Don't print your own photos

Submitted by a LOZO expert
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Typically we expect to pay more to have a professional do work for us, instead of doing it ourselves. We expect to pay for the convenience or for a better quality job. So when it comes to printing photos from your digital camera, you might be tempted to use your own printer to do the job rather than paying a premium at a store. After all, your printer, ink and paper probably offer a terrific quality output. And since you've already bought the supplies, it "seems" free each time you make a print.

Wrong! Not only do stores still offer better quality digital prints, with even minimal shopping around you can get the cost down to less than half of what it costs to print at home.  If you print 200 photos per year, the total annual savings can be $30 by taking them to a store!
Here's one way to look at the cost of doing it yourself:
  • Photo paper: as cheap as 5-10 cents per 4x6 page if you buy in bulk from a store like Costco, or find a sale at an office supply store
  • Ink: about 15-25 cents per print based on the number of prints you can get out of each catridge, the cost of the cartridge, and the ink "lost" each time you start up the printer due to priming (getting ready for printing)
  • Printer: this depends heavily on printer quality, but if you assume that you'll get about 1,000-2,000 photos from a $100 printer before having to replace it, that's another 5-10 cents per print
So you're looking at total do-it-yourself cost of 25-45 cents per print from home. You can find online services such as Snapfish, Clark Color, or Shutterfly as low as 10-12 cents per print in bulk. Walmart offers "Site to Store" prints for 15 cents each, and Costco is a little less (as of September 2010). Drug stores such as Walgreens & CVS are frequently running promotions that come to about 10 cents per print with coupon.

So does it ever pay to do it yourself? Yes!
  • If you are only printing one or two photos, the cost in a store can be as high as 25-30 cents. Factor in your cost of gas to get there (say 15-20 cents per mile) and the costs can get quite high (5 miles roundtrip for two photos would work out to 75 cents per print!).
  • If ordering photos online is more convenient than a local store, you'll likely be stuck with high shipping costs that are not included in the promotional prices like "9 cents per print!". At a flat fee of $1.99 to ship up to 10 photos, that's like paying an extra 20 cents per print.
  • Stores are equipped for high volumes and low costs for standard 3x5 and 4x6 prints. If you are printing specialized sizes for your photos, you will pay a high premium in store.
  • If you can find a great deal on a printer and paper (occasionally you can score a "free after rebate" deal for each) then your first set of prints will be nearly free, at least until the initial ink runs out.
  • 8x10 prints cost much more in store (Walmart charges $2.84 for example) but only about 4 times the cost at home (so around $1-1.50 per print).

A LOZO expert posted this tip.

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