Until I got a die-cut machine, everything was done by freehand. Cutting out something as simple as a circle took a lot of time even if you drew it out in "Paint" first and traced it. Sure, each template is expensive for any machine, but if you're really getting into the world of scrapping and card making this is a real time saver! Your images are clean cut and that as a result, helps you create a neat look.
For the Practical Paper Crafter
When you are first starting your collection, it is important to decide what shapes and designs you can picture yourself using more often than not. I made the mistake in the beginning of getting things that I saw people using maybe once or twice, but realizing in the end that I should've gotten those dies that made flowers instead. This goes the same for stamps. I also buy things seasonally, so that I don't overwhelm myself with expenses. I'm not one to go for the newest items. Once I built up a nice enough foundation of supplies to make basic cards, I waited until after the holiday to buy clearance items to use for the following year. (ex. I look for things for the following Christmas right after the one that had just passed.)
Five Materials Plus Die-cut
All you need is cardstock, paper/patterned paper, glue, your die-cut machine with your choice of die-cut template, and a simple paper cutter to create a quick and simple card. Below is a quick card that I put together for one of my daycare kids last winter. It isn't elaborate and it gets the point across. The tiny snowflakes were made from the Cuttlebug and the center snowflakes were cut out from The Slice machine, Seasons Design Card. You have the option of using only solid colors or patterned paper--both create an interesting look against the white--just mix and match lighter colored snowflakes and darker ones to create a layering effect.