Custom t-shirts on a tight budget? Are you crazy?

diamond-pizzaImagine that you need a new car. Hey, maybe you really do. Anyway, imagine you’re out car shopping. Also imagine that you’re on a tight budget.

Well, you should be if you’re buying a car. I mean, really. Oh, wait. Are you Justin Bieber? Sorry, Biebs. Go ahead and splurge. In fact, get three.

If you’re just a regular person like me, you’re on a tight budget. And you’re environmentally conscious. Oh – and you have a small family. So it makes sense that you would seek out the priciest, gas-guzzlingest SUV you can find and see if you could somehow squeeze it into your tiny budget.

See what I did there?

Of course you wouldn’t do that, would you? No, because you’re not crazy or stupid. You know what you need, what you like and what you can afford, so you put that formula into your head before you go to the dealer.

This is exactly the same as getting custom t-shirts made. Except without cup holders and all-weather tires.

Getting custom t-shirts on a tight budget 101

We get a lot of inquiries about custom t-shirts that start with, “Hi, I need t-shirts. I have a 4-color design, front and back, I’m giving them away at our charity event. We’re a non-profit, so we have almost no budget at all. Can you give me a deal?”

Woa there, Biebs. Let’s back up. In fact, let’s go over this order piece by piece. But let’s do it backwards, because that’s the order in which our imaginary customer should actually be thinking about their needs.

Can you give me a deal?

Hmm. Of course. We give everyone a great deal. We do that by assessing your needs, then helping you decide the best way to go for your budget.

…we have almost no budget at all…

Well, we’re already in trouble, aren’t we? When I hear this, I sympathize. It’s really hard running a non-profit with a low budget. But since most print shops like ours are for profit (we have families to feed), we can’t donate our services to everyone who asks. We wouldn’t be around very long. What we can do is figure out how to get your custom t-shirts down to the lowest price possible. Which leads us to…

…I’m giving them away…

Oh boy. So much to say here. But I’ll sum it up as best I can. Listen, stop giving it all away. Even if you have a non-profit event, a great way to get some cash flowing is to sell merchandise. If you rely exclusively on donors and constantly give away their money in the form of giveaways, how much longer will they keep donating? The math is very simple. If you order 100 t-shirts at $6 each and sell them at your event for $15 each, you not only make your money back, you can now buy that new swing set in the children’s area. Non-profit means no profiting, not staying solvent. It’s still a business, right?

If you’re a for-profit marketer and you’re looking for a promotional giveaway, I totally get it. Let’s look at…

I have a 4-color design, front and back…

That’s great and we will happily screen print it for you. You’re looking at anywhere between $15-$25 each, depending on the type and quality of t-shirt you want. $2500 in marketing giveaways doesn’t sound like a tight promotional budget to me, but – wait. Is this Justin Bieber again? In that case, I recommend ordering 500 shirts to give away.

Simply put, you can’t ask for diamonds on a pizza budget. I would recommend:

  • Reducing your design to one or two colors
  • Printing on only one side
  • Going to a full-color inkjet heat transfer (lesser quality, but still an option)

Diamonds on my pizza? Huh?

Okay, so I only concocted that weird analogy because I had my clip art folder open. And now I’m hungry.

My point is, being on a tight budget doesn’t mean you can’t get custom t-shirts printed. It means you have to think harder than your competition and come up with a smarter way of getting it done.

Want to know more?Leave a comment below or send me an email at

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