Ever since winning the title of Chester County Dairy Princess at the age of 16, I have been into cheap scrapbooking. One of the competitions for the annual state pageant was to keep a scrapbook of all of the promotions that I had done over the last year, with a cash prize for the winner based off of presentation. The only issue? I was a teenager without that much money, so I had to find super creative ways to scrapbook. While I did not win the prize, I learned many tips and tricks when it comes to cheap scrapbooking and preserving your memories.

Let's start with the photographs themselves. Digital prints can cost a lot of money, even if you print them out at home. Here's a little secret: I have not paid for printed digital photos in over five years. Online photo shops open up every year, and it has become a cost of doing business to give people who open up new accounts free photos for doing so. Even after you have used up your free photos, most of these websites periodically send out emails for free photo prints. Sometimes you need to pay shipping (typically $2.95 or so), while others also provide you with free shipping. Here's an idea: if you are ordering free photos online from a company that has a store, such as CVS or Walgreens, click "pick up at store" when checking out so that you won't even need to pay shipping. Some notable online photo shops include: Snapfish, York Photos, and Kodak. Make sure you do not sign onto a new account with them without the promise of free photos, typically anywhere from 25-50.

Next you will need to purchase a scrapbook, scrapbook pages, tape (double-sided and acid-free so that it will not tarnish your photos over the years), and scissors. These are your basic supplies. Collect the 40% off one item coupon for Michael's craft stores, or the same coupon for Hobby Lobby craft stores, and purchase these items at a great discount.

Now that you have your photos, and the basic supplies that you need, start collecting mementos from occasions that can double as decorations on your scrapbook pages. For dinners, conferences, weddings, keep your name tag, your dinner place tag, a printed out menu, receipts. Ribbons around flowers, foreign currency in small denominations, tickets out, metro or train ticket stubs, sashes, etc. can all be used to not only jog your memory of that moment, but to decorate your scrapbook for free.

You will need other ways to decorate your pages. Look to nature first: wildflowers that you can dry or just a few petals, colorful seeds, pressed leaves, pine needles, twigs, seashells (weave into fish netting), etc. Think creatively and use things like brown paper bags glued onto the page (for example, cut out a square in the center to show the white page underneath that comes with the scrapbook, and put a photo in it, then write "Wanted" on the bag), pieces of old fabric or jeans with a pocket where you can stash a love letter, fabric scraps from fabric stores, watercolor paints, smudge your lips with gloss or lipstick and kiss the page, etc.

Add pieces that make the scrapbook interactive and bring the memory alive on the page, such as notes (fold and tape so that you can open it while it is still attached to the page), sand (attach by glue or purchasing a small, plastic, sealable bag and stapling it to the page), cards that need to be open, free luggage tags you get from conventions with the destination and your address at the time filled in, etc.

Assemble your pages; keep some white and just add stickers and some of the elements above around your photo. Tape colorful sheets of paper onto other pages, use wrapping paper, etc. to create contrast and interest.

Scrapbooking is such a rewarding, creative experience that does not have to cost a lot of money. You can preserve your most precious memories, create gifts for other people, or pass along a scrapbook as an heirloom all at a low cost. Just have fun with it!