Here's How to Save Money on Printing Costs

Category: Printing

Are you tired of shelling out big bucks to replace yet another empty ink cartridge? Nobody is happy about the high cost of home and small office printing. Paper prices are rising, and the cost of brand-name printer ink cartridges has always been outrageous. Here are some tips for slimming down your printing budget...

Printing On a Budget

The most important money saving tip I can offer is this: Don’t buy OEM ink cartridges. What's OEM? That's just shorthand for the "Original Equipment Manufacturer". In other words, if you have a Canon, Epson or HP printer, don't buy Canon, Epson or HP branded cartridges. The same goes for other printer manufacturers -- I'm not singling out those brands.

The dirty little secret of the printer industry is that they make far more profit from the consumable inks than they do on the printer itself. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for capitalism... but I'm also big on saving money where I can.

There are many third-party remanufacturers of used inkjet cartridges that produce results perfectly acceptable for home, school, and business uses. In many cases, refilled ink cartridges will give you more ink than they did fresh from the factory. The quality and fade-resistance of some refilled cartridges may be a bit less than OEM inks, but for most purposes that is not a problem.

Save on Printing Costs

Whether an off-brand compatible or remanufactured discount ink cartridge will perform as well as an OEM cartridge depends, of course, on how well it is made. A fly-by-night outfit may use inferior inks that don't produce vibrant, non-fading colors; skimp on cleaning print nozzles and other parts; or skip quality control testing to save money. Shoddy cartridges can leak and ruin the electronics of a printer.

To find a reliable supplier of discount ink cartridges, try searching for your printer model online along with keywords such as "compatible", "refilled" or "remanufactured" ink cartridges. Look for suppliers who have loyal fans and have been in business for a number of years. Also look for warranties provided by suppliers. One supplier I've used is LD Products, which has been around for twenty years, and offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all products.

Here's a personal example: My HP OfficeJet Pro uses a cartridge which retails for $49.99. LD sells a remanufactured replacement cartridge for $8 that works beautifully. Print quality are page yield are the same as the OEM cartridge, and I save $42 on each one! For years, I was buying the expensive HP-labelled cartridges from an office supply store, under the false assumption that generic or remanufactured cartridges might not work in my printer. Of course LD also offers replacement ink cartridges for Brother, Canon, Dell, Epson, Lexmark and other popular brands.

If this sounds like a sneaky advertisement for LD Products, well, it's not. I'm just a happy customer passing along a tip, and LD doesn't give me any special treatment or incentives. I've also used and found that their products and prices are generally great as well.

Amazon also sells inkjet cartridges from a variety of third-party sellers such as CompAndSave, INKMATE, and HOTCOLOR. I have no personal experience with any of those sellers, so I'd advise you to check the ratings and reviews before ordering.

More Tips to Save on Printing

Even if you decide to stick with the more expensive OEM cartridges, here are several other ideas to help you save on overall printing costs. I'll list them in the order of maximum impact.

If you have a color inkjet, think about NOT printing your photos at home. The convenience is nice, but there's no quicker way to drain those red, yellow and blue ink cartridges than by printing full sheets of color photos. Check out online photo printing services such as Shutterfly and others. Their prices may well be cheaper than printing photos at home, using ink and paper of comparable qualities.

And while we're talking about color, think about other documents as well. Most things such as emails, web pages, and even charts and graphs can be printed in greyscale, to avoid using the more expensive color inks. You'll find the option to print in greyscale or black & white under "Settings", "Properties" or "Preferences" when you hit the Print button. This is especially important if your printer uses a cartridge that combines the black ink with the colors. You might run out of a single color (red, blue or yellow) and have to discard the cartridge, even though some of the other colors are still partly full.

If you print a lot of black-and-white stuff in your home office or small business, consider a cheap laser printer instead of an inkjet. Laser technology generally yields lower cost-per-page than inkjet.

