Welcome to this episode, and a special welcome as well to the first ever sponsor of The Craft Room Podcast … a stamp company whose clever products I love to stock … Altenew! Altenew and I have an amazing offer for listeners, so keep listening for that later in this episode.
So … cost vs value. This is something I mention a lot on the podcast, but have never talked specifically about, so we’re going to talk about it today.
In a nutshell, the cost of something is the price you pay for it. The value is what the product is worth to you.
I first really became conscious of this a number of years ago, when I was at a craft show with a lady I knew (an avid stamper, card maker and scrapbooker). Late in the day she spent a lot of time at one stamp display, looking for a golf themed stamp. She needed to make a card for an upcoming birthday party, and the recipient was really into golf. This was easily 20-25 years ago when all the stamps were wood mounted red rubber, which took up a lot of space, and cost a pretty penny. I mean … I don’t know if they really cost a lot, or whether that was just me on my very limited budget thinking they cost a lot. Regardless, wood mounted stamps were kind of expensive because you’d get a single image for about $20, and you really would have to use it a lot to get your moneys worth. I remember thinking about that, as I was just getting into stamping, and was constantly on the look-out for stamps that would be good value. I wasn’t necessarily looking for the cheapest stamps, although that was a factor, but I was looking for something I thought I would use a lot. So … my friend bought the golfing stamp, and I remember being at an event maybe 6 months later and bumping into her for a catch up. I asked her how the golfing card came out, and she said it turned out great, and he really liked it. I also asked her if she made a lot of golf themed cards or projects, and she said no … she just made the one. That moment kind of stuck with me, because I was amazed that she would spend $22 on one golfing stamp, but only used it once. When you buy one thing, and use it once, then the project you make is pretty expensive!
As you know, some craft supplies are consumable, and some are reusable. For me, a stamp falls into the category of reusable, because you can use it over and over, many dozens or even hundreds of times. So that kind of got me thinking about cost vs value, because that golfing themed birthday card she made … when you factor in the consumables plus the stamp especially purchased … it probably cost her $25. It would have been more cost effective to walk into the newsagents and buy a golf themed card for $5. I know that a handmade card and a shop-bought card are very different …. you have the personal touch with a handmade card, and it can be customised, and for her, that was the goal and therein lay the value.
Many years later I was listening to the Organize 365 podcast, and Lisa was talking about cost vs value, and her example was talking about shoes. This is when it really sunk in for me in a lot of aspects of my life. She talked about how her everyday shoes were cheap shoes, like $20, but when she had a wedding or fancy event to attend, she’d go out and buy a pair of $200 shoes. The thing is … those $20 shoes were being worn every day, and if they lasted for a year, she got 365 wears out of those shoes. In stark contrast, those fancy $200 shoes, which were not comfortable, would only be worn once, which means those shoes cost $200 per use, whereas the cheap everyday shoes cost 5c per use. This is when I looked at it and went “Ohhhhhhhhh” because I had been doing that, and it was time to stop. I was wearing cheap shoes all the time, and they hurt my feet! I realised that this is where I needed to really consider not just the cost, and the cost per use, but also the broader cost of aching feet … plus I should invest in better quality shoes that would support my feet and look a bit nicer. Did I action this straight away? Of course not, but once I did find better shoes that were super comfy, you bet I bought those, and yes … I wear them every day. I also started looking at my craft purchases the same way.
When it comes to craft supplies, I started a little experiment where I popped a little sticky note in the front of all my stamps, dies, stencils, etc. Each time I used the set, I’d add a line to the sticky note. I was surprised at how little value I was getting from my products, and that’s when I changed my accumulation behaviour in my craft room. I wanted to be getting better value from those things I already had, and be sure that I would also get my moneys worth from any new products I added.
There are a lot of different ways you can accumulate your craft stash. Sometimes you buy them … it might be a calculated purchase, or perhaps an impulse buy. Sometimes they are gifted to us, perhaps as a birthday or Christmas gift, or because someone is destashing and they pass the supplies they no longer want or need on to us. Sometimes it’s leftovers from projects. Sometimes it’s the bargain table … and we need to talk about the bargain table, because I’m pretty sure someone out there listening had an instant flash-back to something they picked up from a clearance bin or bargain table.
