Part of being a thrifty seamstress is thinking far out. Buying materials for projects in installments instead of all at once can enable you to use more coupons and save quite a bit of money. With this in mind, today's advice is how to get the most savings out of shopping at your local sewing supply stores, specifically JoAnn Fabrics, as I used to work at our local store and have shopped there religiously for over a decade, which means I've had a lot of time to learn some really important basic tips and tricks.
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Often they will honor each other's coupons, although beware, you can't use Michael's coupons to buy fabric at JoAnn's, as Michael's does not sell fabric and JoAnn's will only let you use a competitor's coupon towards a comparable item. You can also set up your account to send your coupons to your e-mail or even your phone. Finally, if you didn't print/aren't on the list, more coupons are getting put directly on the website.
Don't assume that clearance fabric will be less than other options. Several fabrics will always be on sale (30%-60% off!) and can often be better savings. The only time when clearance is absolutely positively the best bargain you are going to get, is when the clearance items are reduce a further 50% off of the usual 50% clearance savings, for a total of 75% off the normal price. I never ever pass by the clearance when on the super sale without at least browsing.
Remnants are often the best deals on smaller amounts of fabric. They are always 50% off the current floor price - which means if that fabric is currently marked down 40%, you're going to get 50% off that already-marked down price. Furthermore, during big sales, Remnant markdowns may switch from 50% off to 75% off... at a time when many of the fabrics are already under some kind of markdown. You'll almost certainly never find a better deal than this.
Be aware of what you can and cannot use your coupons for. JoAnn's policies have changed over the years. Nowadays you cannot use coupons towards fabric on clearance. You also can't use them towards already discounted fabric. It used to be that if fabric was 30% off, you could use a coupon to cancel the original 30% off, and apply the coupon's 50% off instead. This is no longer valid (and is probably why some items, such as magazines, are perpetually 10% off, so that they can never be further discounted - However, if you have a total purchase coupon (usually 20-35% off), that will apply towards these items. ). So if you want to get a good deal on some fabric that is marked 30% off, wait a week until that discount ends and use your 50% off instead.
Take advantage of sales. Don't buy on impulse unless you have to. When items are marked down - stock up. Especially things like thread or the notions wall. Sometimes they are discounted as much as 50% off, which is a real savings and beats out what you can get anywhere else.
Don't buy full-priced patterns unless you have to - but do buy from JoAnn's as opposed to an online source! I've yet to find an online source that consistently sells any of the popular patterns for less than JoAnn's everyday 40% off price once you count shipping into total. However I try to keep my pattern buying for their $.99 pattern sales. I usually buy a ton during the sales in a variety of styles and sizes so that when I do need a pattern, I will already have something fairly close to use.
You can return fabric you buy at the store, as long as it's unwashed and uncut. Many customers wait in line to make a return, only to be told that they have to first take it back to the cutting counter to be remeasured, so save yourself the time of waiting in line at the check-out/returns twice, and go straight back to the cutting counter!
Don't order anything color specific on JoAnns.com. As much as I love the company, their color accuracy between the website and real life is the poorest I've seen - and it is difficult, expensive and sometimes impossible to make returns on online orders. Also, you can't combine multiple coupons, so you either get the free shipping or the 50% off - not both. If the store doesn't have enough of the color you want, they'll call and special order it for you, or do their best to track down another store that has it in stock - and you'll be able to see it before you pay for it.
Use your coupons. If you've got a store that is on your weekly errand rounds, then you can make smaller purchases and use more coupons. Don't have something specific you need? Maybe this is the week to get ten yards of muslin or batting or black silk and use your 50% off on it. You'll have a good stock for future projects, and you'll have gotten a great deal on it.
I've found that by following these guidelines, I can get equally good or better prices at JoAnn's than most other venues (unless I'm looking for something special like silk or velvet or boning). It takes a little extra work, but in this economy it's worth it, right?