Given the current state of the economy, more than ever, we could all use a stress release—and what better way than by doing our favorite crafts? One of the biggest complaints about starting a new hobby is cost. However, some hobbies are relatively inexpensive to start, and you can find ways to save money while doing them. So if you’re starting a new hobby or you just need some more supplies, check out these ideas.
1. Get free stuff on Freecycle.org or swap with a friend.
If you haven’t found Freecycle.org,  run right out and sign up. On the front page of the site, just find a group in your local area, you can then sign up (usually for a Yahoo! group) with people close to you. You have to give away something to start, but Freecycle.org is a wonderful community where all you have to do is ask. I find that people are really generous. If you say you’re starting a hobby, there are plenty of people out there who started the same hobby years ago and gave up or inherited the junk from their grandmother that’s now cluttering up their closet!
The same goes for friends. You might be surprised at who has craft items sitting around that she never uses. She might be thrilled to get rid of them and see you make something nice! I have received old wedding dresses and other clothing items (prom dresses, sweaters, ethnic pieces) that I reuse in my projects—talk about gorgeous materials for free!
2. Reuse and recycle.
Be creative with your own materials. You may be able to save quite a bit by using recycled wood, textiles, plastic, metal, old sweaters, and anything else you may use. One of the reasons I love crazy-quilting is that you use up every scrap of fabric. It’s rare I throw anything out (ask my husband!); as a result, I have a lot of craft supplies at my fingertips!
3. Shop around Craigslist.org, eBay.com, or Etsy.com.
Craigslist.org can be an equally great source for people dumping their craft supplies. In this bad economy, people are trying to scrape up every cent they can find, and often they’re doing that by clearing out their clutter on Craigslist.org.
eBay.com  also has bargains, but you’ll need to comparison shop here. Some retailers on Ebay.com charge as much as other Internet retailers. However, I have found the bead supplies and some other craft supplies are cheapest on eBay.com.
Etsy.com also has some wonderful and high-quality supplies that you can get at a great bargain. If the bargains aren’t as great on Etsy.com, the unique and interesting items are—and you’re supporting a starving artist like yourself!
On both eBay.com and Etsy.com, be sure to ask about bargains for shipping multiple items from the same seller. It can save you a lot of money.
4. Buy in quantity, check clearance deals, and scour the Internet for bargains.
Often, if you buy supplies in bulk you can save money. Comparison shop! The Internet makes this fast and easy and you’ll be amazed how much prices vary. Always check the shipping costs though, because on the Internet, someone might charge less for the items and make up for it on their shipping costs.
Many large chains, like Hobby Lobby, Michaels, and Jo-Anne’s, offer comparable prices on certain craft supplies. However, if you keep an eye out for sales, special deals, and coupons, you can get those supplies for next to nothing! I recently got a wonderful huge craft bag for $7. Comparable bags (that I didn’t like) ran as much as $40.
Don’t forget to check the resell section of Amazon.com  as well, especially for craft books. People will clear out their books, or a book reseller will list it for a fraction of what the book retailed for, so you can stock up on inspiration as well as supplies!
5. Scour thrift stores.
Thrift stores have big bags of craft supplies, and usually a section with patterns, supplies, and other great craft items. Some thrift stores are better than others, and remember to check back often as their supplies change. They also have discount days—ask the checkout person what days they mark down the craft supplies and go back and clear them out!
6. Check estate and garage sales.
I’m always amazed at how much people just give away at estate and garage sales. I once walked into an estate sale with two rooms full of fabric. Dealers, who often attend these sales, generally don’t want small amounts of fabric, patterns, yarn, etc.—go early to get the great stuff, but go back near the end. You will often find that they will bag up quantities of things for almost nothing (a dollar a bag or so).
Don’t forget if you sort through your stuff and find things you’re not using to pass it along to someone else who might use it. It will reduce your clutter and pass along your supplies to someone who really wants it—and maybe can’t afford it otherwise. The craft community is a sharing community—all you have to do is ask!
Photo courtesy of Frequently Wrong but Never In Doubt