When you make a purchase at a bargain table, it’s for one of a few reasons, but dominantly it’s because it’s cheap, and it’s there, and it is really hard to pass up a bargain. Some people have no problem passing up a bargain, but if you’re like me and maybe grew up with not a lot of money, or are currently experiencing a phase of life where the budget is really tight, a bargain is a beautiful thing. But is it good value? I’m going to spill all my dirty craft secrets here, because I still have products in my stash that I picked up on a bargain table. Some of those were bought 10, 20 or 30 years ago … yes … I have stuff I picked up on a bargain table 30 years ago at a craft show. Now I have to ask myself … if I bought that and I haven’t used it yet, was it really a bargain? Did I just blow someone’s mind? Is that the quote of the day? Seriously … if you don’t use it, is it a bargain?
If you make a discovery in that clearance section or on that bargain table, my hot tip is to pick it up, and maybe walk around with it for a little while while you have a little conversation with yourself. Do you really want the product, or do you just want the dopamine hit? Is the discovery of the bargain the thrill you seek or is it using the product that will bring you joy? Do you need it? Will you use it? Do you already have another version of this at home? Can you use the rule of three on it? Sometimes you’ll take it home, and sometimes you’ll put it back, and only you can know what is right for you in that moment. Knowing yourself, knowing what you have, knowing your habits, knowing what kind of projects you have coming up and being real with yourself about it is definitely key to getting really good value from the things that you own.
Now, I’ve bought a lot of things, and I am hoarding a lot of craft supplies. Sure, not to the point where one day my husband is going to discover stuff hidden all over the house (ok, maybe there’s one suitcase of yarn under the bed that he doesn’t know about, although if he’s still listening this far into the episode, I guess he knows now!). I’ve been transparent about what I own, what it’s for, and what it’s worth. Bottom line … I’ve got a lot of stuff, it’s an industry perk. When I was moving my card making and scrapbooking gear from a weird little desk set-up that I had off the side of my kitchen into the new craft cupboard installed in our extension, it became apparent exactly how much I had. And now that I had a larger space, I accumulated even more stuff to fill that space. My mum always says that your belongings will expand to fit the space available, and in my life experience I believe that to be 100% correct. It shouldn’t have surprised me, but I found papers I had bought when I was doing a lot of scrapbooking, which I picked up for 50c or 10c each, and this was a time when a single sheet of 12×12 pattern paper cost $1.50 each. I have always found it hard to leave a great bargain on the table, but looking back, I really wish I had bought supplies with a specific purpose, rather than just getting as much as I could. Don’t get me wrong, I did do that sometimes, but when I found scrapbooking papers on clearance at Spotlight for 10c per sheet, I walked out of there with so much paper! I might have only spent $5.00, but I had 50 sheets of paper. How much of that did I use? Not much. Did I just add it to the already large collection of paper I had at home? Yes I did. Is it still sitting there? Yes it is. Will I ever be able to use it all in a lifetime? Probably not. Do I scrapbook anymore? No, I don’t. I would like to do it again, but I abandoned traditional scrapbooking a long time ago, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to pick it up again. I have hopes that I will, and my gut says I think I can, but I have all this paper, and looking back, I wish I had done more planning, and purchased to be more project specific.
Here’s the problem. When you accumulate a lot of stuff, especially from bargain tables … as satisfying as it is to go home with 50 sheets of paper for $5 instead of coming out of the specialty store with 4 sheets of paper for $6, if I don’t use those 10c sheets, then that’s money wasted. The longer they sit in the stash, the more damaged they become. So the more often I move those papers around looking for something else, they start to become dog-eared, they start to get wrinkled, and if there’s any kind of daylight on them at all, they start to become sun-faded, damaged, and let’s face it … those patterns are going to go out of style. Craft supplies are like toys (and Toy Story taught us this so well) … they’re supposed to be played with. So when I see that bargain table, I really have to ask myself if I have a use for it, which is really hard, but I do it. I don’t know if it’s my age, my phase of life, maybe it’s that I’ve pretty much bought it all and tried it all, but I can walk into Spotlight looking for something specific, and walk out with that one thing, or walk out with nothing at all. If you had told me twenty years ago that I would be able to walk into Spotlight or a craft show and then walk out with nothing, I would have scoffed. But now it’s true. I don’t need those things anymore because I’m happy with the supplies I have, and I know that just because something is sitting on the bargain table, I don’t have to buy it.
