Our Almost-Splurge Weekend


Johnny and I splurged on this poster back in December and we’ve been meaning to get it framed ever since. But life got real busy real quick when Baby Girl made her debut, so the poster’s been spending it’s time just begging to be bent in any area of our home where our cat can’t sit on it or try to create a makeshift fort from it. I thought I’d finally found a safe place for it in a storage closet. And then jackets somehow magically appeared on top of it when my family came to visit us for a weekend. That was our final cue: this poster had to get framed or it was going to get destroyed.

Serendipitously, Johnny and I received a “60% Off Custom Framing” coupon from Michael’s a couple weeks ago. We’d never really framed anything before, but we knew custom framing was probably pretty expensive. But 60% off? What a deal! So on Saturday, Johnny, Baby Girl, the Poster, and I went on an adventure to Michael’s. I say “adventure” because with a baby, even a seemingly mundane trip is always full of surprises.

We strolled into Michael’s with Johnny carrying Baby Girl in her car seat. We had intended to stick her seat in the front part of a shopping cart, but apparently Michael’s has miniature carts that creak and bend in open defiance if you try to put your car seat on them. So Johnny continued carrying the car seat in his arms, and we headed back to the custom framing counter. I laid the poster on the counter with a sense of relief that it would now be in good hands, as I handed the the desk attendant our coupon. She and I then began talking about what kind of frame we wanted (just a simple white wood one), the matting (none), and the glass (non-glare). She calculated the costs and said that with 60% off the total would come to $195.

Say huhhh?? That couldn’t be right. Clearly she hadn’t taken the 60% off yet. We were thinking maybe $50, $75 tops… and even that would be a lot of money to spend.

Meanwhile, Johnny was walking in some nearby aisles with our girl who had inexplicably begun crying quite loudly. But I had to have his input on this price!! So I called Johnny over and gave him the lowdown. And for whatever reason, having a screaming baby with you while deliberating any decision makes said decision 1000x more stressful.

Johnny: (very confused and unbelieving) So you’re saying that it would normally cost over $400 to get this framed?

Desk Attendant: Yes… the total would be blah blah blah. And you’d sign your name in blood on this line.

Baby Girl: AhH!H e2hi9r0qjJIO!!!! JLKJlkJ!!!!

We then began discussing cheaper frames and using regular glass (instead of non-glare) to get the price down to the cheapest possible point… which was $149. All this time Johnny was swinging the car seat back and forth trying to console our baby girl, and we were both wanting to just be done. But still… $149 bucks to frame a $70 print? Yikesy pants.

Joanna: So should we do it?

Johnny: Uhhhh…. I don’t know. You think we can get it framed cheaper somewhere else?

Joanna: Johnny, this is 60% off.

Baby Girl: [cluck] (She’s started “communicating” with us by striking her tongue against the roof of her mouth. So that was her contribution to the conversation.)

So we started the custom-framing process (Name? Phone number?). And just when we were about to sign our poster and our financial souls over to Michael’s money-sucking framing department, Johnny leaned in and said, “Let’s just go look at their generic poster frames.”

I was hesitant, but I nixed the custom-framing process we had started, grabbed our poster, and went and looked at poster frames with Johnny. The only option for our size was a black frame, and we had wanted white wood. But it was so much cheaper. So we grabbed the poster frame and headed toward the register, both feeling a sense of relief already.

Johnny: And, ya know, if we don’t like it, we’re only out $30 bucks, and we can get it custom framed somewhere else.

Joanna: Johnny. The frame is 50% off…. We’re only going to be out $15.

We both laughed, barely believing that we almost spent $150 on something that was now only going to cost us $15. With only $15 out of wallet, we were all very happy to be heading home (especially Baby Girl!).

And once we got the poster in the frame, we both really liked it! So it’s a keeper. It doesn’t look expensive, but it looks nice. And we managed to stay true to our financial selves. Crisis averted!

So do you think we made the right decision? Would you have chosen custom framing in this situation? Did you have any almost-splurges this weekend (or recently)?

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  • Reply Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies March 11, 2013 at 7:40 am

    You guys totally made the right call. My mom used to work in the framing dept at Michaels, and she said virtually no one paid without one of those coupons – they are in the flyers every week that you can pick up at the front of the store! So the prices were just hugely inflated so 60% off was the “regular price”.
    Looks awesome. We did the same thing with a poster we got for our guest room. The stock frame is totally fine.

