| Written by Ronnie |
A couple of years ago, I received an email from a reader asking me for guidance on how to do memory keeping on a budget. I wrote quite a long article back then in response to her question, and I thought I would share it again here in this space for those of you who might also be interested. And so, here are the sixteen tips that I came up with. If you have any others to share, please do so below!
1) Consider your goals
What is it that you want to do with your memory keeping? Do you want to keep a visual record of your family life? Do you want to document your feelings and your personal journey? Do you want to create keepsakes for your children? Knowing what your goals are will help you work out what is worth you spending money on. For example, a photo book might be best suited for documenting your family life while a nice memory box or scrapbook might be the best option for collecting your children’s memorabilia. It all depends on what you want to achieve and what you want to end up with. You don't have to do what anybody else does. It all comes down to what works for you. Remember that there is no right or wrong when it comes to memory keeping.
2) Do your research
One of the best things you can do if you’re on a budget is to do your research as thoroughly as possible and find out exactly how much everything costs: photo books, photo albums, pocket pages, journaling cards, journals, notebooks, ink cartridges, photo paper, kiosk photo processing, photo dots, paper scrapbooking kits, digital kits, consumer film, instant film, etc. Don’t discount something just because you think it might be expensive. The reality is that it might not be as costly as you might first think. A good example are the photo books by Artifact Uprising. They look absolutely stunning and you would be forgiven for assuming they cost an arm and a leg, but if you actually compare their prices with other vendors, they are extremely competitive. A good example of not judging a book by its cover. Literally. The other thing about conducting pricing research is to write it all down. Don’t just browse the internet and leave it at that. Record your data in an Excel spreadsheet or something similar - Google docs is a good way to go because it means you can update your information no matter which computer you’re surfing on. Recording your research means that you can easily compare different vendors, thus allowing you to make decisions wisely and efficiently. It also allows you to budget more accurately and effectively for a particular project.
3) Set your budget and work backwards
Armed with your goals and your pricing research, one approach you can take is to set your budget and work backwards from there. For example, if you decide that you can spend up to one hundred dollars on memory keeping every two months, and you know how much everything costs, then you should be able to work out what you can afford to do and make a decision based on the goals that you’ve set.
4) Consider making your own journals and photo albums
Back in my twenties, I used to make my own mini photo albums because I liked the flexibility of deciding how many photos to include (rather than having this determined by the number of pages there were in a store-bought photo album). I simply bought black acid-free cardboard paper from the newsagency for the internal pages and a thicker cardboard for the cover. After I’d stuck down all the photos I wanted to include, I would punch holes down the side using a standard two-hole punch and then tie up the pages with cotton string.
For my 21st and my graduation albums, I used the same materials but instead of hole punching them and tying the pages up with string, I took the pages (and the covers) to Kinkos and simply asked them to bind my albums for me. Worked a treat! Similarly, you could learn to make your own journals using a book binding method. There are so many online tutorials that could teach you how to do this or you could even find a local class that you can attend.
5) Make your own journaling cards
If you're someone who does Project Life, you can easily save money by making your own journaling cards to slip into those 3x4 or 6x4 pockets. It's simply a matter of gathering scrap paper and cutting them down to size, and then decorating them however you wish.
6) Print tiny photos
I use this trick for the boys’ first year journals (you can see Edward's first year journal here) and also for the older boy’s scrapbooks (which I'm hoping to share down the track). The idea is to print smaller photos so that you can include more photos and also save on ink and photo paper. I personally like printing 18 photos on one A4/Letter sheet, but you can go even smaller than that if you really wanted to.
7) Bring it back to the basics
Remember that memory keeping can be as simple as gluing photos into a notebook and writing words down using a black pen. This has always been my approach when making scrapbooks or journals. At the end of the day, all you need are images and words.
And sometimes, just one or the other.
8) Use the same templates - over and over again
Despite what some might think, you don't need to purchase or come up with a new look every time you embark on a new memory keeping project. In fact, the benefits of using the same design templates over and over again are twofold. First of all, you achieve a consistent look across your photo books and your albums, which I personally think is a great thing. (I love flipping through my story books and feeling like they belong to a set.) Secondly, by reusing the same design templates, you save money. Period.
9) Buy notebooks from Officeworks or a newsagency
There’s no real need to go to specialty stores. If you are happy to use something super simple, then you can easily buy some good quality visual art books from Officeworks or your local newsagency and use them as scrapbooks or journals. In particular, Quill makes really nice visual diaries with thick pages and a sturdy black cover which I like. They’re simple and classic - just the way I like my keepsakes to be.
10) Wait for discount coupons from photo book printers
Most photo book printers offer promotional discounts quite regularly to drum up sales, so I would suggest holding off printing your books until you get your hands on one of these discount codes. Decide who your preferred vendors are, and then sign up to their mailing lists so that you’ll always know when they’re running a promotion. Also, some companies like Photobook Worldwide offer an immediate discount on your next order if you like their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter, so it’s definitely worth investigating. Again, research is your best friend.
11) Contact printers directly and ask for bulk discounts
I’ve done this a few times in the past (and admittedly I still do this) and have managed to come away with some significant discounts by simply ordering in bulk. The key is simply to save up your photo book projects and print them in batches. Even if a company doesn’t have a set policy on bulk orders, if you reach out to them, chances are that they might be able to offer you something.
12) Order in bulk, and save on shipping
This is pretty common sense, I guess. Artifact Uprising, for example, charges a flat rate to ship to Australia so I simply hold off on ordering anything until I have at least half a dozen projects completed.
13) Buy photo paper from Costco
My gorgeous friend Liz put me onto Kirkland professional photo paper. I read through all the reviews and was convinced that this might be worth trying out (all the negative reviews seemed to be about the paper jams with HP printers). That was two years ago, and I haven't looked back. Even though Costco in Australia no longer stocks Kirkland (for some inconceivable reason), I get around this by buying the paper in bulk from eBay. In my opinion, the quality of the paper is on par with Canon's professional photo paper. However, at a third of the price, this is going to save me a lot of money over the years.
14) Ignore the message from your inkjet printer when it tells you your ink is running low
Keep printing, and don’t switch out your ink cartridge until the colours in your photos actually start to fade. Trust me, you’ll save heaps of ink this way.
15) Learn to tell your story more tightly
I talked about this in another post, but often you can tell a better story with fewer photos, rather than more. It’s all about learning the art of editing (ie. knowing what to leave out). This is where photo organisation comes in. Because the more organised your photos are, the easier it is to actually work out what photos to use and which ones to leave out.
16) Choose to tell the story that matters the most
There are endless things that we can document from our lives. When money is tight and time is scarce, choose the story that is the most important to you. In other words: choose the story that you want to remember in ten years’ from now...
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What other money-saving tips do you guys have to share?