Budget-Friendly Ways to Preserve Photos

Because I hear so many people lament about not having time for preserving photos and memories, I write a lot of posts about time–ways to make time, myths about “not having time,” and such.   After the topic of time, though, the runner-up of memory-keeping obstacles I hear about is money.  We’re all on a budget.  Preserving photos needs to be affordable.  How do you preserve your photos without breaking the bank?  Aren’t there some budget-friendly ways to preserve photos and memories?  Actually, yes!

I think one reason that people automatically think that memory-keeping is expensive is because they assume memory-keeping means scrapbooking.  It can mean scrapbooking, certainly, but it doesn’t have to.  Hopefully you know that memory-keeping = scrapbooking is a myth.  There are other ways to preserve pictures.  Photos have been around for 200 years, so there are obviously other ways to preserve them.  Scrapbooking is not a requirement for memory-keeping!

As Krista mentioned when she interviewed me for the “Real Life, Real Passion” podcast, I’m all about solutions.  I want to give you something you can DO.  So let’s really break it down and look at the most cost-effective ways of getting your photos out of the no man’s land of your computer (or phone) and getting them SEEN.

The Cost of Scrapbooking

Scrapbooking is an art (or at least a craft).  It’s usually creative people who choose to preserve their photos via the creative method of scrapbooking.  Some people even go to weekend scrapbooking retreats.  There are big scrapbooking expos with hundreds of vendors.  Scrapbookers love scrapbooking.  I saw a meme once that said, “Blessed are the children of scrapbookers for they shall inherit the scrapbooks.”  And that’s the truth!  They are precious for the photos and memories they contain, for the lives documented there, but they’re also works of art.

As it turns out, traditional (paper) scrapbooking is actually the most expensive way to preserve your photos and memories.  The cost of scrapbooking in a somewhat basic style like this one pictured includes several different kinds of papers, a binder of some kind, sheet protectors, pens, a trimmer or paper cutter, adhesive, and –of course– the photos themselves printed out.  There additional options, too, such as stickers, punches, and borders.  There are border maker systems and scissors and punches of all kinds, as well as crafting machines to create die-cuts and vinyl stickers.  So you can really embellish the dickens out of a scrap page if you choose.  This is why it’s hard to pinpoint a true per-page cost of traditional (or paper) scrapbooking.  If you buy a 30-sheet pack of paper, will you use it all or have some you’ll never use?  If you buy a punch, will you use it 300 times or 3?  So I’ll just do my best with the cost breakdown.

Here’s an approximation of what one basic traditionally-scrapbooked page costs (without any stickers or other embellishments):

  • 2-4 pieces of scrapbook paper:  $3
  • 4 printed photos:  $1
  • page protector:  50 cents (depending on size and quality)

PLUS one-time purchases that would be prorated for a per-page cost breakdown (though one-time purchases do need replacing):

  • adhesive:  $4-$5
  • paper cutter or trimmer with blades:  $20
  • pens:  $3-$4 each (may want multiple colors or styles)
  • binder/album:  $10-$40

This doesn’t include storage boxes or travel totes, but for a basic scrapbooked page, the cost comes out to around $4.50-$6.00 with ZERO embellishments.  Add stickers, punches, borders, die cuts you’ve created with your own machine, etc., for another $1-$6, which brings the total to $5.50-$12 per page.  Keep in mind that with traditional scrapbooking, you are really in charge of the per-page price.  If you’re looking to save some money, the simple/basic style is your best bet.  I have a friend who doesn’t buy anything unless it’s on sale.  (And I’m not kidding you!)  That’s also a good rule of thumb for keeping the price low on traditional scrapbooking.

The Cost of Simple Albums

Craft stores and even big-box stores sell albums you can just stick your photos in.  Some come with pages (somewhere to put your photos) included and some don’t.  There’s a huge variation in cost, but an average is about $15-$40 for an album with 20 pages in it.  The big key to remember here is that you still need some good quality paper and pen!  Unless the album you choose has space for you to write details of the photo and your memories, you’ll have to add that on your own.  Of course, 4 printed photos still cost around $1, so don’t forget to add that cost in, too.

And one other big key to remember is that while cheap is often attractive to the pocketbook, there is definitely such a thing as too cheap.  Buying high-quality homes for your precious photos and memories is definitely worth it in the long run.

