Don’t max out on memories

In many homes, the photos start to pile up the second a new baby takes up residence. With a list of firsts a mile long—baby’s first ride in the car, first goofy smile, first time curling up on the couch with mom—eager parents dive in headfirst, camera in hand. And in the age of digital images with no film to waste, it’s even easier to click away guilt-free.

The next logical question is what to do with all those neatly packaged JPEGs that use so much hard drive space. In search of a lasting way to display their snapshots, many moms stumble into scrapbooking.

Moms need not be master artists to produce show-offable scrapbooks. And though the hobby has the potential to get pricey, it doesn’t have to break the bank. With the help of Christina Van Horne at Windy City Scrapbooking (, we’ve put together a get-started guide to launch beginners into their first project.

Re-tool your workshop

Although there are a million and one paper punches, die cutters, tool kits and embossing guns on the market, a few simple tools are enough to get beginners going. Van Horne recommends a good pair of sharp scissors, a paper trimmer, adhesive (she likes the E-Z Runner tape dispenser by 3L, $5.99 for one 28-foot roll) and a standard black pen for journaling. You can always add extras like circle cutters, decorative-edge scissors and punches later. Consider joining a group of scrapbookers to share tools, too.

Save or splurge?

For pricier items like tools and albums (post-bound or snap load scrapbooks are easiest to add and rearrange pages), check larger chain stores for sales and clip coupons from weekly ads.

Solid-colored card stock can often be bought in bulk, making it a less expensive option for backgrounds. It lets you stretch patterned papers across several pages, giving your book a feeling of continuity. Use leftover scraps to mat photos for another easy (and cheap) way to make photos pop off the page.

For embellishments like stickers, cutouts, stamps and eyelets, pick a few of your favorites and bypass the rest. Know your own spending style to keep yourself in check. If you can shop for one page at a time without getting carried away, go for it. At Windy City’s"crop nights,” they’ll run a tab so customers can buy a single sheet of paper at a time if they want. If it’s easier to resist extra purchases when you buy all your supplies at once, though, take that route instead.

It’s easy to get carried away walking down endless aisles of miniature Cubs uniforms and tiny Candyland sets, but they add dollars to the bottom line quickly. Ease the sticker shock at the register by knowing what you’re looking for from the start. Bring a few photos along to the store—it will help keep you on track and let you match the best add-ons—and check the clearance section for bargains on retired or overstocked items. By saving in one area, you can splurge on that too-cute-to-be-true miniature swing set that looks just like the one your son loves at the playground.

Make it your own

Let loose with your creative side for a scrapbook that is unique and cost-effective. Clip quotes and funny tag-lines from magazines or pen some yourself instead of indulging in sheets of pre-printed ones. Save brochures, maps, swatches of baby blankets or a strip of wallpaper from the baby room renovations to add a personal touch that can’t be found in a store, no matter how extensive their collection. Journal funny, touching or otherwise memorable moments from your baby’s first few months to tuck in next to photos, too. Someday, she might be curious about what toy captivated her at 2 months or the flavor of baby food she always spit back up on you.

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