each of the finishing touches.All you need to do is open the shipping box and add the lovely package inside to your gift stash.

It’s certainly possible to buy high quality, handmade items on a budget. Learning a few tips & tricks to get the most out of your shopping will make it easier to stay on track.

Don’t be afraid to keep your expectations high as you look for a unique gift you’ll be proud to give!

Need some place to start? Check out Paper n Stitch or the Indie Fixx Galleria for great gift ideas!

8 thoughts on “How to Buy Handmade on a Budget: 5 Tips for Keeping Costs Down

  1. Great post!!!!! I love that you addressed that our desires to buy handmade don’t always match our budgets. One thing I would add that kind of goes along with #2 is buying prints instead of originals. Many artists offer both, and prints can be super duper affordable, but your recipient still gets something with a lot of heart and soul to put on their walls signed by a real person.

    This year I am going with strategy #1 – I am trying to buy one high quality handmade gift for each person, but my inner American doesn’t want to give just one thing to each person, so I am beefing up each gift with homemade edibles as well as some of my own craftiness – with an emphasis on the useful (ie decorated match boxes). That gives me the best of both worlds – I get to buy handmade on a budget and still give in the quantities I want to. Oh, and I am a notorious re-gifter (re-use/re-cycle, right?) but don’t tell anyone!

    Thanks so much for this post and these ideas!

    -Kristen

  2. fantastic post – I love your stance on quality. While many holiday presents can and will be bought at larger chains, there is so much more of an impact when people buy handmade. my little artist heart goes pitter pat!

  3. These are all great suggestions! I find that the biggest obstacle I encounter in convincing others to buy handmade is the quality-over-quantity issue. I know a lot of people who think it doesn’t “feel like Christmas” unless there are a lot of gifts under the tree, even if each gift is cheap and crappy and not anything the recipient wants! If we can get people to look past numbers and instead choose fewer but awesome-quality items, I think that will help the handmade cause a lot.

    It’s probably too late for this suggestion so close to the holidays, but: As a maker who enjoys doing custom work, I would have no problem with a customer asking me if I can make a more affordable version of a piece (note: NOT asking for a discount on an existing piece or implying that my work is not worth what I’m charging!). I might be able to use a less expensive metal, add fewer charms or beads, or use a less labor-intensive technique to make it work at the price they are able to pay. It truly doesn’t hurt to ask!

    1. Margaret, I LOVE bartering! One of my coworkers is an amazing baker, so she made me some sweet treats for a party I’m throwing this weekend and I’m designing a piece of jewelry for her. Everybody wins! :-)

  4. Less is more – so true but not always practiced. This year my siblings and I put a dollar limit on gifts. I have to be more cerative, but it is more meaningful than just buying anything.

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