When we lived in Illinois, I purchased a comb binding machine. Now that may seem like an unusual purchase, but homeschooling my four children I saw oodles of uses.
I purchased it online because it was recommended from someone in my local homeschool group, at the time it was an additional 10 percent off, and it was by far the best price anywhere. They had free shipping then and they still do (as long as you don't take their free $5 in supplies - I buy my supplies at the local office supply store, but you could get them online and just pay the shipping).
At $89.99, the binding machine is actually slightly less expensive than when I got mine. It punches the holes and also opens up the plastic comb binding so you can put the pages on. It is manual, not electric, but not difficult to use at all. You can check the Staples reviews and the OfficeMax reviews (and $199.99 price) to see how it stacks up.
We were working today on our world history timeline book. I purchased the software from Knowledge Quest so I could print it out multiple times, then I printed it on parchment-looking cardstock paper to give it kind of an aged look. I laminated the front and back covers to toughen them up. Then I used the comb binding machine to bind them together.
I also purchased the software for images to use in the timeline from Knowledge Quest (if you click on the link, hard copies are at the top and the cd-rom is at the bottom). I printed them out on clear sticker paper, instead of white, so that when it was placed on the paper the parchment color would still show through. I'm printing out pages as I need them.
The kids don't get into homeschool projects much, but they all enjoy this.
Some of the more unexpected things I've used the binding machine for are to bind pages the boys colored and collected and wanted to keep, paper for scrap pages for math work, and a scrapbook when we kept Flat Stanley (we cut the plastic comb binding to the length we needed). You can have your books flat when they have been bound with the comb binding, but you can not fold them back like a notebook.
The benefit to comb binding is that you can repair your book if anything comes loose, you can add pages, remove pages, fix messed up pages (if we goof on a timeline badly), replace a damaged cover, etc. You just put it back on top where you originally opened up the comb and put the pages on in the first place and take it apart. You still reuse the same comb and it's not damaged in the process.
Last week in a post about various projects I'd been doing, I showed off some books I'd had bound at Kinko's. Here's what I did.
I took my Motivated Mom's Planner to Kinko's and had them spiral bind it rather than put it in a three-ring binder myself.
The benefits are the ability for it be flat
or folded back.
Since we don't tear the pages out of Caboose's math book, the book is thick, and it's hard to write on the pages unless you put something under one side to hold it up, I decided it might be a good thing for that book too.
Did you know they can cut the binding off of a book? It's one of the greatest things since sliced bread.
So now his book can be flat
and fold under.
I took Buddy's the next day and had it done.
They can also 3-hole punch pages for you at Kinko's.
And this is what works for me (and my kids!) around our house and with our homeschooling.