Does that mean I don’t get suckered by a good bargain every now and then? No! Of course not! My current vice is digital craft supplies. I have an all access subscription on Creative Fabrica, and you should see my downloads … I have 53 pages of downloads (and there are 20 per page). Does it take up space in my house? No it doesn’t. Does it sit safely on its own special hard-drive? Yes it does. Do I use everything that I download? Ummm … not always. These days I use most of it, because I download it for a specific reason, and a lot of the time the only reason I don’t use it is because after I download it, I find something better suited to the project that I have in mind. And occasionally I’ll download something, then abandon the project, or keep it for later and never get back to it. But when I’m looking at Creative Fabrica, because I have the subscription, I’m not looking at individual prices. When I first found CF, and didn’t have a subscription, I was lured by low prices because they have some good sales (eg instead of paying $6 for a clipart bundle it might be on sale for 99c and that’s hard to walk away from). Once I got the subscription, I didn’t have to hunt the sales, which saved me a lot of time. Sure, I was paying $19 per month (which was already a discounted price), but I was downloading way more than that each month and, most importantly, I was using it. Luckily for me last year they brought in an annual subscription, and when I paid for a full year, the saving per month was phenomenal. It cut $151 off my annual cost. Then they had a clever follow up offer to add another year pre-paid for an insanely low cost ($30 less than the first annual subscription), and now I’m paid up to September 2024. Of course, I mostly use it for my business, but I also use it for my own personal crafting. If you’re unfamiliar with digital craft resources and what they have to offer, I’ll pop a link in the show notes and blog to episode 27. I will also link to my Digital Craft Tutorial playlist on YouTube, which I am adding to every month. Now, full disclosure, I am a Creative Fabria affiliate, but I am also a very happy subscriber. I pay the same prices as everyone else for my all access subscription, and I get amazing value. I actually once had a look at the full price of all the products I’d downloaded, and it was over 100 times more than I actually spent for my subscription … so, yeah … I’m getting my moneys worth there. So this is a prime example of cost vs value. If I was paying $19 per month, but only downloading a free font and a couple of clipart packs that I never used, then while it might be a low price, it’s not great value. However, for less than $7 per month I am downloading dozens of fonts, cliparts, digital papers & stamps and more AND I am using them … and that, for me, is great value.
So when you are thinking about what you’re going to purchase for your craft, it’s worth weighing up cost vs value. Let’s say you have always wanted to try stencilling, but money is tight. First of all, I’d recommend listening to episode 28, which is all about stencilling. When you go to buy your first stencil, there’s nothing wrong with prioritising price and hitting the clearance section first, then choosing the best of what’s on sale. I mean, if you’re not sure if you’re going to like using it, then you’re not spending a huge amount to try a new product or technique, and that $6 stencil was an inexpensive lesson in what you don’t like. If it turns out you do love stencils, then you can go get the stencil of your dreams. And then sometimes you just fall in love with a stamp of a girl with a twitching eye, and you don’t know what you’ll use it for, but you now have a cosmic connection and must own it. I’ve been in both places, and can firmly say, there’s no universal right or wrong. This is what I mean when I’m talking about cost vs value. There’s not one hard and fast rule about what is good value for everyone. Only you can decide what is good value for you. I have people who have told me that I am absolutely nuts for saying this, because I own a craft store, and I sell craft supplies, so surely I just want my customers to buy as much as possible. Oh, they are so wrong. I would rather you buy something that you get great value from or have fallen desperately in love with, than buy a bunch of stuff you never use, which makes you feel a little bit guilty because you feel like you’re not getting good value from that purchase. That’s why it’s my goal, as a shop owner, to bring in products that are not only great quality, but that I know people will love and use often. When I do live unboxings, I love to talk about different uses for each product, because I either thought about it when I made the purchase, or it suddenly comes to me when I finally see it in person.
