Budget cuts / trying to be a grown-up

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In January, we decided to try something new with how we budget. Instead setting individual budgets for various non-essential categories like coffee, eating out, entertainment, and, oh, fabric! (basically any spending beyond food, bills and housing), we decided we’d each get a set amount of cash to cover all discretionary spending.

The amount is on the VERY lean side compared to what I’d really been spending in each category added together. And so, I was suddenly faced with choices: daily coffee with my coworker, a dance workshop, occasional brunches out with my husband competed with denim for new jeans, yarn for my next knitting project and even new zippers and thread. (PS Did you know zippers and thread cost real money?! I’d been writing them off as free…)

I’ve always prided myself on being a thrifty-ish person, thinking I never really needing a budget until recently because I’ve always lived so cheaply. I have amazing restraint in most retail settings. My expenses have gone up in the past few years, though, especially since I’ve prioritized eating well and taking classes that get me moving like dance and yoga. We started budgeting when we both took time off from full-time employment a couple of years ago (an absolute necessity!) but when I went back to work, I didn’t do a great job of factoring in the increased “fun” spending I felt entitled to. I expected my natural thriftiness to effectively temper my spending.

And to some extent, it has; I don’t spend more money than I have. But my savings goals really weren’t being met. And equally importantly, what I was buying – all sewing stuff – felt burdensome by the time I had to make room for it, like shoving a bite of the most amazing chocolate cake into my mouth when I was already full. I’d been sacrificing my financial goals only to create a sense of stifling obligation.

I know lots of people find joy and make great use a large stash, but I’ve realized I’m not one of them. I like constraints. Any more than several full cuts of fabric in my stash, and I can easily feel overwhelmed and uncreative. I have plenty more than that now but I’m excited to see how the budget will help me use the lovely fabrics I already have.

Which brings me to the project above! I was holding off on buying yarn for a new knitting project, which inspired me to turn my attention to a lawless region of my stash: scraps, large and small. I sewed myself a new dance bag. I’d long regretted the state of my freebie drawstring backpack every time I went to dance class – too small with a busted grommet, impossible to pull one thing out without everything flying out, etc. – but I never wanted to buckle down and sew a better bag. The sewing one wasn’t as boring as I feared, though. Neither the construction nor the shapes were complicated, but I had fun playing with the pocket design and making some construction changes based on the materials I had. Instead of using interfacing, I used two layers of blemished thrifted shirting fabric.

Continuing on the frugality theme, the bag is based on the free Everyday Tote tutorial from Purl Soho, with a few modifications – shorter contrast panel, lining instead of bias binding, front pocket and longer straps inserted at the contrast panel.

I’m on a bit of a high from a good first month of budgeting, but I’m not expecting this to be easy. I’ve already spent time today not buying stuff on two different online fabric shops! I think breaking that habit of constant browsing will be one of the toughest things about this whole endeavor. But it’s time to adjust my spending and stashing to support my goals of creativity and thrift alike, and I’m pumped about it.

I’ve been storing up some inspiration on budgeting, stash reduction and mindful crafting; here are some of my favorites!

  • The impressive Stash Less series by The Craft Sessions
  • This fantastic post by Gillian from a couple of years ago specifically about sewing budgets (the comments are awesome too!)
  • Andrea’s stash assault is fierce and thorough, just like Andrea herself
  • I love Tasha’s blog for the thoughtfulness she brings to her making process; it shows in every post.

 

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70 thoughts on “Budget cuts / trying to be a grown-up

  1. Thanks for posting this. I’ve been getting back into sewing and there are so many projects I want to tackle, and I keep seeing fabrics online that would be perfect for all of them. At the same time, one of my long term goals is to not be elderly and poor. So while I do put away for a rainy day, I feel like I could do better with balancing the short and long term desires.

    1. Yah, I think it’s a classic case of immediate gratification vs. longer term gratification (aka not being elderly and poor!) Congratulations on getting back into sewing, and good luck balancing out your desires! The Craft Sessions has a good post on desire, if you’re interested. 🙂

  2. Awww–thank you!

    I do a similar thing with my budget. I have a discretionary pot every month, and just to be 100% luddite, I have a piece of lined paper I carry around in my dayplanner where I mark off what I spend in $25 increments. It’s very low tech but very easy and I know what I’m spending.

    It is a huge adjustment, isn’t it? The browsing is so much fun…

    1. Oh I like that system! I’m using a mix of cash and a Mint-like program integrated into my bank’s site so far.

      The browsing, more than anything, is completely automatic. I think that’s my biggest objection to it, especially as a desk-worker. It’s so easy for work to transition into online shopping without even realizing it! I’m sure there’s a mindfulness exercise in there.