    • Reply Johnny March 11, 2013 at 12:16 pm

      Pricing secrets from a Michaels “insider.” That’s exactly the type of validation that we needed. Thank you.

  • Reply JMK March 11, 2013 at 7:45 am

    Looks fabulous! Unless you are doing something odd shaped, or with customized matting why not go this route?

    BTW – I think the black frame looks great. Maybe it’s just the photo but the lettering looks off white? Maybe a white frame would have made the lettering appear dirty?

    • Reply Johnny March 11, 2013 at 12:19 pm

      We thought it was an odd shape that needed a custom frame until we decided to give their standard options a look. And we lucked out big time.

      I think you’re spot on with how the white frame might have affected the off-white chalk on the poster. So not only did we save a ton of money, but I think we ended up with a better look for our poster.

  • Reply Johnny Moneyseed March 11, 2013 at 8:48 am

    Never ever ever in my life would I have paid more than $50 to frame anything. I’m glad this story didn’t end in you guys giving in to the succubus that is Michael’s framing department!

    • Reply Johnny March 11, 2013 at 12:22 pm

      Right? The whole situation felt like a hostage situation. And we successfully dispatched the hostage taker and released all $175+ back home to our bank account.

  • Reply Roo // NiceGirlNotes March 11, 2013 at 9:46 am

    WOOF. At those prices, I would have washi-taped it to the wall.

    • Reply MomofTwoPreciousGirls March 11, 2013 at 10:32 am

      Washi tape! Hilarious!

    • Reply Johnny March 11, 2013 at 12:27 pm

      If Pinterest has taught me anything, it’s that we don’t use enough washi tape in our home. And that I’m the only dude on Pinterest, even if I only login once a month (that’s my alibi and I’m sticking to it).

  • Reply Brian March 11, 2013 at 9:50 am

    Those prices are insane! I know framing is expensive, but come on!

    We usually go to a local frame shop in town and the prices are much better and the work they do is much better.

    I think you guys made the right call. Is baby girl smiling at you all yet? That’s the best in my opinion… Also our little guy figured out how to crawl forward this week. I always joked that kids are trouble when they are mobile and now the jokes on me. That kid is getting into things I didn’t even know I had!

    • Reply MomofTwoPreciousGirls March 11, 2013 at 10:36 am

      Time to get down on your hands and knees and see all that needs to be baby proofed. Best investment we made in that area were the switch plates that cover the holes when a plug is pulled out.

      We had a totally baby safe living room with our oldest. Never felt worried if we had to step away. Those switch plates were life savers because she had a thing for wires! We had to give her her very own power strip to keep her happy!

      • Reply Johnny March 11, 2013 at 12:47 pm

        I’m now looking over our current budget to find out where to take money from in order to fund the “Baby Proofing” category. But on a positive note, I’m glad to hear that power strips and other random household items will make good Christmas gifts for our Baby Girl. 🙂

    • Reply Johnny March 11, 2013 at 12:42 pm

      Come on! (I hope you watch Arrested Development)

      We decided that if it didn’t work out, we would have gone local. And we probably should have started there anyway if it weren’t for that deceptive 60% off coupon. But out $15 option has done a valiant job of saving the day, so no local frame shop for us.

      Baby Girl is smiling like crazy these days! She was on a smiling spree this morning so I sat with her for 15 minutes and took them all in. It’s fun to finally see some life in her gestures and movements. That’s awesome that your little guy is crawling! I always imagine our little girl to always just be this immobile body that we’ll have to forever prop up against pillows and couch cushions. They grow so fast.

  • Reply My Financial Independence Journey March 11, 2013 at 10:45 am

    For a poster, you probably made the right decision. I have some very nice artwork that I had custom framed. Yes it was ridiculously overpriced even with the coupon, given the quality of the art, the quality of the frame, and the fact that I even met the artist I think it was an appropriate decision.

    • Reply Johnny March 11, 2013 at 12:51 pm

      We definitely didn’t have quite the same attachment to the poster, but it was one of our first “serious” art purchases. And we felt it deserved a decent home that wouldn’t hamper its style. But the biggest red flag was that the frame far exceeded the cost of the actual print.

      So maybe if and when we put down a little more serious cash on art, we’ll consider it.

  • Reply Chris March 11, 2013 at 11:52 am

    I used to get those cheap little frames at Wal Mart for my posters when I was growing up. They are pretty nice. Could you make your own frame? Get your etsy on!

    • Reply Johnny March 11, 2013 at 12:54 pm

      The frames that currently adorn our walls? Yep, the cheap Walmart ones.

