Ways to Save Money Art Journaling

Art journaling is more than just a hobby for me. It’s my favorite way to be a creative explorer, it’s cathartic, it’s fun, and, well, the truth is, I love buying ALL THE SUPPLIES! Paints, pens, journals, stickers…. This list can (and does!) go on and on! (Want proof? Check out this giant list of art journal supplies.) But today I want to talk about ways to save money art journaling (and in some cases, help save the planet, too!)

Ways to Save Money Art Journaling: Use What You Have

Using what you have on hand is probably one of the easiest ways to save money art journaling! I’m always trying to think of new ways to use old things – or things headed for the trash or recycle bins – in new ways.

Here are some ideas for using what you have:

Instead of buying plastic (or other) wells for water dishes for your paint brush, use glass jars that were headed to the bin instead. Some of the glass jars I like (because they’re generally not too small or too big) are jelly jars, mayonnaise jars (I buy my mayo from Trader Joe’s, and those are perfect), salsa jars, etc. I also save tiny jars with tight lids whenever I can to store leftover oil paints.

In fact, sometimes you only need a tiny bit of water, and a small space for some paint(s). For those times, I also save the lids from many jars. In this case, I like bigger lids with a semi-tall lip (like the lids from peanut butter, spaghetti, and/or jars from bigger/bulk products that I buy at Costco.)  

The parchment paper you have in the kitchen works in your art journals (at least) a few different ways: You can use it as a tracing paper or as a transparent paper or page in your art journal. And you can also use it in between pages, especially if you think your paint might still be wet, or if you’ve used a loose medium (like lead pencil, pastels, even crayons in some cases) and you don’t want it transferring to the other side.

If you want to try making your own rubber stamps, try carving into things around the house, first. Some ideas that come to mind are potatoes (a long-time favorite for carving and stamping!) and cork. But I’ve seen people get creative and carve into Styrofoam (like the trays meat comes in, after it’s been fully washed and sanitized), etc.

I never used to use stickers in my art journals, but now I not only use them (often!) in my art journals, but in my planner as well. Which means I’ve purchased quite a few (ha!) packs. I started storing them in a box on my desk, but they quickly outgrew that. So I decided to store them in a pretty bowl my grandmother left me. Not only am I now using and appreciating the bowl all the time, I can easily see and grab the stickers, too.

A long time ago I bought some butcher paper to place over my work surface to spare my desk. But I now realize, I never needed it! I get enough junk mail (for free, of course), so why would I ever use good, clean, brand new paper for that? Now I use catalog pages and other mailers to protect other surfaces, and/or for putting glue on smaller images for collage. PRO TIP: Only use glossy catalogs and mailers. Those that are more like newspaper will smudge and lift and make not only you, but your artwork, a blurry mess.

Make your own stencils. Stencils can be really expensive, so why not cut your own? Print or draw on cardstock paper (other thicker) and (carefully!) cut it using an exacto knife on a self-healing cutting mat. Depending on the design (and how careful you are while cutting), you might even be able to use the “inside” cut as a reverse stencil, too.

Raid your own junk drawers. You may be surprised what you find in your junk drawers that you can use in your art journals! (Especially if you have or had kids in the house. Even teens need art supplies for school projects, and they usually end up in junk drawers when they’re done.) But stuff like glue/glue sticks, colored pens, stickers/labels, pencils (lead or colored), bold markers, rulers, scissors, punches, staplers, tape, etc., all may be discovered in your junk drawer(s).

Start hoarding … I mean saving! 😉 Save all (or at least bits of) all the “pretty” (which may actually be pretty, but may also just be interesting or colorful or patterned, etc.) paper you receive. Think things like: holiday/birthday cards, wrapping paper, interesting/foreign product packaging, etc. I also like to save things like: the mesh from produce bags, doilies from coffee shops, matchbook covers, fortunes from fortune cookies, takeaway menus, maps, etc.

Ways to Save Money Art Journaling: Save on What You Don’t Have

Not only use your own old magazines for collage materials, but ask your friends for their old magazines, and books too. (If they get “fun” catalogs, ask for those, too. Fun for me might mean an Anthropologie catalog, but whatever you like is the point.)

Looking for inspiring images of places you either want to visit or have visited and loved? A lot of places (cities, towns, states, etc.) will send you a free travel catalog filled with gorgeous images. For instance, you can order a travel guide from my hometown of Portland right here. Looking for other cities? Just Google “Town name + travel guide” and you’re likely to find one for the city of your choice. You can also try searching by state, as well.

Do an art supply swap! If you have other creative, art journaling friends, why not do a supply swap? In the past I’ve done a supply swap where a bunch of people sign up, and everyone sends out one “large” USPS priority box filled with supplies to another randomly chosen person in the swap. Things that may be gathering dust in your craft storage may be the exact inspiration the next person needs, and vice versa.

If you like to collage a lot, and are looking for older ephemera, try finding some at yards sales. I’ve found books pre-1925 (so I don’t have to worry about any copyrights if I sell my work) for a quarter. Most people having yard sales tend to keep their book (and other paper products) prices really low.  

Probably my favorite of all the ways to save money art journaling: Buying supplies at estate sales. Estate sales are different because they are (usually) run by a professional company. That being said, they often charge a bit more than the prices you’ll find at typical yard sales. But there are some advantages to estate sales, even with the (potentially) higher price tag.

One advantage is that, if the sale is being run by a professional company, you can usually get a list and/or photos of the products being sold beforehand, so you can know whether or not there will be “artsy” items available. I’ve scored HUGE this way, when I see a craft room in the photos, I’m there. The second advantage is that, usually, on the last day of the sale, everything (typically under a certain dollar amount, like $50 or $100) is 50% off. That’s the way things are where I’ve lived, anyway. You can literally get like-new, and even new art supplies for pennies on the dollar.

While I’m at yard and/or estate sales, I also stay on the hunt for pretty, inexpensive vintage jars to store things like pens, paint brushes, washi tape rolls, stickers, watercolor tubes, etc. You can also find something special and cute at local Goodwill/thrift stores, too.

There you have it: My favorite ways to save money art journaling! Do you have other ideas for saving money on art supplies? Please share them in the comments below. 🙂 

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