      1. Oh god yes. Hmm I’ve done everything I can do right now and so and so still needs to get back to me and I have twenty minutes to kill before that meeting… wonder what’s new on Mood/Burda/Amazon?

  3. I feel the same in a lot of ways – I’ve always been naturally quite thrifty and don’t like owning a lot of stuff, even a big fabric stash (even less so after Konmari-ing!) These days I tend to splurge on nicer fabrics every so often rather than falling prey to cheap-and-often purchases. Lovely bag, too! I have a Pinterest board for stashbuster projects: https://uk.pinterest.com/whatkatiedoes/stashbust-projects

  4. I noticed that may stash has been levitating out of control lately and it makes me actually anxious … under pressure somehow and I hate it! as far as budget goes I have to stop buying black identical looking cashmere sweaters (I have a thing for those .. don’t ask it’s scary) – I can’t stop buying books! I am thinking about starting to recycle cashmere from the old sweaters like the gridjunky dude and put my knitting machine finally to use.

    1. I haven’t met a lot of other sewers who say a stash brings them anxiety! I feel like my stash stares at me accusingly. (Nor have I heard of hoarding black cashmere sweaters – you’re on your own for that one!) I think re-purposing them for the knitting machine sounds amazing, and I’m following gridjunky right quick.

  5. Oh, I feel your pain!!!! Except it’s a lack of stash that makes me anxious and unmotivated, not a surplus… if I don’t have at least 4 pieces of fabrics suitable for each type of sewing I like (tops, dresses, bras and pants) than I get sad and moody… which leads to online imaginary shopping where I fill a cart then close the tab because I can’t afford shipping to Canada! I definitely do better when I shop locally and regularly in small increments!
    I do sometimes miss the days of an all-cash society in Japan – it was so easy to put weekly discretionary $in envelopes every month, and I always knew when I was approaching my weekly financial cap! (But OMG, my budget then was at least twice or more what it is now! And I still saved way more…Those were the days!)
    Hope you find a system that works for you!

    1. Hee hee, you and I are always opposites in most things!

      I forgot to mention it, but Japan was a huge inspiration when I thought up this scheme. I really enjoyed knowing how much cash I had at any given moment. And less small transactions cluttering up my bank account has been quite helpful for budgeting. I do save some money for online purchases, but I will say that having cash on hand has encouraged me to replace some online purchases with local ones!

  6. Lovely bag. It looks very “you”…which I guess it would, as it is made from your remnants.

    I limit my online browsing of fabric shops because otherwise I would buy new fabric all the time. I may miss something amazing, but I tell myself that there will always be amazing fabric, just different amazing. In saying that, I do have a large fabric stash, but I don’t live near fabric stores, so my stash is my security blanket for when inspiration strikes. Also, on the Konmarie approach, sorting through my stash brings me joy and sometimes when I am stressed, I just go and look through my fabric for a while until I get back to my happy place. That being said, I am trying not to “save” my good stash fabrics and get on and use them. I do not want to be the person that dies with the most beautiful stash.

    My other way of restricting spending is to put the items in my cart but not buy them for a day. Often, somebody else in my house comes along and shuts down the internet. If I forget to go back and buy them, well that is okay. If I wake up still thinking about them, then I buy.

    I have decided to do away with all other crafts for now. I would get distracted by other crafts, buy stuff for them, spend money, accumulate stuff, lose interest. Sewing is the craft I always return to, so now I don’t let myself spend money on other crafts (unless it is for an activity with my daughter that we will do that very day).

    I should not need to spend any more money on patterns. My “pattern curator” approach on my blog this week is basically a way of letting me enjoy looking through all the new patterns but not having to buy them…I am just using them for a “virtual” exercise. Sometimes, a lot of my project joy comes from planning rather than executing, so I think it is okay to plan a project and then not buy the materials to complete it…put the plans in a notebook for one day…again, if the ideas are good, I will go back to them one day, if not, no matter.

    The other thing is to be mindful of my mood when I am shopping. Am I just online shopping because I am feeling a little down, or possibly as a means of procrastination from something a little bit difficult?

    Good luck with your budgeting.

    1. It’s interesting to hear from someone with a large stash that finds it comforting! When I’m feeling overwhelmed, re-organizing my supplies always feels good even if I wish I had less. Funny story, I decided to donate the few knitting supplies I’d accumulated in the interest of streamlining my craft hobbies. Within 6 months, I really wanted to start knitting again. But you know what? I had to buy some needles but I think it was worth the price of the mental clarity.