      Does “getting your etsy on” involve taking four 2’x4’s, nailing them together, and calling it a day? Because I can do that.

      • Reply Chris March 11, 2013 at 1:22 pm

        That’s exactly what it means. You can paint them white first though so Joanna will let you hang it up.

  • Reply Lyn @ Pretty Frugal March 11, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    I bought some screenprinted posters at a few concerts and they are always odd sizes. I ordered frames on Amazon from ArtToFrames, though there are a few other companies. They were less than $20 each and come in a huge array of measurements, including all sorts of odd sizes. They look like a paid way more for them than I did. Totally worth it.

    • Reply Johnny March 11, 2013 at 2:38 pm

      We were looking at ArtToFrames on Amazon, but some of the reviews weren’t so hot. We loved the price and the looks, we just weren’t sure how solid they were. So I’m glad you chimed in. We’ll give them a shot next time.

      And P.S. I’d love to collect concert posters. Maybe after a few years, I’ll move my very limited vinyl record budget over to those.

  • Reply Holly@ClubThrifty March 11, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    I don’t get why custom framing is so expensive! I just buy a frame and pop the picture in, you know? The only reason to get something custom framed, in my opinion, is if it is a crazy weird size.

    • Reply Johnny March 11, 2013 at 2:53 pm

      We thought we were in “crazy weird size” land, but lo and behold, it seems our print was standard enough to have a single frame in its size. We definitely didn’t buy the print to show off a frame. So long the frame doesn’t detract from the print, it’s doing it’s job.

  • Reply Lacy @EarnVerse March 11, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    I just went to Michael’s the other day to replace some glass for a frame that was broken in a move. It was on the to-do list for years (yeah, that’s right, it wasn’t broken in our last move but 3 moves ago…). So we finally decided to hang up our pictures and get it replaced. I was shocked that it cost $30 to just buy glass. The other options were to just buy a generic frame, but I couldn’t find one for that size any cheaper than the $30 for the glass. I spent it, but felt like a sucker for it. Oh well…

    • Reply Johnny March 11, 2013 at 2:58 pm

      Haha. We still have projects on our to-do list from moves ago as well.

      $30 for just the glass! I think I might just be super naive and inexperienced with framing because I just assumed they would be $25-$50 COMPLETED. I’m sure I’m just asking for someone who works in the framing industry to come on here and lambast my naiveté.

      • Reply Lacy @EarnVerse March 11, 2013 at 3:04 pm

        You know, I would be interested to hear their input, because I am always shocked at the price. How on earth can it be that expensive! I wouldn’t mind some education on exactly why that is. But hey, at this rate it will take us another 4 years before we ever try to put up another set of pictures again anyway…

        Also, just saw the comment box check you are not a spammer…whats up with the hate on Levar Burton. Who doesn’t love them some Reading Rainbow?!?!

        • Reply Johnny March 11, 2013 at 4:17 pm

          Reading Rainbow is awesome. Too awesome. Thus, if Levar Burton were to ever comment here, his awesomeness would likely break this site AND the rest of the Internet. And I just don’t want to be responsible for that.

  • Reply Grayson @ Debt Roundup March 11, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    I have looked at custom framing once and was appalled by the prices, especially in Michaels. I tend to buy a frame and paint it if I need a different color. I would have done the same.

    • Reply Johnny March 11, 2013 at 3:00 pm

      It would make life a lot easier if artists would just make their stuff the same size, right?

      After this whole ordeal, we remembered that we’ve seen a ton of frames at our local thrift shops and flea market. So we’ll search there first next time, and then, like you suggested, repaint it if it’s not exactly what we want.

  • Reply Melinda Gonzalez March 11, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    Haha, this EXACT same thing happened to me. Actually, the guy who was going to frame my diploma saw my reaction when he told me the price. He mentioned they had some great pre-made frames, and they were actually 50% off too. So he took me to the frame isle, and helped me pick a good one. It was only $20.00 compared to nearly $200.00.

    I don’t know why the custom framing is so much, or why people buy it. I am assuming some rich people frame all their kids drawings there or something?

    • Reply Johnny March 12, 2013 at 11:15 am

      Haha. I wonder if Michael’s employees ever look at stuff that people want framed and question them. “Are you sure you want to frame this ugly watercolor painting? Oh, you painted it? Sorry.”

      Based on the way the employee “assisting” us was being so pushy, they’ve got to make some sort of commission back there.

