I get asked a lot what printer I use, how much it costs to print and laminate everything, and so on. So here is a reference for those of you who are curious about what I use to make all of my materials.
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(Stuff that’ll last years)
My printer is a five year old Brother All in One. Of course, being that it is five years old, they don’t make that exact model anymore. But as you can tell by the fact that it has lasted five years through my extremely high use, I can’t recommend the brand any more enthusiastically.
What I love about my Brother printer:
- Well-made machine, considering it has lasted all these years of high use
- At under $100 (currently $70 on Amazon) it is an amazing price for years of use
- Compact design, doesn’t take up much room
- Has a scanner, copier, and fax machine in addition to being a printer
- The new ones are wireless! I almost can’t wait till mine finally breaks down so I can upgrade to wireless printing, but the darn thing just keeps on working year after year.
- It has 3 separate color ink cartridges, which means you waste less ink by only replacing the one that was empty instead of a whole color cartridge
- I am able to get generic ink for it extremely cheap, which is vital to my printing habits. I can print almost anything I want and not worry about the cost, as it costs just fractions of a cent to print color-filled documents. This is of course vital, and if you are shopping for a printer, it should be your #1 concern. I once had a cheap $30 printer, but the ink for it cost over $30 for just 2 cartridges! You’re not going to save any money buying a cheap printer if the ink for it is costing you an arm and a leg.
Next up is my laminator. I love this little thing and it is so inexpensive, usually around $30 on Amazon (it’s $80 in big box stores). Amazon actually has it go on sale several times a year for about $20, which is when I bought it.
For years I was actually laminating all of my materials with clear contact paper. I knew that it took way longer, and was such a pain to do, but I thought I was saving money! Imagine my anger when I found out that laminating with clear contact paper costs over twice as much! All of that effort and struggle for nothing.
A thermal laminator is amazing. You have to turn it on and let it heat up for about 10 minutes before you use it, so it’s best to laminate things in batches to save time. But once it is heated up, you just put a piece of paper in a laminating pouch, place it in the machine sealed side down, and the machine slowly sucks it in and pops it back out looking good as ever!
Next is my paper cutter. I actually just got this a few weeks ago, after spending WAY too long cutting things with regular scissors.
This brand sells for just $30 on Amazon and was listed as a best seller with great reviews, so I bought it. It is a great machine, cuts through several pages at once, is extremely lightweight, and I’m told the blade never has to be sharpened.
If you are planning on churning out a bunch of cards to teach your child with, this will save you countless hours throughout the years and is a very worthwhile, inexpensive investment.
Last on the list of non-consumable office supplies is my hole puncher. To keep all of my materials organized, I bind them all together with binder rings, which means I have to punch a hole in the top corner of each.
I previously had a cheap $1 hole puncher from Walmart and it was terrible! I could only do one card at once and my hand would ache after just a few uses. This brand is just $5 on Amazon. $5! And it is an amazing little machine.
I am able to do multiple laminated card stock sheets at once, and I could crank away at it all day because there honestly is no resistance whatsoever. This thing cuts through several thick sheets of laminated card stock like butter, no joke.
In total, if you purchased all of the listed non-consumable supplies, it would cost you $135. Not bad for many years of high use!
For paper I prefer card stock. Card stock is preferable to regular printer paper in that it is:
- Thick & sturdy, so your cards are not floppy or easily bendable
- Non see-through (if you print pictures or text on regular paper, you can see through it on the other side)
I usually purchase my card stock at Walmart. It comes in packs of 150 sheets for just $6, or about 4 cents per sheet, and is “110 lb” thickness.
The above linked card stock that is available on Amazon is another good deal, if you are wanting to simplify your shopping and buy online. It is currently priced at about $11 for 250 sheets, or 4.4 cents per sheet, and is “65 lb” thickness, so quite a bit thinner than the Walmart brand I buy, but still suitable for printing picture and word cards. This brand is the #1 best seller in Amazon’s card stock and has good reviews.
I have been very happy with 3 Mil brand thermal laminating pouches. Their price on Amazon tends to vary. It seems like every time I go to buy it the price has changed slightly, always in the range of about $9.50 to $11 for a 100 pack. So far I have usually been able to get it for about $10 for 100, or $0.10 per page.
