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Freedom! Live life frugally this summer

Visit garage sales to find economical art supplies. (Photo: Lesley Epling / Morguefile)

This summer,  more than most, artists need to economize. They may find themselves with no art fairs, with galleries closed or gone and regular buyers feeling frugal themselves.  Unemployment is high and uncertainty is too.

So it’s the perfect time to learn to live and create on the cheap. Follow the lead of model and television star Tyra Banks, who said: “I’m frugal. I’ve always been this way. When I was young, my mom would give me my allowance, and I’d peel off a little each week and have some to spare.”

Create a more independent approach to living by cutting your spending – and increasing your future possibilities. Here’s some ideas for emerging artists:

Develop a frugal outlook.  Some people grow up with this, following their mom or aunt to yard sales. Others must work to ingrain a make the most with the least mindset in their lives and creative practices.  Start with a living life large on the cheap mantra, or borrow mine: “I live an abundant life on a modest paycheck.”

Get creative. Reuse items in your art. Develop a mixed media series glued and painted on old cookie sheets. Or concoct a project using blueprints as the backdrop. Create a list of possible materials:  Old windows and doors work well as canvases to paint and some artists create on records or books. Sculptors may remake old metal shelves or rakes and shovels.

Find joy in the journey.  Your approach to frugality should make it fun or an adventure.  Create a “cheapskate challenge” with your siblings or friends. Plant peppers or potatoes or find one of the many free food handouts that are all around these days. Plan dinner with four friends at home instead of heading to a bar or restaurant. Log how many days you go without buying anything online, and celebrate when you hit 30.

Find it for free on Craigslist and Nextdoor.  Search in a few areas, starting in the “free” section. Then look for garage sales, gigs and other items for sale.  If you are really looking for something specific, consider placing an ad as a way to land what you need. Be clear that your budget is tiny.

Head to estate sales or flea markets to find unconventional art supplies. (Photo Alexander Shustov / Unsplash)

Shop garage and estate sales.   You will find plentiful options in the summer and fall. Head to or download a garage sale locator app to identify where you’re going.  Look for multi-family sales or church sales for a wider array of items. We recommend showing on on the final day, when prices are discounted by 50 to 75 percent.

Find flea markets and junk yards.  Grab your mask and gloves and go after some real bargains. But don’t buy it just because it’s affordable. Buy it because you need it for your art, your family or your future.

And follow our other tips on smart and affordable paint brushes and materials.

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Start being smarter and more frugal today with our tips

Start developing a frugal mindset and watch your savings grow. (Photo: Thought Catalog / Unsplash)


There’s never been a better time to become more frugal and save some money. No matter your age or stage, no matter if you have a full ride scholarship to a prestigious university or see community college making sense, many signs point to the power of spending less for a while.

The U.S. economy is already in a “sharp, short recession,” and the unemployment rate could hit 12 percent by June. Michigan’s jobless rate could reach 24 percent by then, its highest level on record, according to University of Michigan economists.   

The coronavirus outbreak will mean far fewer summer jobs this year and far more unpaid bills. Many families will have huge hospital bills to pay,  or loved ones who died or are unable to work for weeks.  So while economists and politicians debate how long the economy will be hurting, individuals need to start saving.

Here’s some advice for young people that works well for all people:

Create an emergency fund. The world is unpredictable and honestly, sometimes frightening. So even if you think you will never need it, build a fund for if things do go off track. That promised summer job or commission could evaporate in the economic downturn. Start saving money to cover your basic expenses  – mobile phone, Netflix and some food – for at least three months.  Bankrate suggests six months and offers many tips on getting there.

Set a clear goal. If you see it, say it, share it and write it down, you may believe it. Know why you’re saving money now – half could be for your emergency savings and half for something brighter and more beautiful. Decide how the extra savings will be valuable to you, whether it’s a new tablet, a huge canvas to paint or a trip to New Orleans or Nigeria, once the world is a safer place.