  • Reply JW_Umbrella Treasury March 11, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    I think you definitely made the right call. The black frame looks great, and the $150 savings looks even better.

    I have some odd-size vintage prints that I took to the craft store. I was appalled at how expensive custom frames would be. I ended up buying standard frames for $15ish each and having custom mats cut, so that the matted print would fit inside the standard frame. The mats were still pricey ($40ish each) but it was less expensive than buying three custom frames!

    • Reply Johnny March 12, 2013 at 11:16 am

      Custom mats are an awesome option. We actually did that with a letterpress print that we bought a little while back. Similar to yours, it was around $40, but we were able to snag a cheap, nice standard size frame and it looks like a million bucks.

      Great advice.

  • Reply Catherine March 11, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    Oh man Michaels custom framing is SO expensive. I think they may jack their prices up before having a sale, it’s the only explanation. I looked into having my degrees professionally framed and they wanted almost $200 with a sale just like that, I also settled on a beautiful frame that was retailing for $75 and got 50% off…much better…

    • Reply Johnny March 12, 2013 at 11:19 am

      Much, much better. I think we did Walmart frames for our diplomas… shows you how much we cared about our diplomas. 🙂 Maybe when we have an office in our house, we’ll upgrade.

  • Reply Marz March 12, 2013 at 5:15 am

    Aha, yeah we have the same custom framing issue in Auckland. Received a gift of a set of 4 lovely posters, and we wanted to frame them up all nicely. Very awkward size, so we couldn’t buy anything just off the shelf.

    For just plain glass and a board backing…. $65…. *per frame*…. We said “Ok thanks, we’ll get back to you on that one”.

    A few weeks later, we finally get around to stopping by a trinkets shop that also does all sorts of odds and ends and does glass cutting. Price is… $90 for 4 glass panels. I imagine the backing won’t be too much more, and a few clips to hold it all together, and we’re all set.

    Oh, and the custom framing place wasn’t even *that* fancy like Michaels, but for a bit of effort on our part we’ll get it done for a lot cheaper.

    • Reply Johnny March 12, 2013 at 11:22 am

      “…but for a bit of effort on our part we’ll get it done for a lot cheaper.”

      It’s funny you mention that, because as we were standing at the counter with our Baby Girl screaming her head off, I was thinking that while it might be a LOT more than we were hoping to spend on it, it would be so easy to just lay some money on the counter, and walk out having it taken care of. And then my frugal-minded senses kicked in and screamed, “HECK NO!”

      Definitely true that a little extra effort can make for serious savings. And over time, it’s those savings added up that will make all the difference between you and the Joneses’.

  • Reply Laurie @thefrugalfarmer March 12, 2013 at 7:36 am

    You SO did the right thing. Save the spendy framing for a great family portrait. 🙂

    • Reply Johnny March 12, 2013 at 11:24 am

      Funny you mention that because a family portrait was the one thing we agreed on on our ride home from Michael’s that we would ever even consider paying that type of money on a frame.

  • Reply Tara March 13, 2013 at 11:12 pm

    If you want a white frame, spend $5 on some spray paint + primer, pop that glass out and give it a few coats! I’ve done this MANY times!

    • Reply Johnny March 14, 2013 at 12:30 am

      That’s my kind of white frame! Awesome suggestion. We’re going to hang it this weekend and try it out in its black frame first. But if it doesn’t look right, we’ll definitely do your method.

      Thanks for the tip.

  • Reply Julie March 21, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    Michael’s (and other Big Box craft stores) have ridiculously inflated framing prices, since their 60% off coupons are all over the place. If you truly need something custom-framed, you’re much better off finding a mom-and-pop framing shop to do it. I found one in my town and it’s my go-to source. I don’t even check out Michael’s anymore.

    In your case, you absolutely made the best decision. Even if you weren’t normal frugal people, you’d be a fool to pay their prices!

    • Reply Johnny March 23, 2013 at 11:43 am

      We’d much rather support small, local businesses anyway, so we’ll definitely take this advice. Thanks for the suggestion, Julie!

  • Reply Julie March 21, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Oh, and another option, is to invest in a mat cutter. If you think you may have a lot of art to frame in the future, this will definitely save you money. You can custom-cut your own mats so that almost any art will fit an off-the-shelf frame. Mat board itself is pretty cheap, and you can usually get a lot cuts out of it, so in the long run, it saves you money!

