Great Savings #77 – Make Your Own Gift Cards

Making cards saves money and is a great project to do with the kids.With the holidays just around the corner, now is a great time to think of fun ways to save money. One of the best tricks is making your own holiday or gift cards. When you buy a birthday or special occasion card at the store, you can easily shell out $3 to $5 a piece. Send out 20 cards a year and you could be spending over $100! Why not spend a fraction of the amount making your own cards, instead? And best of the all, your kids will love learning how, which makes card making great family fun.


If you’re already dismissing the idea you can save money by making your own cards remember that sending or receiving cards isn’t just about the holidays. At our house, January, August and November are big birthday months. That usually means we’ll need to come up with 8 or more birthday cards during the course of the month. However, every month has its occasions. Let’s not forget Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. Then there are weddings, graduations and those sadder occasions when a loved one gets sick. And sometimes it’s fun just to send a card for no reason at all—for example, when you want to show someone special just how much you love them. When you add it up, it’s not hard to spend hundreds on store bought cards.  Ouch!  Oh, sure, more and more people seem to rely on those Facebook greetings, but really, wouldn’t you rather receive a real card?


There are so many cool stamping supplies.

Inks are available in a variety of colors.

Basic Supplies


For those not blessed with extra paper in the cupboard, colored pencils, scissors and glue, there are stores now geared to making your own cards.  Most are craft stores like JoAnne Fabric, or smaller stores that specialize in scrap booking and stamping.  These companies sell card stock, glues, stamping materials, papers, all kinds of rub on or plastic lettering, not to mention lettering machines, stickers, and card decorations for every occasion imaginable. True, it takes a bit of creativity to get started, but it’s worth it—this is a terrific activity to do with kids.


There are a huge variety of stamps available.

There’s no end to all the stamp shapes and characters you can find.



For those who want a bit of help, a number of stores offer classes, or you can find all kinds of sites on the web where people and companies share ideas.  As an example, try  As you get into card making, you’ll soon discover that some of your cards turn out amazing.  After awhile, you may even decide you’re having so much fun you’ll never buy another card again.


Watch For Specials


Card making materials are often available at a discount if you watch the ads at stores like JoAnne Fabric.  They typically offer a coupon for savings up to 40% on any single item in the store, or sometimes the coupon is for a certain percent off everything in a department.  However, I’ve also seen stamps, inks and a variety of papers at garage sales from time to time.  Those can be super cheap.


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Go Digital


If you’re good on the computer, another idea for card making is to use a program like Adobe Elements or Microsoft Publisher and create your own graphics and design.  It’s easy to manipulate pictures for fun or for funny effects in Adobe Elements.  Microsoft Word will also work for card making in a pinch as you can write out some text, format it and then paste in a few photos.  Don’t have any of these programs?  Just do a search on “Making your own cards” on Google, Bing or Yahoo and you’ll come up with dozens or hundreds of companies that allow you to make cards using their downloadable software (much of it is free).  One note: Before downloading software of any kind, be sure to protect your computer with Anti-Virus software.


A Little Imagination Goes A Long Way


Some people say that home made cards are more expensive than store bought, but it’s really just a matter of being creative.  Cards can be made with all kinds of supplies you probably have lying around the house—anything from scrap paper, to old linens, ribbons, charms, yarns, strings, glue, you name it.  The hard part isn’t so much gathering up materials as it is trying to sound original.  My advice:  Keep the message simple and don’t worry if it’s the world’s perfect card.  Whoever you give it to will probably just appreciate the fact you remembered the occassion and took the time to do something special.  Hard to beat that!


A Quick Demonstration


Here’s a quick photo tour of a “card stamping” project.


It's best to start a project after gathering your supplies.

1) If you don’t have stamps or embossing supplies, use colored pencils.

1) Start by gathering your supplies:  In this case, we need a card, extra paper (cut into balloon shapes), stamps, embossing ink, glue, string, embossing powder, heat gun, scissors and some wax paper to protect the table.


Inks come a variety of colors.

2) Lightly coat the top edges of your stamp until ink is evenly distributed.

2) Ink your stamps carefully.  If you use too much ink it is easier to smear it.  If you use too little it won’t make a clean impression.


Press straight down without smearing.

3) Try to keep your stamp from sliding as you press it onto your paper.

3) To stamp your balloons and card, start by carefully inking your stamps, and then press evenly against your paper to get a clean impression.


Embossing really makes a card look professional.

4) Sprinkle your powder over wax paper to catch any extra. Return the extra to the bottle.

4) Before your ink has a chance to dry, sprinkle some embossing powder over the stamped area.  You’ll want to completely cover the impression.


An embossed shape is finalized as you heat your powder.

5) Heating only takes a few seconds. Don’t burn your hands.

5) Very gently shake the loose powder free from your stamped paper back into the jar. The wax paper can catch any extra which can also be reused.  The ink should have provided enough moisture to hold some powder on the paper in the shape of your stamp.  Next, you’ll want to use your heat gun to melt the powder onto the paper.  This goes very quick if you preheat your heat gun.  Don’t burn those fingers!


Take the final steps to complete your card.

6) Lay it all out before you start gluing.

6) Cut your string and then lay out your design on paper before gluing.  Once you’re satisfied where you want your balloons to end up then first glue the top end of the string and then glue a balloon down over it.  Press and hold as needed.


A card made with love.

Hurray! Your done!

If you like you can leave the lower string ends to dangle loose or gather and dab the strings in the middle with more glue.  After your glue dries, go ahead and write a nice note inside.  Hurray!  You’re done!


Get Started Today


There’s no end to what you can do making cards.  If you don’t have stamping supplies you can still make cool cards.  Some people collect small bits of cute, leftover wrapping paper, cardboard, old jewelry, etc.  As you start playing with these items feel free to let your imagination run wild.  Have fun!


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