5 Shopping Tips for the Tucson Bead Shows

Heading for Sunny Tucson

Usually the weather in Minnesota at this time of year makes people cuss and throw things. But I’m happily whistling away as I pack up beading kits and my Bermuda shorts. You see, I get to join 60,000 of my rock, gem, and beading enthusiast buddies and head down to Tucson, Arizona in a couple weeks! 

This year I’ll be teaching a class for Swarovski and then heading up to the Glendale Bead Museum to teach a couple more classes. I purposely slated in a couple shopping days to visit some of the 40+ venues involved in this mammoth event, but alas, with our current household finances matching the economy’s, my budget director has given me orders: no deficits on this trip; surpluses only. (Who appointed this guy, anyway?)

Tracking Every Penny

My budget director doesn’t know about the Budget Shortfall Fund (i.e. the Rainy Day Dollars I’ve been squirreling away all year), so those shopping days I booked won’t be spent watching free HBO in my hotel room. I’ll need to be very judicious with my purchases, though, so will keep track of every penny I spend. Here’s the plan:

Make a list of the important materials I need that I won’t be able to get elsewhere. Stones and pearls are the most plentiful in Tucson, so those will be at the top of my list.

Pick up a copy of the Tucson Show Guide. It’s a free publication online or you can find it in the lobbies of many of the show venues. (If you're not attending the shows, you can purchase a copy.  With a directory of thousands of suppliers and products, it's a handy year-round reference.)  The Tucson Show Guide contains maps, contact information, exhibitor information, and even individual show floor plans. The cool thing about the online version is it has an interactive show planner, where I can drag and drop the events I want to attend into a single file. I’ll print my show planner out before I go so I don’t do a lot of extra driving around while I’m in Tucson.

Put several copies of my resale certificate, business license, and business cards in a plastic sleeve. I’ll bring a copy of each to the wholesale shows I attend. This will make getting into the shows a lot quicker. 

Bring a permanent marker, plastic baggies of all shapes and sizes, and a calculator. When I’m finished shopping for the day, I’ll transfer the individual bead strands I purchase into baggies. I’ll label each baggie with the bead type, strand cost, cost per bead, and vendor. It sounds a little anal, but if I do it right away while the information is still fresh, it’ll get done. Then, when I get back to Minnesota to incorporate the beads into a project or kits, it’ll be easy to figure out what my bottom line charge needs to be.

Bring my Budget Shortfall Fund and that’s it. When the fund is depleted, I resort to the free HBO.

New:  Win a $1,000 Tucson Shopping Spree

As a quasi-employee of Interweave Press, it’s too bad I’m not eligible to enter the Tucson Spree. Thinking about that $1,000 prize money while I shopped would make the challenge to keep within the budget even sweeter, and that Budget Shortfall Fund might be used for something else really important . . . like a few new pairs of Bermuda shorts. (Okay, I guess that’s why I have a budget director!)

Are you heading to Tucson? How do you stay within your budget at a bead show? Share your tips on the website.  

Michelle's Tucson Blog:  It will be my first time at Tucson and I'll be blogging it about it on the beadingdaily.com website beginning Monday, February 2, 2009.  I'm hoping to share some photos–new trends, cool new beadmakers, and my own bead purchases.  Check out Michelle's First Trip to the Tucson Bead Shows–maybe you can give me some packing advice before I leave!–Michelle Mach, Beading Daily editor.

Jean Campbell writes about beading and life every Wednesday on Beading Daily. If you have comments or questions for Jean, please post them on the website.

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