Do it yourself. With so many Americans sheltering at home, now seems like the perfect time to learn to manicure your  nails, wash and press your shirts or make smoothies or coffee as good as the $4.50 cuppajoe  you used to buy. Or style your hair yourself, as Laila Ali, daughter of the late legendary boxer Muhammed Ali, does. Laila Ali is a fitness and wellness entrepreneur, yet every week she skips the salon and does her hair and her daughter’s at home. “I don’t have time to drive an hour to a salon and then sit there for a couple more hours getting my hair done. It’s really not that serious or important to me,” she told in a

Learn to cut, color and style your own hair to save a lot of money. (Photo: Teymi Townsend / Unsplash)

piece on frugal habits of the rich. The piece also has money-saving advice from actress Halle Berry, Hilary Swank and others.

Cultivate frugal habits.   Start developing your thrifty mindset now, while there’s fewer temptations and no where to go. Instead of a subscription to Hulu, see if your public library has free access to movies and shows.  Skip the takeout food in favor of some pasta cooked at home. Take a three hour break before you buy anything that costs more than say $75, to see if it still seems worthwhile – and to shop around for a bargain price.  

Play money games.   Yes, you may learn a lot from Monopoly, The Game of Life or Minecraft.  Check out online games recommended by The Balance, which says and role playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons may have valuable lessons in managing money and resources.  Or create your own at home and start teaching your younger siblings some money basics.

Our next money management piece will share podcasts, blogs and other ways to learn and develop your money management skills and frugal self. 





© Vickie Elmer, 2020, for Mint Artists Guild

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Smart affordable ways to have a well-stocked artist space

Take care of your tools if you want them to last. (Photo: Thom Masat / Unsplash)

Artists, this is the season to make more art.  Using this gift of time to create makes sense, and we are here to share ideas on creative projects – as well as how to stock up on art supplies, creatively and cheaply.

Let’s get started.

Know what you need. Create a list of all the supplies that you likely need for the next six to 12 months.  Add extra items to cover the bursts of creativity  and productivity from staying at home during coronavirus.  Then separate the list into must haves and wish you could buy.  Unless you have a rich uncle or patron, now is the time to focus on the must haves.

Buy together.  Identify a purchasing partner – an artist who works in your medium who you like and respect. Or join an artists group. If you join forces with three painters, buying canvases in bulk makes sense.  This works equally well for jewelry artists, photographers and others to share raw materials or finishing supplies.

Go to bargain hunter buying places. Go to garage sales or head to Arts & Scraps, once it reopens, on Detroit’s East Side. Or if you’re close to Ann Arbor, go to SCRAP Creative Reuse. Estate sales work, and sites such as allows you to search to see if they offer the supplies you need most.  CraigsList Free and junk yards may yield great items for sculpture, frames and more.  Just practice safety online and when you meet in person to collect supplies. Also: Look for artist-to-artist sales. These take place sporadically for artists to sell off extra or unused supplies and creative work.

Care for your tools. Buy a better quality and then take a little time to maintain. “Well kept art supplies can last for years,” according to a post republished in FineArtTips. So carefully wash your paint brushes and pat them dry after each use. Do the same with other creative equipment. 

Track your spending.   This can be as simple as a shoe box for all receipts or more high tech: a digital  log of every nickel spent on supplies, frames, packing materials and more. These are business expenses and they may be tax deductible. Read more about artists’ tax deductions in this post.

Set aside funds.  Each time you sell a piece of your creative work, place 20 percent of the proceeds – more if your material costs are high – in a special bank or credit union account to pay for supplies and equipment.  This practice will provide funds to replace canvases or silver wire or whatever runs low.

If you still cannot buy all your supplies, you may need to borrow money – from a family member or close friend – to stock your creativity. Just be clear about when and how you will repay this.

Perhaps your favorite aunt or pal will be glad to receive a painting or pendant instead of cash for a loan.

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Grow your “Frugal February,” emerging artists

Get creative with recycling and make new items more affordably. (Photo: Bernard Hermant / Unsplash)

Artists can be impulsive, extravagant individuals, and that may lead to slim savings or piles of credit card debts.  Yet many dream of traveling to new cities or countries for inspiration, creative projects or study abroad.

