Two Places to Get Free or Cheap Materials – Art is Basic


Hi! I know I haven’t written in awhile. I hope you are doing well and had a great school year. It’s been a challenging time and I haven’t made blogging a priority. I’m still here though and making art! Now that summer is here I have a bit more free time, so maybe I’ll catch up on sharing some things with you.

I wanted to share with you a couple places to get free or cheap materials– but you have to enjoy the hunt. I love finding things for free or cheap to stretch my budget at school (and home). I like the challenge and the surprise of what I might find. These are not quick ways to get materials, but if you are lucky and look hard you may come across someone else’s trash which is your treasure.

Buy Nothing Groups

The first place I highly recommend you check out and join is a local Buy Nothing group on Facebook. They may go by different names, but you want to find one in your local geographical area. Some of the names you can search for are: Freecycle, Buy Nothing, Zero Waste, FREE! and Pay it Forward groups. I have gotten SO MANY good things from my groups. There is also a lot of junk to wade through, like I said, you have to enjoy the hunt. Here are some things I’ve gotten completely for free for my classroom.

One of my favorite items is this beautiful book about the equality murals in Madison, WI. I didn’t get one when they originally came out, so I’m super pleased to have gotten the chance to see the book now.

Pens- Someone was giving away a giant box of gel pens. They are always put to good use in the art classroom.

Mat Boards- A woman who owns a framing shop is on the Buy Nothing Group I belong to and she often gives away matboards. One time I got all of these for surfaces to make art on.

Giant Crayon- I got this giant crayon bank as a decoration for my classroom.

Magazines- If you ever need magazines for collages, just post in the Buy Nothing group that you are looking for them and you will be sure to get lots of offers!

Garage Sales

This might be obvious, but you can find some great deals at garage sales. Earlier this month was our neighborhood garage sales and I scored all kinds of interesting things. I usually read the descriptions on Facebook of the garage sales (there are garage sale groups you can join for your area or local neighborhood groups) and see if anything looks promising.

Traditional Art Supplies– People have sold traditional materials like colored pencils, rubber stamps, scissors, rulers, paint scrapers, yarn, string and even canvases at garage sales. I recently went to a garage sale where the lady was obviously a crafter and had lots of “surfaces” she was selling. I bought a large pack of small canvas boards (enough for two whole classes) for only $5. We also got a large amount of perler beads for my kids at home.

Equipment– I actually found a simple drying rack in great condition at a teacher’s garage sale once. If you can find a garage sale by a teacher, then you are bound to find some useful items!

Next up, children’s books! Last week I got a beautiful book about Frank Lloyd Wright for children for a quarter from a garage sale. There are soooo many good art projects you can do with kids that involve a children’s book as the inspiration. Every time I go to garage sales, I look for the children’s books. I also love the vintage children’s books from the 60’s and 70’s for interesting collage imagery.

Games– Take a look at the board games, you might find an art related game like Pictionary or one with shapes like Blokus. Do you remember the game Perfection?  When I coordinated a summer day camp, we had this game and the kids loved it.  Then one day, the game stopped working and we couldn’t fix it.  What to do with the pieces?  They are perfect for stamping into clay and also for stamping with paint!  I have used these pieces over and over again.  Next time you are at a garage sale or thrift store see if you can find this game.

Perfection Game by Hasbro

I shared all of these different things I have gotten for free or cheap to hopefully inspire you to hunt for your own treasures. If you look at things in new and different ways (like the Perfection game), you are bound to find something useful for your classroom or home art studio.

I have one more last place to share with you, a bonus place to find art supplies— at an art supply SWAP! Different places in my city have hosted art supply swaps where people bring all their old things they don’t want and swap them for free. There is one coming up this weekend and I’m excited to unload a bunch of old art materials that I cleaned out from my home studio.

Do you have any ideas for places to get free or cheap materials? What do you look for at garage sales? Leave a comment to let us know!


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