Preparing a low-budget shopping list for Vacation Bible School crafts supplies

Shopping list utilizing VBS crafts budget

It is important to keep things in order: first your Vacation Bible School crafts budget, then your list...then go shopping!


Lately, we have been talking about Vacation Bible school crafts.  If you missed the first two posts, you may want to look at:

Once you have your Vacation Bible School crafts plan all laid out, you will need to begin thinking about how you are going to get the supplies that you need in order to carry the plan out.

This is where the money comes back in.  When we talked about budgeting in our first post, we talked about 55 cents per child per day as a very minimum starting point for a budget.  We are going to assume today that your church is quite tight on funds and will be using this plan.

If you happen to have more money than this available for your Vacation Bible School crafts program, that is great.  It just means that you will not have to be quite as tight or creative in your spending.  These tips can still be helpful, though–we should always be careful with how we spend the Lord’s money!

Okay, here is how you do it.

Starting your list

First of all, you will need a list.  What things are you going to need?  If you have purchased a Vacation Bible School curriculum from a company like Hasten Home, then much of the work will already have been done for you.  You will just need to look through the planned Vacation Bible School crafts and their supply lists to see what you need.

You are going to want to break down your list into a workable shopping plan, though; so before you start writing, divide your paper into two parts.  Fold it in half down the middle or draw a line to make two long columns.  It does not matter exactly how you do it, just so you end up with two distinct parts on your paper.

The new purchases

One side of your paper is going to have all of your “must buy new” items.  These are the things that are unlikely to be laying around someone’s house in still-usable condition and in sufficient quantities for Vacation Bible School.  For example: glue, dowels, stickers, little plastic animals, disposable tablecloths, sesame seeds, scissors, nice pieces of lumber…you get the idea.

Of course, the list is just a starting point.  You never know what someone may want to donate, or what treasure you might find second-hand; but you have to start somewhere.  If you don’t have it, you believe you will need it, and it is most likely to have to be purchased new…put it on the “must buy new” side.

The “other” category

The other side of your list is going to be for “other” items.  These are Vacation Bible School crafts supplies that have a pretty good chance of being found somewhere other than the big discount store downtown.  Think: recycling, thrift stores, yard sales, church members’ attics….

The kinds of things that you may put in this column might include: plastic water bottles, felt, sewing thread and cloth, wood scraps, paper plates, wooden ice cream sticks, small glasses, beads.

If you shop in thrift stores from time to time, you will have an idea what kinds of treasures are likely to show up there.  On the other hand, you will not know what kind of treasures church members might have to share unless you ask.  (We will talk more about that next time.)

How much do we need?

As you write your shopping list for Vacation Bible School crafts supplies, make note of how many or how much of each item you expect to need.  Use your attendance estimates (how many children you think are likely to come to your Vacation Bible School) from the first Vacation Bible School crafts budgeting step.

Setting priorities

When you have everything written down, it is time to prioritize your list.  There is no need to make this too complicated.  Basically, what you need to do is prayerfully look over your list and decide which items are absolutely essential.

We are working with a budget, and it is virtually impossible to make a list in any reasonable amount of time that is going to have all of the exact prices you are going to have to pay for everything that you buy new.  And that does not even go into the fact that you are hoping to find many of your goodies in thrift shops or receive them at the hand of generous church members.

So as you look over your list, simply mark with a star (*), or highlight, the things that could not be done without.  If you are doing a sewing project, cloth and thread are essential.  So are a couple pairs of good sewing scissors–but could the scissors be borrowed?  Probably; so the scissors are not one of your “must-haves”–the cloth and thread are.

If you are doing a decoupage project, you might like the results of an actual decoupage “glue”, but white glue gives a reasonably nice result–and for only a fraction of the cost.  Make a note that you will buy the white glue, unless you come across an excellent deal on the decoupage glue first.  (This might be getting a little ahead of ourselves, but a deal on something you have already purchased is not a deal unless you can easily return the first item now.  Buying doubles of any item will quickly bust your best Vacation Bible School budget!)

Once you have your “must-haves” marked, you might want to mark your optional items some other way–perhaps by putting parentheses around them (like this).  These are the things that would be helpful or nice, but could be done without: the extra stickers or fancy sequins, the new crayons when you have colored pencils already, et cetera.

Working out the costs

Finally, write your total Vacation Bible School crafts budget amount at the top of your page, and circle it.  This is your reminder.  Start thinking about how the individual items are going to fit into the plan.  Make your best guess at how much each thing will cost if you have to buy it, and write that number next to the item.  (Round up to whole dollar amounts.)

Then add up all the estimates.  Don’t get too worried if it is above your budget–remember, we are hoping to get help from the congregation with many of these items.

Look at each of your columns.  Your “must-buys” will probably be half, or a little more, of your total Vacation Bible School crafts budget–is it?  If it is more than this, how much will the cost have to be pared down to get it there.  Write that number as a negative (for example, -$15) at the top of that column.  That will have to be cut somewhere as you shop.

How much does your estimate for your “other” column come out to?  If it is about the same or a little more than your “must-buys”, you are probably okay.  Like we talked about, we are hoping that much of these items will be donated, and that will bring the cost down considerably.

God will supply

This part of the process might be a little painful as you see how much you need and how much you have to work with; but rest assured.  The Lord will lead you.  Just be honest with yourself, because He knows what is best–and He is totally willing to supply that best.

Remember, this Vacation Bible School is for Him, so that precious children can get to know their Saviour.

Next time, we will discuss exactly how to go about getting all the goodies on your Vacation Bible School crafts supplies list–it will be time to go shopping!


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