      I like your idea of celebrating patterns without purchasing, and planning without making! Not every item needs to be owned nor every idea realized. I think I get overwhelmed with potential projects just as much as stashed fabric, and I’d love to get more comfortable just letting an idea simmer.

  7. I like the idea of combining all your discretionary spending into one allowance… I think I would be more thoughtful about where the money was going and making sure that I’m prioritizing what I really want to prioritize instead of just spending until I can’t anymore and then having a very boring end to the month when I don’t have any fun money left! You’re so grown-up! 🙂

    1. It’s actually been really fun so far! It’s helped me cut back on more thoughtless spending that I don’t get as much enjoyment from (workday lunches being a big one) in favor of ones I do (like a ridiculous zipper with metallic tape).

      Funny that I have to treat myself like a kid in order to act more grown up! 😉

  8. This post was so good. I’ve really been needing to check myself lately for the stash. It’s embarrassing and I dont have enough time to make ALL THE THINGS. As for trying to save money, though– I’ve always found it easier to flip the savings and spending things around. I decide on an amount I want to save per month or paycheck and deposit that amount as soon as the paycheck hits. The discretionary amount is what remains, and credit cards are paid out of that pot. It somehow feels easier if the saved amount is off in a separate bank account at the start.

    1. Thanks! I agree that saving first is the best route, although since I’ve started budgeting I’m realizing just how much each month’s necessary expenses seems to vary for my husband and me. Our utilities are billed bi-monthly and other big expenses like car insurance come up twice/year. It makes it difficult to plan for saving a set amount. Do you have any tips on evening that sort of stuff out?

      1. I’ve dealt with this two ways. One is to try to figure out what the necessities would be on a monthly basis and factor that in to what you put in the savings acct. So if you know car insurance is $80/mo, you add that to what you put in savings, and then withdraw it when the bill’s due.

        Another method — which is what we do now– is to low ball the automatic savings amount a bit. With the rest of it: We have a ‘cushion’ amount in our checking account, but anything that’s over the cushion after meeting all expenses, we put in savings. I like this, because you know you’re automatically saving so if you have an expensive month you can still feel good about something going into the long term pot. But you still get some satisfaction if you end up with an extra chunk for savings post-expenses. By contrast, if there’s an expensive month you didn’t expect, you can deal with it out of the ‘cushion’. The following month you won’t put extra in the savings as you build back to the cushion amount you’ve set. For me, it feels a little better, since the savings account doesn’t get dipped into with regularity (one exception: our withholdings were wrong for 2015 and we had to go into savings to pay a tax bill recently, but the cushion has been able to handle everything else). I also like this, because there’s a ballpark amount of ‘extra’ savings we should be putting in the pot. A really low amount forces you to confront things if you’ve been doing too much discretionary spending. Does that make sense?

        I really don’t think there’s any right way to do this, though. Being mindful of the extra spending is good, but you’ll drive yourself crazy if you view an expenses-heavy month as bad budgeting on your part.

      2. Makes total sense! Thanks for sharing a couple of approaches, as well as encouraging absolution for expense-heavy months 🙂 I have a hard time with systems that don’t account for every circumstance, but that’s unrealistic and I don’t want to let it prevent me from budgeting!

      3. I do this too (the first approach) – I went through two years of bills (because I have a very stringent filing system!), then spreadsheeted them and averaged out what I would need to put aside each month to cover… it has been working surprisingly well for nearly 2 years now. It builds up nicely prior to the once-yearly big expenses (car registration and various insurance policies for me).

  9. Great and thoughtful post. My stash makes me very anxious as I know it would take years to sew through it. It has been a real struggle. I see the fabric, picture what I would make, then buy the fabric so I don’t miss out. But I should be asking WHEN am I going to sew this garment?

    Great bag, by the way. Using scraps is so satisfying!

    1. Aw, I’m sorry to hear your stash has been a source of stress. Beautiful projects and supplies seem to be everywhere I look these days! I love the online sewing community but looking at a friend’s project can quickly turn into me shopping for the fabric or pattern they used! There’s just so much inspiration out there. I have no clue what the answer to that problem is, but putting boundaries on my spending has provided some relief.

      If you do end up deciding to part with some of your stash, I’ve found some great places to donate it to or consign! Or maybe a Seattle swap is in order 🙂

  10. Oh! The budget and the stash. I am with you on this one. Well, except my stash is way bigger than yours, but I have found that when I get into a groove of stash-purchasing just not being an option, it’s actually really nice to work through the stash and watch the # of piles/boxes go down. And giving yourself an indulgence or two can be nice – forces you to focus on what you REALLY want, but still prevents that feeling of UTTER DEPRIVATION. I’d say I was better about this when I first moved to Portland and have slipped a bit of late, but! This post is great motivation to keep going, and those links look promising, too :-). Hope things are well!