This is a great deal, especially considering that the Scotch brand laminating pouches usually run for at least twice that much. I have been very pleased with this brand – the finished product is thick, clear, and held up to much abuse.
Amazon has some amazing deals on generic ink, and they always seem to be changing, but I recommend going and typing in the name and model number of your printer + the word “ink” and see what packages they have currently available.
The above-pictured 20-pack, that is compatible with the Brother MFCJ450DW shared in the beginning of this article, is currently just $18.99. And based on how long my ink cartridges last, 20 cartridges will last you thousands of colorful, picture-containing pages.
In the past I have been able to get 10-, 12-, or 16-packs of ink on Amazon for under $10. The last time I bought black only ink, I was able to get a 10-pack for just $2.88 from the seller MPC Direct on Amazon.
For some reason they are always changing and every time I go back to the saved item that I bought before, it says “no longer available”. However, I am able to still find a great deal by simply re-searching my printer name and model number.
Buying from lots of different sellers has made me a bit wary, as it would be nice to buy from one seller that I knew was good quality ink and to just keep re-buying from them.
However, in all my years of owning my printer, I have never once bought name-brand ink, it has always been generic, and from quite a few different companies. At least 97% of the time, I haven’t had any problems. The few problems I have had:
- An occasional cartridge leaking. This has happened maybe 5-10 times in 5 years. Damage done: cleaning a bit of ink off of my plastic printer and having to wash my hands.
- The printer not printing correctly (certain colors not printing well), so I had to run the “self clean” option a few times, or re-insert the cartridges, and it was fixed. This has only happened maybe once a year. Damage done: a few minutes of time wasted.
- A couple of times, after installing a new black cartridge, I would get black blotches of ink of the pages I was printing. This required me to run the self cleaning cycle and print out a couple of pages that had ink blotches on them so I had to throw them away. Damage done: a few sheets of paper wasted.
- ONE time not too long ago, I actually thought my printer was done for. It wouldn’t print yellow, even after I ran the self cleaning cycle about 5 times, cleaned the tip of the yellow slot with a Q-tip, and installed a brand new yellow cartridge. I wouldn’t give up, however, and just kept running the cleaning cycle over and over again, praying it would work because we didn’t have the money for a new one. And after about 15-20 cycles, it started working again, and I haven’t had a problem since! Not bad for such an old printer, that it was able to fix itself! Damage done: some wasted time (and a little stress).
Again, let me remind you that at least 97% of the time I have no issues. The majority of the time I am able to install some new ink and don’t worry at all about leaks, blotchy pages, or my printer needing to run the cleaning cycle. And since I’ve never bought name-brand ink, I can’t even really compare the amount of issues with generic versus name-brand, but I’m guessing that even with name brand ink you are still going to have to run the self cleaning cycle from time to time or have other little issues over years of use.
The benefit in the price, in my opinion, far outweighs the fact that generic (probably) has a few more MINOR issues. The money I am saving is huge, and the slight, occasional inconvenience is negligible.
Last but certainly not least is binder rings. These are somewhat “optional”, but I find them very useful to keep everything organized. It’s also much cheaper and takes up much less space than to organize all of the sets of cards into file folders or some other method. These binder rings essentially make each set of cards its own little “book”, which is great because I want to be able to access my cards and flip through them with my baby, not have to store them in file cabinets or file boxes or file pouches and have to worry about them getting mixed up or lost while we’re using them.
I prefer to buy 3/4 inch size rings rather than 1 inch rings. 1 inch rings seem to be more readily available and you tend to be able to find them for slightly cheaper (about $10 for 100 rather than $12 for 100), but in my opinion the 3/4 inch size keep the cards together better and they’re less inclined to flop about.
The brand I have bought is the above-pictured ACCO brand, but I recently found another brand that is slightly cheaper, called Charles Leonard Loose Leaf Rings, which I plan to buy next time I need more, although I can’t personally vouch for their quality yet.
With the right tools, making lots of fun learning materials for you baby is inexpensive and relatively easy!