Thursday, September 22, 2011

8 Uses for a Tiny Container

I have a pet peeve with wearing contacts.  Not the actual lenses – they’re great.  My problem lies with those little cases, the ones provided with each bottle of contact lens cleaner I purchase.  They’re made of durable, non-porous plastic and serve their purpose well…and L-O-N-G.  I’ve never yet needed to dispose of one.  While I appreciate the convenience, I don’t really need new cases as frequently as I do cleaner.  The result is I now have a collection of those itty-bitty containers because I can’t bring myself to add them to the landfill.

Top left: hand cream; Top right: salt & pepper;
Bottom left: caplets & tablets; Bottom right: soy sauce & sesame seeds
Instead, over the years, I’ve found a few re-uses for those cases:
  1. The first idea was to use them as medicine holders.  Both hubby and I suffer with chronic back problems that occasionally disrupt our night’s sleep.  Now, instead of trudging off to the medicine cabinet and stumbling in the dark for the right dosage, we each have a pillbox on our night table with measured doses in both compartments.  The compartments hold (at least) two standard sized tablets or caplets and, having screw top lids, also carry well in a purse.
  2. The next idea was to use them in hubby’s lunchbox.  As I’m on a sodium-reduced diet, hubby often wants to add a little salt to his meals.  Previously, he packed an old (camping) saltshaker, but sometimes his lunchbox just didn’t have room enough to include it.  The contact lens case was the solution:  the case is small enough to fit inside his lunchbox no matter how full it gets.  One side he fills with salt and the other with pepper, so he now carries pepper, too.
  3. The third idea spawned from the second.  Our picnic basket can seem small at times, too small to carry full-sized condiment containers.  As each of the contact cases holds two teaspoons, (one teaspoon per side,) they make handy containers for small amounts of other condiments:  sugar, cream, ketchup, vinegar, soy sauce, seeds, herbs, spices, chillies, bacon bits, etc.
  4. I often salvage screws and other fittings from old glasses or technological hardware and that’s when the fourth idea came to me.  The cases are the perfect size for sorting small parts and pieces, making them easier to find when needed.  This idea could also work with small buttons and other notions (i.e. beads, sequins.)
  5. I began making hand cream  back in February and, still very impressed by its effectiveness, have sought a way to carry it along in my purse.  The contact lens cases proved a good answer.  The cream has no reaction with the non-porous plastic, and the container holds enough cream for a few applications – more than I require in a day.
  6. Seeds, collected from a flower or vegetable garden, should be stored in dry, airtight containers.  These cases, with their screw-top lids, are ideal:  they’re big enough for most seeds, yet small enough to gather an assortment.  When stored in a dark place, they’ll keep seeds viable until the next growing season.
  7. On occasion, I like to paint.  These containers work great for mixing water-based paints and clean up is effortless.  (However, I’ve never mixed acrylic or oil-based paints in them, uncertain how or if they’d react with the plastic.)
  8. The next idea (I plan to try) is another kitchen application.  ‘Cheese Bites’ are delicious and, in moderation, a calorie-wise substitute for bagged munchies.  Until now, though, I’ve never had a cookie cutter small enough.  As I planned this blog, it occurred to me to use one of the contact cases to produce the bite-sized morsels I prefer.  The dough rolls out to 1/8-1/4” thick, so the keen edges of the open case should easily cut two perfect pieces at a time.
Some of the lens cases have different coloured lids for easy distinguishing between right and left lenses.  The best feature, though, is the textured-surfaces on the lids.  No matter the brand, they all have them to enable better “blind” recognition.  In using these cases for other applications, those textured lids just as easily denote varying contents (like different medications) in low light situations (such as a restaurant or a darkened bedroom in the wee hours.)

The longer I wear contacts, the more of these little containers I collect.  Until there is an option to buy lens cleaner without also getting another case, I’ll continue adding them to our household inventory.  Fortunately, we have more uses than tiny containers…so far.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Canvass for Your Business

Most businesses recognize the value of advertising.  However, if you’re like me – an artist, entrepreneur, and/or small business owner – your budget for this important expense may be too small for media advertisements or other traditional forms of marketing.  Business cards can be an effective means of promotion, applied liberally.

However, business cards can also be expensive depending on quantity (print-run), colour(s), paper quality, and whether printed on one or both sides.  Printers (traditional or on-line) have varying minimums for print-runs, the lowest I found is 100 cards, the highest is 500, and the average minimum print-run is 250.  New printing technologies have brought prices down considerably, yet the costs can still be onerous for small businesses.

In an age when phone numbers and email addresses change frequently, purchasing a few hundred business cards can prove wasteful.  Yet, short print-runs are more costly, per card, than larger orders.  The way I’ve avoided this dilemma is to make my own business cards.

Some will argue that homemade cards look amateur.  Yet, with good card-stock and a little restraint (using colours, fonts, and graphics), you can create professional-looking cards for a fraction of the cost.  All you need is a good word processor, a modicum of creative skill, some “clean-edge” card blanks, and a little time.  Once you’ve designed your card, you can save it – and many variations of it – for future printing.   Most word processors offer templates for business cards and, with a few modifications, you can personalize these to suit your company and its character.

It may seem like a lot of work yet the results pay off in many ways:
  1. Word processors have clip-art installed, but personal photos, bitmap images, or CAD drawings can also be inserted.  (The cost of adding these “external” images in commercial print-jobs can be exorbitant.)
  2. With a little extra ink, you can easily produce double-sided cards.
  3. Print-runs can be small – card-blanks are (usually) ten cards per sheet.    Admittedly, that’s a very short run, but wasted cards due to informational changes will be few.
  4. Because short print-runs are available, it possible to have various designs (each version saved as a separate file) for different purposes/occasions.
  5. Most conveniently, once you’ve created the file, it takes very little effort to copy and paste the result into email or other computer applications – difficult to do with a printed card.
  6. When running low, you can produce more cards in a matter of minutes, rather than waiting days (or longer) for new cards to arrive from the printer.

Colour is the only limitation to making business cards; white and ivory card-stock being the only colours I’ve found.  However, I’ve heard it said that coloured paper, use of coloured and or elaborate fonts, borders, and imagery, can make cards difficult to read.  Moderation is the key.  When used sparingly, these features compliment a company’s “personality.” Too much, and these features can just as easily have a negative impact.  The most effective business card solicits attention through interesting presentation of information, in clear form.

As I mentioned before, costs vary depending on content and style.  The best commercial-printer price I found (locally) was $30 for 100 cards, printed on one side only, no colour, and no image.  The best on-line price I found was $5.99 for 250 cards, but that does not include shipping costs.  As comparison, the (ivory) card-stock I purchased (a few years ago) cost me $11.17 for 250 cards (25 sheets of 10 cards).  Over time, I’ve re-designed and re-printed my business card, changing information as needed, and still have a couple sheets left.  Had I purchased from a traditional printer, the changes to my contact information would have caused at least one wasted print-run.  However, as I print one sheet at a time, only two cards were wasted.  In addition, the card I designed has information on each side, a logo, and coloured font, while the commercial prices shown above do not reflect these features.  The cost of printer ink is negligible (with limited graphics) so the total cost is still considerably less than a comparable business card commercially produced.

One of the most cost-effective means of promotion remains the inimitable business card.  Today, there are many options for printing, but if the expenditure for off-site printing is a deterrent for your company, you might consider making your own.  You’ll have greater creative expression, incur less expense, and the savings will enable you to canvass your business area more liberally.