Top Ten Ways I Budget for Quilting in Tough Times

Even with the tough economy, I’m still spending money on two things:  quilting and books.  I can give up eating out, pedicures, car detailing, my housekeeper, and Starbucks without feeling deprived.  But you take away my quilting and reading, and you’re messin’ with my priorities. My inner Madea might just come out.

I’ve long had a monthly budget for quilting and books that has remained constant over the last 15 years.  Yes, I actually have an amount set aside for how much I can spend on my quilting supplies and my books.  Here’s how I ensure I can continue to do that, even when times are tough:

  1. Evaluate spending:  is it an investment or a short-term purchase? Anything I buy to make a quilt I consider an investment, as the quilts I make will be around for decades.  My fabric gets used in multiple quilts, my sewing machine has served me well over a decade, batting will serve for a quilt, handbag, and maybe a table runner.  Same goes for books.  I buy books that I can use for years to come, and pass by the trendy stuff.  I don’t mind giving up a meal at a restaurant, as it’s a one-time purchase that’s over in 30 minutes.  Same goes for movies and other entertainment-type spending.
  2. Identify Your Currency. My currency is a fat quarter, and I measure every purchase I consider against that.  Here’s what I do:  a fat quarter costs around $2.50 in my area.  So for every item I consider buying, I ask myself:  how many fat quarters could I buy with that?  Which do I want more?  I’ve done this for years and it helps remind me of what my priorities are and to keep my spending in line with them.  I also taught my boys the value of money this way before they could really understand the concept.  What they did understand, from a very young age, was a Happy Meal from McDonald’s.  So if they wanted a toy, I would explain to them “That costs as much as 10 Happy Meals.  Do you think it’s worth that?”  They immediately got it and were able to make a judgement of worth based on that currency.  Often it was “No way!”
  3. Use a Rewards Credit Card for Everyday Purchases.  I signed up for a rewards credit card and use it for everyday expenses:  gas, groceries, clothing, haircuts, etc.  I pay it off every month, and use the reward points to buy clothes for my older son (who lasts in one size about 6 months), Christmas and birthday gifts, books, and other items.  Every purchase I made with my reward points freed up more money I can spend on fabric and books!
  4. Learn How to Make Great Meals at Home.  Go beyond Tuna Casserole and Hamburger Helper.  I rely on outstanding cookbooks and magazines that help to feed my family terrific meals that taste great, are healthy, and don’t break the bank.  Here are my trusted resources and my family’s favorites from them (links for each at the bottom of the blog post):
    • Rachel Ray’s 365,:  No Repeats (30 Minute Chicken Under a Brick, Buffalo Turkey Burgers, Chicken Noodle Bowl)
    • King Arthur Flour’s Whole Grain Baking (Irish Soda Bread, Bran Muffins, Whole Wheat Bread, Chewy Oatmeal Cookies)
    • Holly Clegg’s Trim & Terrific Diabetic Cooking (Spinach-Artichoke Dip, Chicken, Spinach, & Black Bean Enchiladas, Biscotti)
    • Desperation Dinners (White Chicken Chili, Turkey Chili, Lazy Lasagna, Fruit Salad)
    • Cook’s Illustrated Magazine (Roast Chicken over a Beer Can, Beef Tenderloin, Light Caesar Salad Dressing)
  5. Shop Local. I save on gas, get better customer service from bankers, grocery store clerks, hair stylists, pharmacists, and quilt shop owners who know my name.  They get my business.  Everybody wins.
  6. Enlist Family Help. We’ve cut back on allowances for our boys, which motivated them to tackle large jobs around the house they might have scoffed at earlier.  They wash cars, vacuum, organize the laundry room, put together my press kits, and earn money doing it.  Instead of outsourcing those jobs, I can pay my kids.  Again, everybody wins.
  7. Never Compromise My Integrity to Save Money.  I’m proud of the work I’ve done in Color Mastery, and I’ve made a financial investment in my business and my book to make it an outstanding resource.  I have many friends who are quilt book authors and pattern designers who depend on the income their work provides.  I never copy patterns or pages from books to give to friends.  If you like an author/designer’s work, support them and you’ll see more from them in years to come.  However, if they aren’t able to make their work profitable, we all lose.  They won’t be publishing future work, you won’t have their designs and advice, and our industry suffers.  Thank you for supporting the quilting industry by not copying patterns and books!
  8. Borrow.  My friends and I do this often with quilting books we just want to browse.  If I really like it, I’ll purchase my own copy.  When I lived in metro Atlanta, we had a great library system and I was there literally every week checking out books.  Unfortunately, the rural county we live in now has a meager library that doesn’t offer much in the way of resources.  So I borrow a lot from friends.  I also sign up for LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program (only for the serious book lover).  My husband often gets requests for tools friends need only for a day or two.  Again, only do this with friends you trust.
  9. Get Creative in Reducing Your Spending. Every family budget is different, and the ways I reduce spending may not work for you.  Write down what you spend for one month and review your purchases.  Where can you cut expenses without feeling deprived?  What areas are of utmost importance to you?  How can you redistribute your spending to still afford those?  Consider making a budget.  I know, they aren’t sexy or fun, but they work.
  10. Find a Financial Resource You Trust.  Not a financial planner, but a book, course, or expert whose ideas make sense to you.  When I stayed home to raise my children, we lost half our income, and I was determined to live well and save.  Our decisions didn’t reflect those of our friends and family (we lived in the same house for 12 years while everyone we knew moved up at least once, usually twice), but we had to follow our own path.  Here are some resources I’ve found helpful (links to each below):
    • Crown Ministries Christian Financial Management Course
    • Dave Ramsey
    • Tightwad Gazette
    • Miserly Moms
    • Your Money or Your Life
    • Clark Howard (he actually has a vacation home in our neighborhood)

I don’t consider myself an expert; rather, I’m a woman who worked her way through college, lived well on one income while raising my family, and have found the habits I cultivated during those times have served me well.  My hope is you can continue to quilt, read, and do whatever is essential to your well-being during these challenging economic times.