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.