    1. I’m with you on the value of an indulgence! No quicker way to fail than to feel like you’re on some sort of sad financial diet. Surprisingly, this budget is making me feel more flush even as it’s forcing me to make choices – I don’t feel guilty about what I spend because I know it’s not adding up to more than I decided. For some reason, that just never worked when I gave myself a sewing-specific budget.

      Man, I’ll bet watching those fabric piles turn into beautiful garments feels fantastic.

  11. Thanks for posting this! I love the Stash Less series. I have been thinking about stash/consumption/simplifying a lot lately, although not from a budget standpoint exactly. Sewing is actually one of the few areas where I *don’t* budget. I did for a while, but after a bit I realized that I’m fortunate enough to be at a point in my life where the limiting factor is time, not money. When I’m working (I’m on maternity leave right now, so it’s different) it’s very, very difficult for me to sew enough to cause any budgetary problems whatsoever. I try not to acquire the fabric faster than I sew it, and that keeps the money in check. Sewing with the best materials I can find is my reward for holding down a grownup job, at least for now.

    I went through a big exercise last year of cataloging *everything* – it’s all photographed and tagged in Evernote now. Which means I can very quickly search to see if I have any dress lengths of linen, etc. I can stash-shop from my phone, while trapped under a sleepy baby. It’s great. The cataloging process means I have very clear ideas about what’s in there, and I’ve been going through and writing down my plans for each piece of fabric. My stash is still…rather large…but it’s rotating out regularly. There are a fair number of things that don’t fit my lifestyle now (e.g. silk bought on my honeymoon, not suitable for life near kids) but I’m comfortable saving them for a few years.

    I definitely feel the thing about a large stash being kind of oppressive though. I don’t want to be stuck sewing things I planned six month ago when I have a better plan now! I’m trying to strike a balance – some new projects, finishing up some older queued projects. And sometimes it’s just time to let something go because it didn’t get finished (or started…) before it stopped being relevant for my life. Fabric/pattern swaps have been great for this.

    Also, generational comment: in high school and college I sewed through a big chunk of my mom’s (vast) fabric stash, and took much pleasure in it. I couldn’t have bought those things at the time! So I feel like the stuff probably isn’t going to ultimately go to waste – it just might not be put to use by *me*.

    1. I think you’ve hit on the secret – keeping craft consumption in line with craft output is key! I love the idea of getting to the point of having 3 or 4 lovely pieces in my stash and only buying for a current project. I’m not sure why I struggle with that. For now, the budget thing will hopefully get me there.

      What a beautiful experience, getting to sew your mom’s stashed fabrics. For some reason, access to someone else’s stash sounds dreamy even while my own feels stifling!

  12. I feel anxiety too when I look at the large pile of fabric lurking downstairs. To be fair a lot of it I have picked up second hand at opportunity shops over the years and that makes my guilt slightly less onerous. But today I went to the Fabric Store to buy merino for some future Pacific leggings and ended up with some beautiful rayon crepe as well. There were a number of justifications (need the leggings for work but also need some more smart clothes for work) and I have been stash busting a storm lately. I’m also making an effort to really analyse my fabric and if I don’t think I will ever sew with it I pass onto opportunity shops to (hopefully) allow others to enjoy cuts I no longer have a need for.

    1. Eek, a lurking stash – that’s quite a visual!

      I’m not sure where you live but I’ve been seeing lots more fabric and fabric shoppers in my local thrift stores! I think it’s really exciting. Congratulations on your stash-busting progress!

  13. Oh, thank you for the links! I am looking forward to reading them when I have a few minutes to sit down (hopefully tomorrow – Mothers Day in the UK!). For quite a few years now I’ve had a strict budget, I choose to live debt free and put money aside for things I need, which I find less stressful than the alternative. Generally I do well except for Christmas, when I tend to get caught in the festive atmosphere. You have already mentioned one of the biggest changes I made – browsing. I realised there will always be new, nice things in the shops, online and in magazines in cleverly coordinating collections. I never go shopping unless I need something, stay away from magazines (barring the odd sewing one, I am human) and have unsubscrbed from all but a few online newsletters. There are so many other things I do in my spare time instead of shop and I am never, ever bored! My stash has also reached uncomfortably large proportions (for me) over the last few years. As I haven’t had much time to sew I’ve indulged sewing fantasies by buying secondhand fabric. I’ve recently squeezed out a little sewing time and I’m not buying any more for quite some time! Great bag, btw!

