overpaying with credit card

Cheap and Good Don't Go Together

Contractors HATE 3 things, computers, wasting time, and spending money. They are also extremely good with numbers.  That being said, today’s blog post was inspired by a situation I encounter far too often, from people too smart to make such a simple mistake.

I know guys that can nail an estimate down to almost the exact board foot. Every J-box, every drywall screw….. it’s a freakin science!

When you are that good, you are a very confident decision-maker. Unfortunately, the contractors' greatest strength is also their greatest weakness.  Because they are so good at “doing” things, they forget that sometimes they are better off enlisting the help of an expert in other areas.  That goes back to the “spending money” we talked about earlier.

This blog demonstrates how the “do-it-yourself” mentality can turn a cheap big box store printer into a money pit and you would otherwise never know.

Let's talk real numbers…….

Would you rather have a $200 printer that costs $55 per month to operate for the next 5 years (grand total $3900 because you will buy about 3 of them in 5 years)
or a $1,295 printer that costs $16 per month to operate for the next 5 years? (total cost $2255 in 5 years)  $1,645 less over 5 years.

Here is the breakdown (warning, lots of math ahead)

I recently found a cheap 11×17 printer online.  It is selling at $199 (what a deal, right…….. keep reading).  People understand a printer is a printer and it will print things for them (translation, tell the office manager to “get the cheap one”).  They also know that “the ink is how they getcha”.  So if we know, why do we do that to ourselves?  The printer is going to last a year, maybe 2 if we are lucky.  So let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say you get 2 years from your cheap printer. That’s still $600 in 5 years (I’m rounding up, to keep the math simple)

I’m confident your ability to read showed you the ink cartridge yields 1,000 pages or 1,200 pages.  Did you know those numbers are based on an 8.5×11 page, not the intended 11×17 page you need for plans?  Suddenly the 1,200-page yield was just cut in half.  It gets worse…. ink and toner yields are based on 5% page coverage (industry standard rating). What does that mean for you?  It means line drawings are more detailed than a standard office document and they cover more than 5% of the page.

Translation = your 600 pages just became less than 500 pages.  There is more bad news…. there are 500 sheets of paper in 1 ream.

You are now consuming 1 ink cartridge per ream of paper (and we haven’t even started talking about color pages yet… YIKES!  I’m going to keep hitting the bad news for just another second.  If you have not price checked a ream of 11×17 paper, do that now (I’ll wait…)

Welcome back!  Did you find the prices to be over $15 per ream?  Now check the price on that ink… $30-$65 each is what I found online (you can check again, or you can take my word for it, either is fine).

Lastly, those cheap printers only hold 250 sheets of paper at a time.  This means you are constantly reloading paper (and every other time you load the printer with paper, you are loading the ink as well…… back to that wasting time thing).

If the “cheap printers numbers aren’t real enough for you yet, let’s try this…. figure a standard set of prints is 25 sheets.

Every 6 sets, you have to add paper (4 copies to the city, 2 to the county). Every 12, you have to replace ink and paper, and you’ve spent $45 – $90. I’m assuming you will win more than 1 job per month, so plug your target numbers in…. you’re good at estimates, remember?

My question is this….. if you have the option to get a printer that operates at pennies per square foot and can do 11×17, 12×18, 13×19, 18×24, and 24×36 wouldn’t it be worth considering?  For roughly $49 per month (that is 1 ink and 1 ream of paper) you can have a faster, more capable printer, with longer-lasting ink, variable size printing, continuous feed paper, and automatic cutting.  No more wasting time and money!

Here comes some more math, but I’m going to calculate an ROI for you…..  dividing the cost of your ink by the number of pages it yields will get you the cost per page.  Using the cheaper printer, ink is $39.99 for 1,000 pages (cut in half for 11×17) and you are at 500 pages for $39.99 or $0.07998 per page (for ink only).  Let’s tally the cost of paper.  Using $15 per ream, divide by 500 for total sheets in 1 ream, and our cost per page is $.03198.  Total cost for ink and paper per 11×17 on your cheap big box store printer is $0.11196 per page.  It may not seem like much until we start calculating the alternative.

The cost per page on a large format printer purchased through a professional (such as myself….. they don’t call me “The Pro” for nothing…) can be as low as $0.026 per square foot.

Time for more math – the contractors and estimators are the only ones still reading!!! I love writing for you guys!!!

500 sheets per ream, 500 pages per ink, .11196 per page = $55.98
500 – 11×17 drawings printed at .0337 per page = $16.85
A Difference of $39.13 for the same amount of printing.

Most would say – yes but the cost of the printer doesn’t make it worth the purchase.  At $1,295, which is what an entry-level 24×36 printer (with the ability to do 11×17) goes for… the printer pays for itself after 33 months (actually, 29 months once you consider the original $200 cost for the 11×17 printer.  In reality, we should subtract 12 because you will need at least 3 of those printers in 5 years.  So roughly 21 months and your printer has paid for itself.  Side note, 36-month lease to own options are roughly $35/month.

Here is the good news.  A professional printer will last more than 3 years.  In fact, there are many that have been in the field for 10 or more years.  Once the printer is paid off, your cost per page is next to nothing.

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About Ron Rodgers

Ron Rodgers is an Imaging Ace & Print Industry Hotshot with a passion for helping people turn print into profit! Aside from being the founder of ProPrinting Systems, he is a marketing machine, funtrepreneur (like entrepreneur but more fun), blogger, YouTuber, podcaster, musician, husband, father, sales expert, and all-around nice guy.

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