So, let’s talk about a fun technique I use to help me make decisions about my craft purchases. I have what I call the rule of 3. Jennifer McGuire has the rule of 5, but I have the rule of three because it’s flexible. When I’m looking at a product, can I think of 3 different occasions I can use this for? Can I think of 3 different people I can use this for? Can I think of 3 different colour schemes I can use with this? Can I think of 3 different projects to make with this? Can I think of 3 different techniques I can use with this? If I’m not immediately coming up with ideas, and trust me, as a person with aphantasia (which means I can’t see pictures or invent from scratch in my mind), this is challenging. However, I know my techniques, I know what I have in my stash at home, I know which colours work well together … so if I’m looking at buying a stamp set, I’ll ask myself a bunch of questions, and you can ask yourself the same questions. If you’re going to a big craft store, logging into your favourite online craft store or going to a craft show, prep yourself ahead of time. The first thing you can do is go through your stash. What do you have a lot of? Where is there a gap in your stash? For example, maybe you realise you don’t have a lot of birthday themed sets, but you want to make a lot of birthday cards this year, which has been my primary card-making focus since releasing The Big Birthday Box late last year (see them here). So … make a note for yourself so you are shopping for something different to what you already own, and that you know you’ll get plenty of use from. If you look, and realise you have a lot of bunny stamps, because you love rabbits and tend to buy more because you love them SO MUCH, now is the time to ask yourself if you really need another bunny stamp set. Instead, maybe there’s something that would enhance them, like a grass stencil or stamp set so you can build a bunny scene. Maybe you have lots of cartoony bunnies, but you’d like a more realistic bunny to add to your collection, so you can enjoy the hunt for that (because sometimes the hunt is the fun part).
Which reminds me … I can’t go without mentioning the joy that is the treasure hunt. In going through your stash to see what you already have, you might discover that you have things that you’re not really using. In that case you can make a note to use those items more often (because they’re forgotten treasures), or destash them (which can finance that new thing you will actually use and love).
Another tool to help you make a decision about the versatility of a product is to see what kind of tutorials, finished project images, videos and education there is around that particular product. For example, in the paper crafting world, some stamp companies have amazing design teams who provide loads of photos of projects made with a specific product. The different interpretations provide loads of inspiration, and when you look further afield, the company may also have instructional videos, blog posts or classes you can take. One of my favourite things that Altenew does is provide a fold-out booklet that acts as a backing card in their stamp packaging. They have project ideas, colour suggestions and most importantly … layering guides, all of which are incredibly helpful. Many brands have a number of amazing YouTubers creating projects from a single product, all with a different spin on them. You can see how others are using a set when you look on Google Images or Pinterest, and that’s often how I find ideas to get more use from that set I just had to have.
This is a good time for us to talk about maths, and I have 2 examples for you. One is a tool, and the other is a consumable product.
This year there have been some really great tools released by a number of stamping companies, and the first one with big impact in the stamping industry was released by our sponsor today, Altenew. It’s called the StampWheel … a stamp positioning tool, different to anything already on the market. Altenew first previewed the StampWheel at the NAMTA show in April 2022, and this year we were finally able to get our hands on it. This is a well thought-out and cleverly designed stamp positioning tool, and it’s a perfect example of comparing cost to value. The first thing that draws most people’s attention is the cost. It’s a pricey tool, sitting at US$100 when you buy direct from Altenew, and for my Australian customers it’s $185 … and that’s before post. To justify that purchase, we need to consider the value that it offers. In other words, you need to consider if this tool is worth the money you spend on it, and the space required to use and store it, and the answers to those questions are going to be different for everyone. If you’re not a stamper at all, you don’t stamp very much or you already own a stamp positioning tool that you are 100% happy with, then obviously this isn’t the tool for you. However, if you wish there was a way to stamp that wasn’t so hard on your hands, that would allow you to stamp without dropping the stamp on your paper, or re-stamp an image if you mis-stamped it the first time, then this tool is now becoming valuable to you. If you love layered stamps, and wish there was a way you could just keep your cardstock in one place, but have all of the layering stamps lined up to stamp in the right order without constantly peeling them off and replacing them, this tool is valuable to you. If you want a stamp positioning tool that you can also use for stenciling, or a tool with a base that will keep your cardstock firmly in place, if you love big batch stamping … the value just went up again. The math comes in when we look at the cost per use. If you buy a $185 stamping tool, and only use it once … that’s $185 per use. Use it ten times … that’s $18.50 per use. Use it 100 times … that’s $1.85 per use. Use it 500 times … that’s 37c per use. Imagine yourself using it, and ask yourself … is this going to make my crafting experience easier, more accessible, more fun and less frustrating, and do I have the space to store it? If the answer is yes, then chances are you will find this tool is going to improve your stamping experience, and therefore be good value for the price.