    1. Hope you enjoyed Mother’s Day! The Stash Less series is a particularly deep dive, one that I’m also looking forward to completing. (I think I’ve read about half of the posts so far.) My online browsing seems to come in waves and corresponds directly to how engaged I am at work! Lately I’ve been in a transition and there hasn’t been as much for me to do. But there’s certainly better ways to relax, as browsing always makes me feel scattered.

  14. how lovely to read the comments and see a lot of similar thinking. I have a smal groceryl bag of stash – and 2 a4 boxes of yarn. I buy nice fabric if I see it as I dont get to good fabric shops often. I dont like having too much excess. through budgetary constraints amongst others I started upcycling from old clothes and the challenge of this appeals to me more – I will also reuse zips, buttons, as it also allowed me to try out patterns without feeling wasteful and I have become better at working it out (a few humdingers along the way – but equally I was also working out what I liked to wear). Some years ago I went part time in work as I knew I could like better on less money but with more time, so I figured how much we spent on household food and bills and we both pay into a house account with covers everything including running the car. I get a tiny amount of pocket money, and the same amount goes into a savings which covers big bills….. I always think you will still end up with a weakness…. mine is vintage patterns! …… having said all that, I have not bought in a charity shop in a few months as even with that, you can acquire too much…. so I am doing a lose it or use it for the next few months.

    1. I have a big weakness for older patterns too! There was a time when I was scooping up a few every time I went to the thrift store, just because they were really inexpensive. Your lifestyle sounds pretty dreamy, btw.

  15. That sort of “fun money” (as I like to call it) sort of budgeting has always been my go-to. Before my husband and I combined bank accounts I used to like to have my fun money roll-over into the next month so I could buy more expensive purchases – basically it was like budgeting within my budget! Ha! For me there was always something about having that limit that once it was met it was like my spending impulse got shut off. I might browse, but I knew I wouldn’t be buying until next month rolled around and it really made me prioritize my desires.

    Your comment about a large fabric stash making you feel overwhelmed and uncreative really resonated with me. My fabric stash has grown considerably in the last few years, and rather than feeling excited by it, I find it daunting! I think it’s because I rarely, even now, buy fabric without a specific project in mind, so when I see those teetering piles of fabric staring at me all I see is a massive to-do list that will never get done, which sends me into anxiety mode.

    1. Fun money! That’s exactly what it is. My husband prefers to call it “petty cash”, which always gives me a chuckle. I’m curious to see if I’ll be able to get some to roll over this month… I like to splurge on really good shoes once a year or so.

      My fabric totally stares at me, too! I’ve thought about moving it outside of sight, but that can backfire and cause me to think I have less than I have.

  16. Cute bag Morgan! Thanks for the link. I have a tote bag on my to do list as well. What isn’t on my list? A long “to sew” list is just as overwhelming as a large stash for me. I really should take on a better philosophy about my sewing spending. I am also naturally thrifty but that doesn’t mean that money doesn’t get spent….many small, “it’s such a good deal!” purchases are made and they certainly add up! Great post!!

    1. Thanks, Margo! And I completely agree about the “to sew” list… there’s no faster way to get me to stop sewing than a list of projects. Katherine had a great comment above that you might be interested in – she says she’ll plan projects with the knowledge that she won’t make all of them. She just enjoys the planning process and the possibility that she’ll come back to them if they’re good enough. Isn’t that cool?

  17. Oh, budgeting… I’m certainly not living beyond my means, but I definitely wonder where it all goes sometimes! Like many of my fellow commenters, I too feel overwhelmed by a too large stash. My loose plan for this year is to #makenine, as inspired by Ginger Makes! And 8 of those fabrics are already in my buckets, ready to be used. Fortunately, I’m not drawn to online fabric shopping generally (terrible exchange rate, shipping & duty do take the shine off), and the overwhelmed feeling is no fun. So, in that vein, I’m off to finish my next project! Thanks for the links, and the great conversation!

    1. Happy sewing, Chloe! I’ve been inspired by the other comments on this post and started a sewing project with stashed fabric this weekend, too.

      The silly thing about my online fabric browsing is that I’d rather shop in person!

  18. Great and thoughtful post. This is the exact reason why I don’t have a large stash and have no intention to have one. I mean there is really no reason why I should have one. I can go to a fabric shop whenever I want, during the weekend anyway. When I started sewing I was 16 years old and I didn’t have the money to buy a lot of fabric. And now I have better ways to spend it, or better, save it. I always have a few pieces of fabric at hand, rarely more than 10. I have two boxes one for new pieces of fabric and one for scraps. I don’t buy new fabric if it wouldn’t fit in the box and I empty the box with scraps when it is full. I find that the easiest way to keep my spending under control.