    Here’s an example: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=&sku=755353&Q=&is=REG&A=details

    • Reply Johnny March 23, 2013 at 11:44 am

      That’s actually a great idea! We’ve already a few custom mats done for the exact reason you mentioned: getting it to fit into a cheaper, standard frame. Great advice.

  • Reply Lindsay February 22, 2016 at 9:29 pm

    As a former Certified Framer at Michael’s, I can provide a bit of insight. The majority of the cost comes from the glazing (the glass or acrylic) and the frame itself. In order to cater to people from all lines of life, Michael’s offers many different price ranges. For glazing, the most expensive (but well worth it) glazing is the Masterpiece Acrylic. This stuff doesn’t break – believe me, I dropped large pieces, made accidents while cutting, etc. and the stuff holds up and doesn’t scratch or shatter. It also doesn’t show reflections, doesn’t attract dust, and has 99% UV protection. The coolest part about the Masterpiece Acrylic is that you can have the artwork insured (this would be wise for anything from a Picasso piece to your college daughter’s senior BFA show painting). There is also the conservation clear acrylic, but it’s just not as good. As far as glass, there’s the Masterpiece Glass, the Conservation Clear glass, and the regular cheap-o glass.

    Ok, now for the frames – there are many options here. Each frame sample at the shop has a colored rubber band. I think the spectrum goes orange, yellow, green, blue, purple (cheapest to most expensive). There are many reasons for the differences in price. Most notably, many of the blue and purple frames are handmade and hand painted/stained. Those people need to get paid too!

    Imagine – the certified framer that helps you design your custom frame needs to get paid, the certified framer who puts a lot of thought and effort into crafting all of the elements together, as no two framing projects are the same and we’re talking about a custom service here (frame, glazing, mats, spacers, the mounting process, which entails a lot of precise measuring – nothing is done for the framer, they literally do everything by hand) with your piece of art safely nestled inside needs to get paid, the people who built the frames need to get paid, the people who designed the frames, the mat suppliers and glazing suppliers, and of course Michael’s the corporation, who provides all of the tools and custom supplies that the framers use in order to create this beautiful thing (air guns, matt cutters, drills, nails, archival tapes, archival backing paper, glass cutters, safety gloves, safety glasses, hammers, mallets, dowels, string, needles, paint, markers, awls, staples, screws, dry mounting machine, and so many more things…

    After considering all of that, and the barely above minimum wage payment that the framer receives for producing incredibly beautiful, timeless pieces – 149 dollars doesn’t sound so bad after all, now does it?

    If you’re not satisfied with the price quote that you’re given, first think about a few things. 1. The importance of the piece. How would you feel if it was tattered, faded, and yellowed in a few years? 2. Many customers often stated that they only paid 20 dollars for the piece of art that they want to frame – why do they have to pay so much to frame it? Here’s the simplest answer: as an artist, I often sell small-scale works at extremely reasonable prices like 20-60 dollars. These pieces often didn’t take a lot of time (in concept, prep work, and/or production), or they were easily made prints (printmaking, digital photographs, etc.) that’s why they were “cheap” or affordable to a more general public. 3. You’re coming to a custom framing shop for a reason – is the reason just because you can’t find the right size or color? Maybe shopping online for less-common sizes or colors is the right choice for you. If you’re coming to custom framing to elevate and celebrate your piece, consider everything that goes into your custom frame as well as the lasting experience it will give.

    However, I have some small, super quick paintings and drawings that I’ve made that speak to me more than ones that took months and tireless hours to create – art is very subjective, and the importance of the piece comes from your perception of the work. Is it a family heirloom? Then the price is absolutely worth it. Did you buy it for two bucks at a garage sale? The answer to that one is debatable – you bought it for a reason, do you want to elevate it to an elegant level? If so, plopping it into a ready-made frame is not the answer. Yes, I can make a custom frame for that 5/7 piece for 60 dollars, with the cheapest options – or 1,750, with more expensive, yet far superior quality options. What fits into your budget? Perhaps something in the middle. Is the piece worthy enough to adjust your budget to make it happen? These are things to think about before going to any frame shop.

    That being said, I would recommend waiting for a bundle sale – those are better than the coupon sales. There are always coupons or sales going on at Michael’s, and that includes custom framing. If there’s not one going on now, there will be in a few days or a week at most.

    And finally, to answer your question – well, I’m not sure I can, that’s something that you have to decide for yourself. Though, after working in customer service, retail, as a self employed artist, and many other random jobs – even though I don’t think I got paid enough working as a custom framer at Michael’s, I would honestly say that I think their custom framing prices are more than fair.

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