My favorite version of a simple album is called Pocket Scrapbooking.  I like that the pockets fit regular 4×6 photos so you can just slide them into the pockets.  Plus, it’s easy to cut a paper to 4×6 and slide that in a pocket after you’re written names, dates, and memories.  This photo shows Anthology pocket scrapbooking along with the pre-cut papers and some cute embellishments from one of the Anthology pocket kits, but several companies make pocket scrapbooking products.

One page of photos and memories preserved via simple albums or pocket scrapbooking would cost around $2-$3 per page.

The Cost of Digital Memory-Keeping and Scrapbooking

Again, there is a wide variety of methods to preserve photos and memories in digital books or pages, so it’s impossible for me to give an exhaustive price comparison on digital memory-keeping.  There are digital scrapbooking companies that require you to buy art collections (the digital version of stickers and embellishments), and there are several really simple ways to print up your photos and memories in digital books, too.  Each option would have to be looked at individually, because not all digital memory-keeping methods are created equal.  $25 spent at one company might give you something better (higher quality) than $25 spent at another company.

Quality and cost are just a few things to look at.  I had a friend tell me that she stopped using a particular digital photo book company because she found out that they reserve rights to any photo you upload to your account there–so they legally have a right to use your photos if they would like.  Just do your homework is all I’m saying.

Because quality is a big issue for me (why bother spending time and money on something that will fall apart 5 years from now?) as well as flexibility, photo storage, privacy, and cost, I’ve been using the same company for 12 years.  I’ll give you a cost breakdown for Heritage Makers products since I know the quality is high and it’s my preferred method for digital memory-keeping.

Heritage Makers is a company that doesn’t have you purchase their digital art, so there’s not a cost there, and there’s no fee for an account or use of the software, either.  Of course, with digital printing you eliminate the cost of printing your photos at your favorite photo-processing center, too.  The only cost is for the item itself, so defining an actual cost per page is a lot easier.  They have a free program where you can buy publishing points (like credits), too, so you’re not paying for a book (or multiple books) or a bunch of scrap pages all at once.  Two different discounts are included with that program, so that’s the only reason there’s a variation in cost.

Here’s how it shakes out:

  • 12×12 book:  $2-$2.50 per page (library binding included) for the first 21 pages, then $1.30-$1.50 for additional pages up to 99 in the same book
  • 8×8 book:  $1.60-$1.80 per page (library binding included) for the first 21 pages, then 82-93 cents for additional pages up to 99 in the same book
  • 12×12 scrap page:  $4-$4.50
  • 8.5×11 scrap page:  $3.30-$3.75

That’s just a sampling because there are a lot of other sizes and options (such as lay-flat books and double-sided scrap pages), but if you’re on a budget –and aren’t we all?!– this gives you a good idea of how Heritage Makers digital memory-keeping fits into the mix.

The books are pretty much tied with simple albums as the cheapest way to preserve your pictures, but don’t forget that digital has a lot of additional perks such as the ability to get multiple copies at the touch of a button or the ability to re-order more in the future.  The cost of the digital scrap pages is about tied with the cost of the very basic traditionally-scrapbooked pages (not including embellishments), but if you like to pretty things up with quotes and hearts and stars, you’ll definitely save more with the Heritage Makers digital scrap pages option.

What’s Your Favorite?

I really love the variety of available memory-keeping methods these days because they can fit any budget, style, or need.  I always cringe a little when people tell me they “can’t” preserve their photos because they don’t scrapbook.  Come on.  There are a lot more things out there besides scrapbooking.  We’ve looked at several additional methods today, and there’s something for every budget.  Being short on cash or on a tight budget doesn’t make your memories and photos less important than anyone else’s.  Your photos and memories are a gift to you, so find whatever best-quality method you can to preserve them.

Your preserved photos and memories aren’t important only if they’re scrapbooked.  They’re important because they’re yours.  Whether that means a simple album, a creatively scrapbooked page, or something in between, you’ve done it right.  You’ve done what works for you and given your family and yourself a priceless gift that lasts generations.

~Jennifer  #familyhistoryfriday





Jennifer Wise

consultant at Heritage Makers
I'm Jennifer, and I'm passionate about connections.I enjoy helping people discover the very real benefits of preserving stories, photos, and memories because of the impact they have on children, families, and individuals. I blog weekly at www.lifetalesbooks.blogspot.com sharing tips, ideas, solutions, and inspiration, and I'm over at www.heritagemakers.com/jenniferwise, too. Learn more about me at the "About" tab.

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