Money Matters: How, when and where should I spend my sewing budget?

budget types.jpg

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about how I spend my fabric budget. How can I get the wardrobe and the most fun from my limited funds?

Right now I have a weekly budget, and I spend it almost exclusively at the local chain store. Fabricland has great sales (I usually buy at 40% or 50% off) and occasional gems. Recently though, I’ve been disappointed more often then not. I go in with money to spend, and can’t find any fabric worth buying! It’s demoralizing and makes me cranky, and my stash is running dangerously low. 

So what are my other options? There are other fabric stores in surrounding cities, but the selection and prices aren’t what I want. I could buy online, but the shipping is awful! 

To show you what I mean, here are two sample order from (left) and Girl Charlee (right). Both orders are for about the same amount… but just look at the shipping they charge!

shipping costs

Over $20 to ship less than $40 of fabric? That’s a 50% increase in the price of each metre I buy! Plus, you never know when customs will slap an extra $20 charge on a package. There aren’t any comparable online fabric stores in Canada, so there is no way around the international shipping if I buy online. 

Or is there????

It recently occurred to me that I’m only 2 hours from the American border, and I could have things shipped to a post box in Buffalo. My brother-in-law goes cross-border shopping at least once a month, and he’s an awesomely kind guy who would pick things up for me. My husband loves driving, and even with extra time added in for a border crossing it could definitely be a day trip! COuld this be my way to avoid shipping costs but not be limited to the fabrics I can buy locally? 

Here are the pros and cons, as I see them: 

weekly monthly

If I could make the Buffalo PO box work, then it seems like a solid option! Maybe not every month, but once a season? Of course you can only bring so much back with you after a short trip over the border, but my budget is small enough that I don’t think that will be a problem. I just need to make sure that I can get a cheap/free post box (which I’m reliably assured I can) and that my stuff would be help there for a few weeks until someone can pick it up. 

Of course, the down side of ordering online is that some of what you get is crap. I’d say that the handful of times I’ve ordered online (and paid the awful shipping) I’ve had at least 10-20% of it be unusably thin knit material. I’m ok with that though as long as the rest is good! Maybe with more experience with different stores I’ll get better at reading between the lines on the descriptions to really know what I’m getting. 

The beauty of pooling my weekly budget into a monthly budget is that I could buy lots at once, and really stock on impossible-to-get-locally stuff. Even if I decide to suck it up and pay for shipping instead, I think that doing a single big order in a month might end up giving me more fabric I really love, instead of buying “good enough” bits and pieces every week. 

Obviously my cross-border method won’t work for many other sewists – it’s all about location! So how, when and where do you spend your sewing budget? Do you shop locally, or order online? Buy small amounts regularly, or save up for binge purchases? SO much depends on what’s available locally to you, and what shipping is like in your country. I’m really curious to hear how you make it work!

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