Now, speaking of Altenew, as I mentioned earlier, todays episode is sponsored by Altenew. If you’re unfamiliar with them, Altenew has been around since 2014 and are renowned for their layering stamps, dies & stencils, detailed embossing folders, coordinating ranges and innovative tools. Now, I am an Altenew stockist here in Australia, but I know that people are listening in all over the world, so the lovely folks at Altenew and I have put our heads together to come up with a special offer from each of us for podcast listeners. When you shop with either myself at www.dawnlewis.com.au or Altenew at www.altenew.com, you can use the code ALTDAWN10%OFF to receive a 10% discount on Altenew products. The code is valid up to 9th August 2023, and as a bonus for my Australian customers, I will extend that code to any pre-orders that are received and paid in full from today up until that date when you leave it in the comments section of your pre-order form (and if you already have an Altenew order in with me, if you send an email or DM mentioning the code, I will apply it to your existing pre-order). Those who have been shopping with me for a long time will know that this is the first time I’ve had a discount code like this, so if you’ve had some Altenew on your wish list, now is the time to add to cart or use the pre-order form. Huge thanks to Altenew for being part of the podcast today!
Now back to the math, and let’s switch from re-useable tools to single use consumable craft products, like yarn, fabric, thread, paper, adhesive, etc. When I’m considering this kind of purchase, it’s about two things … how many things can I make with this (quantity), or what is the outcome I want from this project (quality). For example … from a piece of pattern scrapbooking paper, I can get anywhere from 6 to 12 cards from a 12×12 sheet. That’s great value for me, because I can make 6-12 people happy with handmade card in their letterbox. If I’m looking for quantity, I can stretch a 10c bargain table piece of paper a long way, by using smaller amounts to create more cards. However if I’m working on a project where I value quality over quantity, I might invest in a full priced piece of paper, maybe one with foiling, and make fewer cards for extra special occasions. Which I choose will depend on a variety of factors, like my budget, the time I have available, who the card is for, or how much I really really really love that paper but it’s my last sheet. Also, true story, I used to use the cheapest adhesive I could for my scrapbooking, and now literally all of the pieces on several scrapbooking layouts are now laying loose in the bottom of their page protectors, because the glue has failed. I now need to go through and use a good quality glue to reconstruct them.
Another example … I have crocheted many a blanket from cheap acrylic yarn from Spotlight, but recently I started using more expensive yarn because I wanted a blanket that doesn’t pill and matt the first time it’s used or washed. I made a blanket for my Mum for Christmas a couple of years ago (photo below), and used a gorgeous cotton yarn. Sure, it cost more, but it still looks as perfect today as the day I gave it to her, and that longevity is where the value lies. However, if I’m crocheting a little mousie toy for the cat, then I’m going to use the cheap yarn, because the cat has no discerning taste when it comes to yarn … she just wants to swat a toy mouse under the fridge as quickly as possible, then cry because her toy mouse is under the fridge. Weighing cost and quality on consumables comes down to the individual project, and the longevity I want from the products I’m using.
As a specific example, about 20 years ago I won a trip to Fraser Island. Naturally I took a lot of photos, and it was a once in a lifetime trip for us. Rather than making random scrapbooking layouts, I wanted to do a dedicated album. I carefully considered the photos, drafted the journaling, and sketched every layout. Then I bought a special album, coordinating papers and embellishments, and a foam alphabet stamp set so that the album had a cohesive look from beginning to end. I paid full price for everything so compared to my regular bargain basement buys, the cost of this entire album was pretty high. However, 20 years later, I love that album, and have long forgotten the price, because the beautifully captured and preserved memories were worth it… and that is where the true value lies for me.
As we wind up today, I have one final idea for you. Getting together and crafting with a friend is another way to get good value from your crafty toys. Call up your stamping friends, your crochet friends, your embroidery friends, your painting friends … and tell them to bring their 3 favourite stamp sets, yarn, colour combinations, threads and techniques over on Friday night for pizza and card making. You can tell each other what you love about these sets, this yarn, this brush, this technique, you might learn about a new brand or try a new type of product you’ve never seen before. You can learn new things, share ideas and encourage each other. Because value is about more than money … it’s about learning new things, time spent with friends and making something that lasts, be that a blanket for mum, or memories of a family vacation. There is value to be found in sharing your knowledge, experience and resources with your crafting friends (and the wider crafting community), and I hope you find great value in your crafting experience today.
Thanks again to Altenew for sponsoring this episode today, and don’t forget to use your Altenew discount code by 9th August 2023 – ALTDAWN10%OFF
Altenew category in my shop (for Australian shoppers)
Altenew (for International shoppers)