Perhaps it’s time to embrace Frugal February, a smart concept aimed at cutting expenses and lowering credit card debts piled up over the December holidays.  Because February is a short month – and often incredibly cold – it’s easier to stay inside and save money by cooking and eating at home, money management experts say.  

“It’s fun, rather than a struggle,” Kimberly Palmer, a personal finance expert with the website NerdWallet told the New York Times

Start by tracking all your spending for at least a week. Create a note in your phone, or use a spreadsheet or a simple money management app. It’s important to start with an understanding of how and where you spend money, with as much specifics as possible.

Then think of a goal – something worth saving for – that you need money to achieve.  This goal, whether it’s a big vacation in 2021 or a new bicycle or oil pastels by summer, will help you with willpower to cut back and save more in the month ahead.

Here’s five ways for emerging artists to save during Frugal February:

Find it for free. Collect items from Craigslist free or Freecycle. Seek supplies for your upcoming creative projects on these sites or post what you are seeking and ask people to donate supplies.

Skip the latte. Or skip all dining and drinking out of the home, unless your favorite Aunt is treating you. Make coffee and lunch at home this month. Buy yourself a really lovely thermos or lunch box, from a thrift store or resale shop, of course. If you forgo 20 lattes that would have cost $4.50 each, you will have an extra $90 to spend on summer vacation or other goals.

Rollback spending. If you usually spend $100 a week on food out and fun, scale it back to $65 – just for February. Choose a couple of categories where you will reduce your spending, creatively.

Recycle art materials. Create a swap with other emerging artists to trade art supplies. Or get out the gesso and reuse a few of your own canvases. This trick will save you money and it’s a great habit to establish.

Games and money teams.  Gather a team of creative friends who want to save money and get together to discuss your Frugal February ideas and successes.  And develop a game night or other creative activities at home on  weekends, so you’re not tempted to spend money on entertainment or dining.

Share your progress and plans on social media, too, and engage more friends in your money goals, suggests Palmer of NerdWallet.

If you want more help with Frugal February, read these posts from DIY Playbook and 29Secrets  –and review more money-saving ideas from NerdWallet.

Watch for money management ideas and financial planning strategies for emerging creatives about once a month on the Mint blog. 

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Financial goals and gift giving. Timely money management basics for emerging artists

Overloading your budget or your financial goals does not always work well. (Photo: Louis Hansel on Unsplash)

Money management is messy and difficult, especially when you are tempted to splurge on fabulous new restaurants, sweet treats or new shirts or earrings for yourself or your best friend.  And for emerging artists, the desire to buy more art supplies and apply to shows may compete with the desire to go to Miami with friends for spring break.

So Mint Artists Guild is starting a new series of blog posts to help young artists and creatives manage their money, and create more opportunities for themselves by saving.  This first post gives you some starter material to consider and we expect to share about one a month through much of 2020.

So let’s get started.

Set one or two clear financial goals.  Do not go after five goals; it’s just too many. Write down your goals or create a vision board to show them.  (Read this Chicago Tribune piece on another way to visualize your financial goals.) Write your why into the goal, such as: “I want to buy a new computer by April 10, so I can set it up for freelance work over the summer.”  Be specific and give yourself a deadline; you can always extend it if your savings are growing more slowly than you expected. Then set a reminder of your goal on your phone so it pops up at least once a week. And share your goal with someone who cares about you and ask them to check in on your progress at least once a month. 

Anticipate your expenses. Plan ahead for the costs of a graduation road trip or a big exhibit, a new computer or your first apartment. Estimate how much you will need at least four months before – and add 20 percent to your estimate because unexpected costs will show up.  Then plan and save or fundraise, and be clear how much you need to save every month. That way, you will have most of the funds in hand before the big day.

Create handmade gifts. ‘Tis the season to give, and yet your income is not bigger. So start creating some gifts – whether digital prints or fresh-baked brownies. And then in January, create a list of gifts you want to give for 2020 and make most of them that first month of the year.

Another way to land a beautiful gift is to swap with your artist friends. Set up an evening for talking money and trading art or do this at the end of one of your holiday pop ups.

“Here’s my gift giving rule: Respect your current financial situation,” said Suze Orman, an author and financial planning expert. “The way to build your savings is by spending less each month.”