    1. We sound very similar in our stash approach (except for the fact that I keep almost all scraps and force myself into sewing a scrap project when the box gets too full)! I completely agree that constraining it to a space is the best way (for me, at least) to prevent stash creep; measuring yardage and all that sounds really complicated. I’m hoping that this budget will get my stash even leaner.

  19. Thanks for sharing this. I’m on a budget too and always appreciate others sharing their experience with balancing sewing vs. spending, as it can easily get out of hand. I love your approach in prioritizing eating well and exercise, both of which can get expensive but are good investments in your health and well-being. I use a lump sum discretionary budget as well – that way, I can decide on a monthly basis if I want to buy a pricey piece of fabric, a new pair of shoes, or a fancy dinner out. For what it’s worth, I find that fear is a great motivator for me. If I make a large purchase early in the month and am afraid that any additional purchase will eat into my rent money, I can basically stop spending cold turkey, ha!

    1. P.S. – I forgot to say how much I love your bag! I recognize at least one of those fabrics from a top you made a while back.

    2. I find the opposite – fear doesn’t work that well for me! I think I do better with very visible constraints – for my stash, I need physical boundaries on it, and for my spending, I just need a (small) pile of cash.

      Eating well and exercising has been a huge shift for me over the past few years, but I feel much better. I actually sew quite a bit less – exercise and cooking can really take up time!

  20. Great post. I’m doing something very similar at the moment. I feel like I’m just stock piling, as I buy and make plans, faster than I can sew. And I totally get that stifling feeling of having too much fabric. Looking forward to seeing how you get on.

    1. I struggle with the too many plans problem, too! I think sometimes I buy supplies so I feel committed to the plan, only to have five more plans crop up before I can start it. Katherine had a great comment above where she mentions enjoying the planning process without feeling obligated to bring them to fruition. I’d like to try that!

  21. Nice post! (And thanks for mentioning me, very kind of you!) I’m definitely in the overwhelmed-by-too-much-stash camp and it’s great to see so many others who feel the same way in the comments. While I enjoy the possibilities in lovely materials, I also have a lot of trouble not thinking of stashed stuff as a giant to-do list that I’ll never finish! I do find that it helps to consciously think of it as stashed possibilities, and fabric I don’t have to budget for, rather than things I must make. I don’t have a set budget right now, but I do have a strict rule that I must sew from stash if at all possible.

    For a long time I shared a fabric stash with my mom, which was in some ways great since when I was in college and then living in a small apartment I could store things at her house, and she’s super generous with letting me use whatever I want that she’s acquired over the years. But I accumulated a lot of cuts that way, and recently I’ve realized that we’re just not on the same plan, she wants to buy fabric “just because” or to have a nice stash of materials built up when she retires and is on more of a budget, and I want the leanest, cleanest stash I can possibly have. So I’ve been slowly sorting out the pieces that are still at her house which I’m clearly responsible for, and bringing them to my house, hopefully using at least some of the cut at that time too. There’s still an embarrassing amount from college, when I lived near a nice fabric store for the first time in my life … but after seriously focusing on sewing from stash for a couple of years, I’m making real progress, and I can see a time coming when my stash will be small enough to stop taking up space in my brain!

    1. There’s something about using someone else’s large stash that sounds incredible. I can easily see why people would enjoy having one, but it’s been great to realize what makes me feel most creative and content. I hope you find some treasures in the pieces you’re bringing home from your mom’s, though!

  22. Oh, yes. I really relate to the overflowing and overwhelming stash issue. I’ve had some health and work stress struggles over the last few years that kept me from sewing and fabric buying was kind of my only connection to sewing, but having an ever increasing stash has just made it harder to actually start a project. Still not sure what to do with my amazing (overwhelming) stash but at least I’m determined to not buy more!

    1. I’m sorry to hear you’ve had a hard time over the past few years! I hope things are turning around. My sewing consumption can spike when I’m feeling crunched for time, too.

  23. I am very much the same! I kept saying “yup, yup, yup” while reading your entire post. I try to buy several pieces of fabric at a time because I find that I spend more economically that way, but it does bring me anxiety to have it all sitting there. And I totally have the same thought process with zips and thread! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the whole budget thing, sometimes it feels like people have unlimited resources when it comes to fabric and sewing supplies.

