I was teaching a seminar on paper management last week, and a gentleman asked, “Why should I use a label maker?” Collective gasp from all Professional Organizers ensued. Seriously, though, there are many reasons, and critical things to consider when choosing and using a label maker. Here’s my thoughts:
Reasons for using a label maker over handwriting:
- Legibility. No matter how good your handwriting is, it will never be as neat and easy to read as a label made with a label maker.
- Durability. Labels made with a label maker tend to hold up much longer than a plain written label, and generally won’t smear or run if wet or handled a lot.
- Consistency. Labels made with label maker have a consistent look and give the project a more professional and finished feel.
- Fun. Using a label maker is fun – especially for kids – but once you start using one – you’ll find yourself labeling everything in the house or office. I usually draw the line at pets and family members.
Things to look for in a label maker:
- QWERTY keypad. Some of the “home” or “craft” label makers set up the keyboard with ABCD across the top. Avoid this. If you are used to using a regular keyboard as on a computer, you want a label maker set up with the same format. The ABCD will be frustrating and annoying.
- Portable. I know there are a lot out there that you hook up to your computer but for convenience sake, I’ve found that the handheld, portable label makers are just easier to use, and you can take them where you need them rather than bring your label making thoughts over to the computer.
- Crackable tape. Be sure that the label maker tape is the kind that cracks in the middle, not the sort where you have to peel it off. This is really important – if you don’t have fingernails it’s practically impossible to get the backing off.
- Comfort. Make sure that the label maker fits comfortably in your hands and that where the tape is cut off is easily accessible for you. I had to use another organizer’s label maker once, and where the cutter was located was very awkward for my hand. I would never have known until I tried it. Play around with them before purchase if you can so you make sure it suits you.
- Only get what you need. Don’t be sucked into all of the extravagant features that you may never use. Most people only use the basic font, in a few sizes, with black print on white tape. The rest of the features usually never get touched. Exceptions to this would be a crafter or scrapbookerwho uses it for more creative purposes, someone who loves to really experiment and play around with gadgets, or a professional organizer. A basic model that has the above listed features is usually all you need.
Two of the more popular brands are Brother and Dymo. Both are good and are comparably priced. I personally use the Brother P-Touch 1280. I’ve had it about 2 years and it does a great job. My last Brother P-Touch lasted about 10 years, then it bit the dust.
On average you will spend $30-$40 on a good label maker, although you can spend a lot more if you choose (it’s not really necessary). Keep an eye out for sales and rebates at the office supply stores. I can almost always find at least $10-20 off either in an instant rebate or one that you have to mail in. Be aware of the requirements, though, for a mail in rebate. I was a bit perturbed with Brother a few months ago because I had purchased a label maker for a client and it had a rebate. I had given the package to my client and was mailing in the rebate (I had only charged her for the price minus the rebate). Turns out I needed a part of the package for the submission so they rejected my rebate. I’m still annoyed about that one.
One last tip: The best way to store your label maker is to place it in a bin along with extra tape and batteries – and LABEL IT!
Using a label maker can make your life easier – when you can quickly find what you need when you need it because it is labeled – you’ll wonder what you ever did without one!