Daily Wire Tip Mar. 26: Keeping a Budget at Gem Shows

By on March 25, 2011
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip for
March 26, 2011


Hi Dale, I’m going to a very large gem and bead show in a couple of weeks. Every time I go to one of these shows, I completely forget my carefully-made list, and start buying everything that puts an idea in my head. I’m quite sure the shows in Tucson would have resulted in me selling my car to buy more gemstones! How do you stay on track and on budget?

-Mona in San Jose, California


Yes, Mona, I really did laugh out loud when I read your question (and so will a lot of readers)! It is so hard not to pick up every single item that gives you the flash of an idea while shopping – worse yet, to get caught up in the deal. When I personally shop, I make sure that my "Needs" list is on a 3 x 5" notecard in my wallet, along with short pieces of my favorite gauge wire. (Sometimes I also tape a specific finding or bead on the card so I know exactly what I need to find).

I do some research ahead of time, checking prices on both the internet and in catalogs (that usually do not include shipping), and I look to see what is easily available if I should decide that my Needs list changes because I find something extra. I usually plan a certain amount of money for these Needs and I allow an extra slush fund, for those specialty items I will probably never see again.

To help me stay on budget, I only bring my allowed budget in cash and just one credit card for the special things I think I can’t live without. I never keep all of my cash in one place, either; I split it in thirds, so I am aware of how much I am spending. The main tip here is, put your list in your wallet the night before you leave. Have fun, and don’t hock the car!

Answer contributed by Dale "Cougar" Armstrong

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  1. avatar

    Karen McCoun

    March 26, 2011 at 9:01 am

    This question did make me smile because I just attended the “Gem Faire” yesterday! I did what Dale does, took my budget in cash and my list. It worked for me. I buy my wire and stones from Wire Sculpture and get odds and ends for marketing at the gem faires. The huge selection can be overwhelming, but my list of needs really helps!

  2. avatar

    Beth Kurcab

    March 26, 2011 at 9:54 am

    I definitely laughed out loud because your comment described me so well! I would love to go to Tuscon but am very afraid of the outcome.I went to a few bead shows with no list and that was a big mistake! Three weeks ago I attended a show with my list and only used cash. I actually came home with cash left over! I like the idea of dividing the cash up and putting in different places. I am attending another show this week. Wish me luck!

    • avatar


      March 26, 2011 at 12:34 pm

      Good Luck Beth! (Now, get back to work using the last stuff you got!)

  3. avatar

    Gail Maas

    March 26, 2011 at 10:54 am

    Oh my, this topic was RIGHT on time! I will be attending my first event like this in two weeks and I just know I will be hard-pressed to stay on budget. Fortunately I will be in a class most of the day on Saturday so that will keep me out of the exhibit hall for some time (Dale, I’ll be seeing you at your cabochon bracelet class; I can’t wait!), but the rest of the weekend might be a real challenge to my pocketbook! Thank you for posting this and for giving such solid advice! – Gail

    • avatar


      March 26, 2011 at 12:33 pm

      Cool Gail – see you then!

  4. avatar


    March 26, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    Was laughing right there with you! I remember a time when after a weekend at a Gem show my bank was calling to verify my unusual purchases before they would pay them.

  5. avatar


    March 26, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    One thing I do when I attend such shows is to decide on my budget and then take only that amount IN CASH. I pay cash for everything and when the money’s gone, so am I. It means a lot of walking around, but I generally do well that way.

    • avatar


      March 26, 2011 at 4:00 pm

      It’s always smart to ‘walk’ a show first . . . . IF it’s small enough!

  6. avatar

    joy Moos

    March 26, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    Great advise..I have copied it and printed it as a reminder so that even when I go off to the bead store (s) I will now have a list…I tend to see…create..purchase…oy vey the $$ just goes and goes!!

  7. avatar


    March 27, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    I went to my first Gem Faire this weekend too. I’m no gem specialist, but I was amazed at the number of booths trying to trick people with what they were claiming to be real gemstones and the ones that had huge 50% off signs and their cost after the discount was still more than other booths regular prices. Be careful out there. I found some great things, but I was disappointed in the lack of honesty I saw.