Note: this is mostly for people new to the Craft, or other Pagan path. I figure most advanced people have already thought of what I've posted here. I haven't seen anyone really spend more than a few paragraphs on it, even published authors. So here's my contribution. I was on social security disability for a few years when I injured my back, and these are the ways that I managed to maintain an active tradition with very little cash. Further, while I suspect that my methods would transplant well over seas, I am from the US and I'm not very familiar with the availability of items eslewhere.
Let's face it: it's easy to get on the "bankruptcy path" of witchcraft.
Doesn't matter which specific path you are on, the tools for the job tend to cost. I'll grant you it's fun to go to those nice looking metaphysical bookstores with the crystals and cauldrons and get starry eyed at the new, specially made items just for you... but hold on a minute. Most of us aren't rolling in the dough. So what's a pagan/witch to do?
There are three basic skills that can help you get to do spells and ritual tools without spending that last dime on your paycheck.
Well, first of all, being a bit of a do-it-yourself kind of person does help, but you don't have to work *too* hard. Having an eye for finding treasure that other people see as trash is invaluable.
Being (somewhat) organized also helps. Make lists. First, know in advance how much you have to spend. Second, make a list of the things you need. Then, a list of things you want, and you can decide based on all that what you are going to do.
The third is the hardest, especially in spellwork. SIMPLIFY. Can you get away with less? Once you get the hang of it, you can take a given spell or ritual and take out the bits you don't need to spend on. Keeping an eye out for spells that are specifically geared to encourage one to buy particular products is a critical one. AVOID them at all cost! They may not be honest in other ways.
Here are the questions you want to ask yourself when looking at spells rituals and the like:
Do I need this?
Do I want this?
Can I make this?
Breaking down a spell into components that are needed to work, and things that are nice to have is a great way to save money. Spending your money on things that can be re-used for multiple purposes is another good way. My next article will explain how to do just that.
Things like amulets can be made with paper or wood (harvested from a tree or gotten from a scrap bin at your local hardware store) instead of metal and/or crystals.
Substitutions are your friend. If your spell calls for herbs or compounds you can't find or afford, figuring out what it's for can help you come up with your own swap method. Cunningham has a great section on this in "Incense Oils and Brews
I will also post a substitution list here as well, which contains attributions and herbs that he doesn't list as well as herbs one can safely wild harvest. Why? Because they are noxious weeds, that's why! The environment will thank you, and they will be vigorous and plentiful.
Another tool: The library. It has handy things like: lot of books for free (duh), photocopy machines, and a quiet space to work. You can go there, look up what you want on a wide variety of topics, photocopy what you want, and put those into a "patchwork book of shadows". A handy and inexpensive tool are Postit notes, so you can mark all your pages before you head off to the copier. Postit also has specific little tags that you can use, but they may or may not be cheaper than the original note thingies.
Remember that if you find yourself copying a LOT from one book, buying it used (through Amazon, or your local used bookstore) is probably cheaper. Depending on how big the book is, you will spend more copying it manually,than buying it outright. IF you don't find what you like on the shelf, try interlibrary loan. Also, your local used bookstore can also search for books for you, if you don't have access to the Internet.
Knowing where to shop for the items you can't make is another great thing to know. Using resale shops is a great way to save. Also, recycling depots for construction, scrap yards and the like usually have good prices, too. Habitat for Humanity has them, and earth minded communities often have at least one. A down-market variation on this is the Flea market. There are low rent antique shops that can also have items that would fit. Heck, I've found good spell components at dollar stores.
I will be coming up with sturdy, easy to do and inexpensive crafts and projects to demonstrate how this is done. I will leave a link here in this thread, then post the actual project in it's appropriate topic. This way, you don't have to move all over the map to see what I'm up to.
Notes on bias: I tend to work a kind of eclectic hedge magic, with maybe a few more tools than one needs at times. For this series, I'll be conscious about that, but not everything I post is connected to this. I will not be covering theology, but practical magic and ritual construction. Everything I post will be an example, subject to your whim for yourself. Edit until your heart is content. Your words are free!
This technique may or may not work for High Ritual Magic, which was created by wealthy aristocrats and researchers of the Catholic Church, or Court Magicians of various stripes. So they went out of their way to get exotic materials and so on, to maximize their likelyhood of success. This was done on the theory that the more money you invest in the spell, the more energy was put into it, and thus the more impressed God and everybody would be, so the more likely it would work. This is by NO MEANS a universally held opinion. After all, the vast majority of mesopagan magic in the world is FOLK magic, generally not done by rich people with fussy ingredient lists. Yet, they frequently get successes.
Even some Hermetic inspired folks don't follow their recipes to the letter. Chaos Magick is an extreme example, but I'm sure there are others.
Anyhow, no matter what tradition you hail from, I hope you can find something that fits with your own style. Any questions, or contributions? Feel free!