The question was where can I get the best bang for my buck when shopping for scrap booking supplies?
That's a really good question! And, one that I personally find difficult to answer. There are local scrapbook stores popping up everywhere, online stores, traditional craft stores, home party style companies...the list goes on. The simple answer is for you to just shop around, and learn through trial and error who has the best deals. But, since you asked, I'll share from my own experience where I like shopping the best, and who has the best selection- and at the best prices.
For a very short while, I was on a design team with Lets Capture Our Memories. They are a Canadian company, based out of the East somewheres (in the Maritimes, but not sure where). They have their own online forum, where you can upload your projects, and an online store. They have a fairly good selection, but I find that if you're looking for a certain collection (such as the newest collections to come out), by a certain manufacturer, either they don't have it, or you have to wait until they get it into stock- and who knows when that would be. I've never personally ordered from their online store, but if you're interested in avoiding international shipping charges (such as from the United States), then this is an option for you.
If you're in the Edmonton area, there are a lot of local scrapbook stores for you to check out. I think they are great, but I find them a little on the pricey side. They're a great place to keep in mind, because they offer workshops, classes, regular crops, and of course, have supplies there for you to purchase. There are also a few in Sherwood Park. If you pick up the Canadian Scrapbooker magazine, there is a comprehensive list at the back of every issue, of Canadian scrapbook stores based on the area you live in. Browse through it, and check them out!
My favorite online retailer is Scrapbook.com. I find they have the widest selection of any and all supplies there is out there, and keep everything in stock for a reasonable length of time. As I mentioned before, the shipping charges are painful to swallow, but they are efficient, friendly and thorough. ANything I've ordered has always shown up either sooner than I expected, or within a very reasonable amount of time. Also, just for uploading projects to their online forum, you are eligible to win $10 off your order (which, I like to think takes $10 off my shipping lol). It isn't every time you upload projects, but it is often. If you're a resident of the States, its great incentive to think about shopping through them! Returns are accepted, if something was sent in error. Other than that, I find their prices exceptionally reasonable.
If you're interested in avoiding shipping charges, once again, check out www.scrapbuck.com. If you make an order of $150 or more, shipping is free (including to Canada). Their selection isn't the greatest, either, but you may find that you love their site.
My personal favorite stores include DeSerres, which you'll find at West Edmonton Mall, Michaels and Walmart- and I like each of these stores for different reasons.
DeSerres is an incredible art store. They carry all kinds of art supplies- and then some! Mostly when I'm there, I stock up on card stock, though they've got a ton of embellishments to choose from, paper bags (in a variety of colors), paint, stamps, card making tools and supplies, ribbon- and that's not even touching other art supplies, such as graphic art, fine art, jewelry making, framing, books and activities for kids...the list goes on. They also have an incentive program. You can obtain a rewards card (free) through them, and after each purchase, you save a certain amount of money. They ask each time if you want to use it or save it; if you wait long enough, you could get things for free! Their stamps and ink selection is lacking, but I love their selection of most everything else. DeSerres is a little on the more expensive side (in comparison to places like Walmart and Michaels).
Michaels is another great store to find everything paper crafting. They are slowly phasing out brands other than Recollections, but you can still find brands such as Die Cuts with a View, Martha Stewart, Stampendous, etc. Most of my personal scrapbooking shopping is done at Michaels. And, with the sales and such they've got going on these days, this is probably the best store for everyone to do their shopping at. (With the in-house brand changing to Recollections, prices are coming down, making them more affordable).
Next would be Walmart, but once again, their selection is quite limited. I like buying their 12x12 jumbo packs of card stock, and some of the mat pads they have there (its all K&Co), but for the most part, I only buy certain things from there (if they have them in stock). That would include my adhesive, embellishments (stickers, alphas, borders, stamps--sometimes). True to Walmart, buying your supplies from them is touch and go. Often their shelves are empty, or what you're looking for is out of stock. I would recommend not buying your scrapbook albums from them. You'll have a hard time buying re-fill page protectors- if you buy a brand other than what Walmart carries, they won't fit properly. Stick with buying those from DeSerres or Michaels (or somewheres online).
Another good place to try is your local Dollar Store with More or Dollarama. I'm truly impressed with their selection, and they are (obviously) incredibly affordable. I haven't bought any patterned paper there yet, but have purchased sticker embellishments, other embellishments, acrylic paint and glue dots from there. A person could make a great start by shopping at the dollar store.
On a side note- be careful at both Walmart and the Dollar Store- at least when it comes to the paper and mat pads. If you want your buck to stretch as far as possible, try finding mat pads that are double sided- meaning both sides of the paper inside that pack are patterned and printed on; that way you get more out of your paper, and by extension, more out of your money. One sided paper can only go so far, and only lasts for so long. But, once again, that's just my personal preference. You'll also find the same with Recollections patterned paper (at Michaels). Try to find paper packs that are double sided. Having said that, though, if you're looking for a certain kind of paper for a particular project, then by all means, buy one sided patterned paper. Some time ago, I wanted to make a layout about Roosters (I have a particular obsession for the fowl), but didn't have any rooster paper. I found some at Michaels, and picked it up the next time I was there. I still have portions of it. So, sometimes its necessary to purchase single sided patterned paper. But, if you can avoid it, I would suggest trying that first.
For stamps and stamping related items (as well as their paper), I LOOOOVVVEEEE Stampin' Up. They are expensive, but their products are quality. You'll be able to find a lot of discontinued items and items people want to part with on sites like Ebay, Kijiji, garage sales, even consignment stores that you see floating around Facebook, etc. Keep your eyes peeled on sites like those to find the best deal on anything stamping related. I should actually take my own advice and start doing that, too. I want to build up my ink and stamp stash. I should get on that!! (And, along those lines, you'll probably also be able to find other companies, such as Creative Memories, Close to My Heart, etc, too). If that's not to your liking, find a representative in your area, and have them send you out an idea book; you can order directly through them, instead!
I hope that gives you some ideas to work with, and some places to look into to start building your personal scrap stash. I also hope this answers your questions. You'll have to do your own homework, and decide where you like shopping the best, and where you can find the best deals; these are some of the places that I've come to trust and enjoy shopping at.