    1. Agreed! Your comment has also made me wonder if the aggregate impression of social media is partly to blame. When I scroll through my Instagram feed, I can easily feel like I should be both buying and making 10 different things.

  24. I love this! I threw out a big chunk of my fabric last summer and I was really proud of myself for it. I knew that I was never going to use it, and that that was OK. I’m going to check out your links to the other blogs and see what advice they have.

  25. Notions aren’t free?! Oh noooooo! Seriously a great post. I’m kinda the opposite in shopping habits in that I live near several excellent fabric stores and prefer to touch my fabrics, so do little online shopping. But of course that doesn’t curb my habits! I do sometimes feel anxiety at the size of my stash however it has helped me to start to catalogue it all through Evernote, including patterns, and plan from that. I have excellent self control with all other aspects of my spending life (the husband calls me the Treasurer) which has resulted in us being very close to a debt free life apart from our mortgage. I just need to exercise that self control more with my sewing passion!

    1. The Treasurer! I like that. 🙂 I much prefer buying fabric in person – I’ve been burned more times than I can count, and now just stick to a couple of trusty sites / buy swatches / etc. – which is why it’s so silly I browse as much as I do. If you’re interested, you might love a cash allowance since you buy in person! I’ve found it to be fun because it’s not a cold-turkey don’t-buy-anything kind of thing that can make a person feel deprived and ultimately rebellious; if anything, I’ve felt more excited to spend when I have it and when it’s gone, it’s gone.

  26. I love your post. I mean really love it. It obviously speaks to me after my recent wardrobe de-cluttering, but somehow you completely nailed how I feel with your “like shoving a bite of the most amazing chocolate cake into my mouth when I was already full”. That’s it exactly!! The idea of purchasing and collating a huge stash has always made me feel squeamish personally and you nailed the feeling exactly. It feels/seems gluttonous. And I am full. My stash in incredibly modest, but I am “full” and I am sewing from my stash 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Jillian. This was one of those posts that was rattling around in my brain all month.

      Sometime in my early 20’s, I learned to eat mindfully – the principle was “eat when you’re hungry, eat what you want, stop when you’re full.” It’s amazingly powerful and was a pretty difficult change to make! Now it’s second nature and I’m hoping craft consumption will become the same way.

  27. I love your reflective posts! Last year I got a bit out of control with my fabric and pattern spending so this year I’m having to reign myself in and sew from the stash which I’m looking forward to. I also spent a lot of time sewing last year which was enjoyable but I’ve decided to make more time for other hobbies in my life like yoga and surfing 🙂

    1. Thank you, Kate! I too went through a many-year phase of non-stop sewing. Towards the end, I found I was sewing for all these activities I didn’t make time for! I would make clothes for parties and going to shows, when in reality, I was sewing all the time. I hope you enjoy your yoga and surfing in tandem with your sewing practice!

  28. This is such an interesting post Morgan, as are all the comments that follow. I definitely need to ‘break the habit of constant browsing’, both of fabric and patterns. I do like having a bit of a stash for a few reasons, one being that it means I always have plenty of options on hand of what to sew. But the main reason I think is that my mum always had a huge fabric stash. She was a textile artist so I guess maybe stash is the wrong word as it was constantly in use. I used to love looking through all her boxes and I still get some of that pleasure when I look through my fabric. Though I have to keep it under control – I have 4 boxes that fit the IKEA Expedit shelves and if my stash overflows them then I get a bit stressed! I don’t really have any budget for fabric at the moment, and hadn’t realised how expensive notions and threads were until I suddenly didn’t have the disposable income I was used to!

    1. A textile artist for a mother – how lucky!! What kind of work does she make? I’m so with you on the physical constraint thing! I have set spaces and containers for my stash and I don’t let it exceed them. That was huge for me, and the first step towards getting my stash to a more comfortable place for me.

  29. Ugh! Being a grown up is hard! My stash is out of control and I totally agree with you that it zaps creativity. I find myself being so overwhelmed that I would rather order new fabric online than go digging through it which is so awful!! I’m trying hard to stop that. The good thing about sewing, no matter how expensive it is, is that when you make a bag or a garment, it generally last much longer, so you get more bang for your buck. I am finding that as I make more clothes, my garment sewing is slowing down and I’m a trying to find more ways to use up scraps and sew for other people. The dolls I am obsessed with right now (see instagram) were born from using scraps and other miscellaneous crafty materials I have hanging around cluttering my house. I love your bag by the way, and I look forward to seeing what other things you make this year. Good luck with your budget!
    PS: I always wrote of thread and zippers, and interfacing as free too, but they add up quickly!

