If the word frugal conjures up images of your matronly aunt’s used tin foil collection, or the carefully washed plastic bags drying in her dish drainer you’re not mistaken, but being frugal is also simply being a good steward with the resources we are given.
When it comes to a church’s design budget, however, maybe we should be thriftier and less frugal. Though frugality is used with the best intentions, it has a negative connotation linking it with an effort to be simple, plain, and well, cheap. Simplicity in design can still be a great element in your creativity tool belt, but it is important to familiarize yourself with your cost-cutting options in order to stretch the limits of what’s available to you. Your design doesn’t have to suffer because of your lack of dollars.
A church has so many demands on a limited or fluctuating income that the budget for print communications, such as bulletins or flyers, is often minimal at best. How can you be creative and keep costs low for your print needs?
Investigate your local print options
Using a local printer gives you the additional perk of investing in the lives of people living within your community, and it saves you money by eliminating shipping costs accrued from an out-of-town printer.
Search for a local printer who is eager for your regular business more than your money. This type of printer is more willing to discuss cost-cutting options with you, such as arranging for you to pick up the project instead of being charged for shipping or delivery. Additionally, if your bulletin and flyers are picked up unassembled, you may decrease costs of folding, stapling, or even hand packing (insertion of flyers).
Note: If this is an available option, you will need to pick up your project early enough so your church office group can assist with completing the assembly each week. You could also enlist a reliable small group to perform the task as a church ministry. Show your appreciation by arranging for snacks and fellowship to make the time more enjoyable and meaningful to those who participate each week.
How many colors can you afford?
Have your printer quote the following print options for the quantity you need:
1) Full color (which will likely be too expensive)
2) Full color cover with black and white interior pages (bulletins over 4 pages only)
3) Black & White plus a designated spot color
4) Black & White Only
Often the black & white plus a spot color is a nice middle-of-the-road option that people forget about. The spot color will often be pulled from the church logo. For instance, if your logo is a black cross with a brown crown of thorns shedding drops of blood. Your spot color will either be the brown of the thorns or the red of the drops of blood. Use your choice as an accent color throughout your publication in various percentages. Ask your printer for advice on how to do this with the software you will be using.
Don’t bleed off the page
Keep your design items from bleeding off the page. By keeping all items within your printer’s requested safety zone for your print size (often at least .25 inches each side) it ensures that you have less paper waste and trims the cost from your printer.
Use your own photography
Tap into photography talent that may exist within your church family. Find one reliable contact or initiate a small group and send them “on assignment” to events. Regularly create a list of photos you anticipate needing and give them as much time as you can to get the photos back to you. If you need to take photos yourself, and you are feeling untrained, Google “photography tips” or “photography tutorials” and you’ll find plenty of information to get you started.
Use cheap royalty-free stock photography
Sites such as istockphoto.com and stockxpert.com are great sources for quality photography at an affordable cost. Purchasing the quality/size you need for print (300 dpi) can be as cheap as $9 - 25 per image (less for online quality if you have website photo needs). Your photography club could even help the church earn money by selling their best photos on these sites and donating the funds from their commissioned photos. Crossdaily.com is an additional resource for selling and buying Christian photography. (Note: The difference with this site is that there is a tiered membership fee and not a pay per image system.)
Be creative with design and text
Study magazine layouts at your local library and make photocopies of layouts you like. Even analyze the junk mail you receive and start an idea file. Examine why you like these design elements, and use the best of these design principles in your church’s publication.
Tip: I recommend designing many sections of your bulletin the same or similar every week. This allows readers to easily reference information. Leave a few areas flexible to allow for some creative freedom each week that will keep people interested in reading each issue.
You have to be thrifty to stay within a small church budget, but remember that the purpose of your printed materials is to communicate. Make sure all of your copy is legible and the writing is engaging. After all, your goal is that church members will enjoy becoming better informed about the activities going on at your church. Sticking to your budget ensures those activities will remain possible, thanks to your continued efforts to saving on print and design costs.
Once upon a time, I was a mom with a corporate job. I woke up early every morning between Monday and Friday, quietly got myself dressed for work, and then packed multiple bags with bottles, diapers, jars of baby food, extra clothing, and blankies, all before waking my two young girls and driving them to the day care center.
On my way there, I always passed this one newish subdivision near a beautiful park. When I was running a little early, I would usually get stuck behind the big yellow school bus that was stopping there to pick up a whole gaggle of kiddos from that entire subdivision. I grew not to mind the brief halt in my morning rush, because my oldest daughter was fascinated with the process of the kids getting on the bus and all of the flashing bus lights. I informed her that someday, she too would be getting on a bus to go to school like these big kids. She was ecstatic!
None of the above retelling is unusual... except that while my daughter was checking out the routine of the kids getting on the bus, I was noticing the routine of one particular mom. She was always there, calmly sipping her cup of coffee and dressed as though she was just going to go back in her house and curl up with a good book or the morning paper and relax once the bus pulled out with her kids on it. She looked so... so... the opposite of me! It wasn't even 7:30 a.m. yet, and there I was - madly dashing to get the children to day care, hoping one of them wouldn't whine too badly with separation anxiety and make me late for work again, while she moseyed back up her own driveway, coffee in hand, while the neighborhood kids happily waved good-bye to her.
I was jealous.
I hated having to drag my kids out of their comfy little beds, and I didn't really like the amount of time they had to be taken care of by someone other than me. By the time I got them home, the youngest would be awake less than two hours - not much mother/daughter bonding time there. Usually, it was food, a bath, and maybe 20 minutes of actual play before our bedtime routines began. I always reminded myself that I had to do it. I had to go to work to pay the bills. During that time, I fantasized about working from home - doing freelance writing and graphic design. I bought and read a lot of books on freelancing, but I just didn't feel brave enough to trust my talents to bring in enough money.
This spring, I think God gently pushed me out of that nest I had made of my corporate job. Like many others in 2009, I was laid-off due to simple corporate cut-backs. I didn't get fired. I didn't do anything wrong. One minute my cozy corporate job was there, and the next minute it wasn't. At first, I was a jumbled mess of anger, hurt, and stress - not knowing at all what I was going to do. But during that time, I also dared to share with others my secret dream of freelancing from home, and after getting much encouragement from my former coworkers, my family, and definitely my spouse, I started my own freelance business, working out of the comfort of my own home office. My two little girls are now able to sleep as long as they need to in the morning, and they get to spend most of their day with their mommy, even while I'm working.
At first, I worked myself round-the-clock, taking in every client I could find because I didn't trust that I could make enough to pay the bills. But I'm starting to feel like I'm going to make it now (thanks to my repeat clients!). I'm starting to allow myself to enjoy being my own boss and to take the time I need to enjoy the small moments I have throughout the day with my girls. Yesterday, I drove my oldest to her first day at preschool. It was while I sat in the car, sipping my coffee, waiting to drop her off that it hit me - I have become that calm and collected mom I used to admire as I madly dashed off to my corporate job.
It made me smile.
It's only been a little over five months since I said good-bye to my corporate mom routines. But today, I just might scrapbook my severance pay stub into a layout to celebrate that job ending... and how it was the boost I needed to become the kind of career woman - and mom - I always wanted to be.
Appeared in the July 24, 2010 edition of the Scrap Girls Chit Chat Newsletter.