One of the toughest things about practicing magic is restocking supplies when you are low on funds. There have been times that my practice has totally ground to a halt because I needed to use my last few bucks for groceries that I could actually eat, not dried flowers and leaves. It's a catch-22; we often stop practicing when we are broke because we feel we can't justify the expense of supplies, but these times of stress are when we MOST need to practice.
For me, the key has been buying herbs in bulk when I can afford it, and learning how to use them in a sparing and efficient way. For witches worried about freshness, vacuum seal mason jars are your best friend (thrift stores have them for 99 cents, or you can just use clean pasta sauce jars).
However, this isn't an option for everyone, and it certainly wasn't an option for me when I had $20 in my checking account and another four days until payday. There are three strategies I've employed to snag supplies for pennies, or, better yet, free!
1. Substitute Herbs for Wild Native Dupes and Kitchen Finds
This option requires a bit of research and free time to hunt. I live in Texas, where I'm lucky to find grasses, wildflowers, and mushrooms nearly year round. Dandelions are associated with calm and counteracting anxiety, and are easily found in parks and small grassy area. I dry dandelion and keep it on hand as a substitute for lavender, which is much more expensive to purchase. Clover is great for luck and prosperity, and not just the four-leaf kind! Tree bark is an excellent base for protection spells and charms, but be careful to only take small flakes or collect fallen bark from the ground. Ground eggshells are also commonly used for protection spells, generally in regards to protecting your home. While Himalayan salt and sea salt are awesome (I love using salt with big crystals!), super cheap table salt will do the same thing: swipe some salt packets from a restaurant! Additionally, black pepper boosts courage and energizes you to take action. You can also raid your tea bags for herbs and spices, or simply brew yourself some tea while casting your intention or spell!
Spend some time researching the plants that are local to your area and see if they have similar symbolic and magical properties as more expensive, less common herbs. You might even be able to create your own spells and meanings for custom spellwork! My part of Texas has tons of pine trees, and I burn the needles as a Texas-centric cleansing ritual instead of using non-native sage.
2. Trading Supplies or Services with Another Witch
If you're lucky enough to be part of a local coven or community, bartering is an excellent alternative to buying! Bartering is a long standing tradition in magical practice--many witches specialize in one or two aspects of magic and look to other witches to explore other forms of magic. For example, I make lots of jar spells and satchets, but I'm terrible at candle making, and only a beginner at sigils. If you have a talent or skill that other witches want, you can offer a trade instead of a monetary exchange. I know one tech witch who volunteers her time for a few hours a month to help several witches update their websites and online shops; in return, they gift her free supplies, tarot readings, and food. Your skill can be anything from writing, coding, carving, sigil drawing, illustrating, even babysitting--you'll probably find a witch who needs what you have to offer. Check Facebook, Craigslist, and even blogging sites like tumblr to find witches in your area.
3. Practice Magic that Uses Free Supplies
Maybe you don't have the time or access to hunt for local plants, or your kitchen is bare of anything besides leftovers and frozen meals. Additionally, not all cities are witch friendly, which makes it hard for witches to meet up and barter with each other. In these cases, you can explore forms of magic that don't require any supplies at all, or only use supplies that you are nearly guaranteed to have. My personal favorite is sigil making, which can be done with only a pen and paper. There are several great tutorials online that teach sigil basics; I got started with the witches alphabet and used this guide for learning how to form an intention and incorporate the letters into a sigil.
You can also incorporate spells or glamours into your everyday routines, what I like to call "practical magic." For instance, I cast glamours onto my lipstick to make me feel more confident, or I'll pick earrings that have colors corresponding to how I want to feel that day (blue for calm, green for confident, red for passionate, etc). When I shower, I wash my body using clockwise motions and concentrate on washing away any negative energy or spirits. These are just small ways to stay mindful of your craft during times of financial stress, but the mindfulness and calming effect that magic has on me inevitably helps me feel better about my money woes.
Herbs are wonderful, and I use them in my practice all the time! But there is no perfect way to be a witch, and having an extensive herb collection at the expense of your financial security is probably not a smart move. Save up a few dollars here and there to snag some fancier stuff like rose hips, lavender, cardamom, and essential oils if you like, but in the meantime you can be a thrifty and enterprising witch with the resources at hand!