    1. Your dolls are really fun! I vote for a doll blog post sometime. 🙂 I wish I had more scrap-busting avenues aside from the very occasional quilt. I’ll be keeping my eyes open for possibilities! My garment sewing has slowed in the past few years too, which I’ve enjoyed. It’s a good feeling, being satisfactorily outfitted in clothes that fit and are, like you mentioned, well-built. Now I’m trying to find ways to put more details I love into the ones I do make, things I would have found too confusing or labor-intensive when I was just starting out. Sewing for others like you’re doing seems very grown-up to me!

      Good luck with your stash! I’ve seen some really fun organization ideas and de-stash sales on Instagram lately. I wonder if that would make finding and sewing stashed fabrics more fun?

  30. Yes yes yes yes yes! One of my goals this year was to “spend down” my entire fabric stash, including scraps! It bothers me to waste so much. I also have patterns I have never made– I want to make all of these that are reasonable.

    I think that, since I started buying ethical clothing and sewing more, I have felt like I can be unrestrained when it comes to fabric purchases because its “good” and “worth it.” I don’t put the same sort of spending shame or stigma on myself when I spend on nice fabric as I would if I were to buy new shoes for a party or something. But what I really need to realize is that I don’t need any more THINGS, no matter how ethical or superior they are to fast fashion! I’ve toyed with my personal budget a lot in the past few years, and tried to motivate myself to spend more on experiences and less on fabric or material goods. I recently went from a very structured bucket system to something looser– a certain amount per week to spend on “necessities”– groceries, rent, bills, toiletries, with a larger pot for anything else. I’ve only been using this system a few months but a looser structure seems to be working well for me!

    1. The looser budget structure has been great for me too! Really helps make the trade-offs clearer.

      Good luck sewing down your stash! For whatever reason, I’ve never felt pressure to sew all my patterns at all. I don’t buy a ton of them, but I’m guessing at this point I’m approaching 100. Maybe it’s because they’re all in one box and they don’t seem to stare at me like my fabric does?

      Please do share any and all of your scraps projects! I’m always looking for scrap inspiration.

  31. Oh, I so feeling this! I also spent a bunch of time today not buying fabric to make a spring dress, but with fabric purchased last summer & last winter still waiting for makes that never got made… so I’m resisting the urge. The big thing for me that I need to cut back on is buying my breakfast and lunch in the city. It’s way too expensive!
    Confession…. I saw that Purl Soho Tote tutorial when it came out and went out and bought like $9 in trim supplies to make it. I haven’t made it yet. I think I’m going to make that instead of making an easter dress.

    1. It’s hard to resist the siren song of spring dress fabrics. I rarely wear dresses and I found myself browsing for spring dress fabrics too! And I hear ya on buying meals out. As soon as my spending money got lumped into one major category, I started making my lunch every day. If I’m going to spend money, I want it to be a meal I enjoy, not just a sub-par but still-expensive lunch out.

      Did you get some of the neon trims from Purl Soho example? I liked how that looked!

  32. Such a lovely bag – I recognise all of those fabrics and am pretty sure I could name the outfits they contributed too! You’ve inspired me to think more about this… I sort of stopped buying fabric when I was pregnant as I totally lost any interest in sewing. On the other side of that now, I’m off work for 13 months so have to be very careful about how we budget. Good thing a baby is all consuming so I don’t really get out much for a bit of discretionary spending action… haha. Interestingly, whilst my desire to sew has returned, (although I now have no time to do it) – I haven’t bought any fabric for over a year now. Not that I need to as I’ll admit to a sizeable stash… but my ‘maturing’ in my sewing mindset means I actually want to use what I have.
    One of the girls I sew with socially made a ‘pouf’ for her loungeroom… and filled it with scraps that she didn’t want to part with. I loved this idea 🙂

    1. A year-long fabric-buying freeze is impressive no matter the circumstances! And I’m selfishly pleased to hear your interest in sewing has returned. When I imagine your stash, I see yards of beautiful boucles, laces and charmeuses… I don’t want to know if I’m wrong!

      The pouf idea is excellent. I save even the tiniest scraps to toss in the textile recycle near by, but could easily divert them into stuffing. Hrm….!

  33. Thanks for sharing! I’ve been experiencing something similar myself, and my recent stay in Canada for several months has put a dent in my pocketbook as if it were a vacation. It’s hard to be a grownup and frugal and all that jazz. I hope to get back into a more healthy routine with better food and less spending, and yes giving up browsing is SUPER difficult. I admire your strength to keep a small stash, I’m hoping that I can get back to enjoying and using what I have.
    Oh, and thread and zips aren’t free?!

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