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[Digital] Is digital scrapbooking the answer for budget scrapbooking?

Lots of paper scrapbookers are talking about trying to scrap on a budget: using their stash, simplifying their style, using less expensive embellishments in favor of techniques like paper piecing. Could this new budget-savvy scrapbooker be a boon for digital scrapbooking? Scrap Girls thinks so.

The digital scrapbooking website recently did some publicity promoting digital scrapbooking as a budget-conscious alternative to paper. “Materials can be reused over and over, thereby increasing the customer’s return on investment,” Scrap Girls CEO, Rozanne Paxman said. Scrap Girls’ materials also said that “Undoubtedly, cost savings is the most significant advantage of digital scrapbooks. Online materials are not affected by skyrocketing fuel prices, nor do scrapbookers have to use their car to purchase supplies; everything is available right at their fingertips.”

Does digital scrapbooking provide a low-cost alternative to paper scrapbooking for hobbyists in a strapped economy? It’s an interesting question.

It is certainly true that basic supplies, like paper and embellishments, are inexpensive and sometimes even free as a lot of sites have promotional downloads. But there are other expenses that can add up pretty fast.

The first expense is needed before you can even start digital scrapbooking: software. It can easily cost $100 for a program like Photoshop Elements. This compares easily to the beginner’s kit that is needed for paper scrapbooking of items like a trimmer, scissors and adhesive. It may even exceed the bare basics for paper scrapbooking in price.

So the paper and digital scrapbookers may be about equal on their basic equipment, but digital comes out ahead (cheaper) on supplies, right? Well, that depends. Digital comes out ahead probably – if you don’t ever plan to actually print your digital layouts.

If you plan to print your digital layouts, the cost comes out the same or more than a paper layout. For instance, my favorite photo printing site Shutterfly, charges between $5.59 and $6.99 to print a 12×12 layout depending on how many prints you order. Printing at home is also expensive after investing in a wide-format printer and the cost of ink and paper.

A less expensive way to go would actually be printing digital layouts as a photo book. Shutterfly charges $54.99 for the first 20 pages of a 12×12 photo book. That comes to $2.75 per layout or page. If you can live with the permanent placement of the layouts in the book (as opposed to individual layouts that can be moved around in albums), that might be a good budget way to go.

One definite advantage of digital scrapbooking is the ability – even if you intend to eventually print your layouts – to participate in your hobby but delay a significant part of the expense if you need to. Right now, when a lot of people are experiencing temporary job loss, or the pinch of high gas prices, the ability to scrapbook but put off the major expense – printing their pages – until they can better afford it may be very appealing.

I think ScrapGirls has it half-right. Digital scrapbooking (if you intend to print your pages) isn’t all that much cheaper. But it does allow you the flexibility to choose when you incur a large part of that expense – and that could be very appealing to a lot of people right now.

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