Print on both sides of a page when printing documents of many pages. It may take a bit of thought to lay out a document for double-sided printing, and on some printers you may have to reload a stack of pages to print the second side. But your paper costs are immediately halved.

Another trick I often use when printing large documents is to print multiple pages per sheet of paper. Most printers will let you choose 2-up, 4-up or even more pages per sheet. My HP OfficeJet Pro can print up to 16 pages per sheet, but I find that 4-up is about as small as you want to go in most cases, and still get a readable document. Let's say you have a 100-page document that you want to print. Combining double-sided printing with the 2-up or 4-up option can cut your printing costs by a factor of eight.

Use the "print preview" option, especially if you're printing web pages. Many times the print preview will show that there's orphaned pages (those with only the url and page number and maybe the footer of the web page) and then you can select the page range and print only what you need.

Some printers have the option to remove background graphics. If you only want the info on a web page and not all the graphics, copy and paste the text you need into a document with narrow margins. You can then reformat to your liking.

Use your printer's "draft" or "economy" printing mode, or reduce the number of dots-per-inch that are printed. Not only will your ink last longer, pages will print faster too. Draft copies will be noticeably fainter, but still quite legible. When you need the best quality final copy, it's easy to switch settings for one last printing.

On a related note, software such as Preton Saver can automatically examine your printed pages and do various optimzations to reduce the amount of ink needed. The software promises to "save you up to 70%" in inkjet printing costs, and claims to produce better quality than your printer's draft or economy mode. I've tested PretonSaver and found that it works surprisingly well. There's a free 30-day trial of Preton Saver, after which you can pay $20 per year, or $33.60 for a lifetime license.

Shrink your font size to save ink and paper. The difference between 14 and 11 point type is about 27 per cent, but most people can easily read the small font. Tweaking the spacing between lines of text can also fit more on a page, saving paper costs.

The font face that you use also makes a difference in printing costs. Arial is the most popular font, but tests by showed that Century Gothic used 31 per cent less ink! Times Roman is a good balance between classic style and cost savings. Avoid bold styling to save even more ink.

And finally, don't print on paper at all, if you can get away with it. Printing to a PDF file or cloud storage provides a high-quality document that can be saved indefinitely, without using any expensive paper or ink. The Chrome web browser has the option to "Save as PDF" or "Save to Google Drive" when selecting a printer. Word and Libre Office have the "export to PDF" option as well. If the program you're printing from does not support saving as PDF, you can install Foxit Reader to add PDF printing to all your programs.

Do you have your own tips for saving money on printing? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Here's How to Save Money on Printing Costs"

(See all 39 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Mervyn Clay
20 Nov 2019

I use a a CISS system. Tanks containing 100ml of ink feed via tubes to the cartridges. Some printers better than others especially brother where cartridges slot into front of printer. Cartridges supplied by CISS are normally preprogrammed but sometimes may just have to partially remove cartridge and replace to reset printer.
Cost of CISS was less than one set of OEM cartridges. Ink available in 100ml and 1000 ml quantities. Inks are only direct dyes in water with a touch of wetting agent.

Posted by:

20 Nov 2019

Thank You! I have also been under the misconception that only HP cartridge work in HP printer. I cringe everytime I have to shell out for replacements. Will try LD next.

Posted by:

Andrew Street
20 Nov 2019

Back in the old days (1920s) the electric company would give out free lightbulbs and then sell you the electricity to light them.
That’s the concept of what the printer companies are doing that today.

Posted by:

Joseph Baker
20 Nov 2019

I have used the oem carts and moved to LD carts and never had any problems. Finally bought a laser printer and after the cart that came with the printer was expended have used LD toner cartridges and have been very pleased with them and have had no problems. Don't do a lot of printing however. Of course this is just my personal experience. Each person must do what is most effective for them.

Posted by:

Les Stuckey
21 Nov 2019

I was using HP Officejet for years I was using LD products. I know HP was monitoring this and one day I could no longer print. I kept getting error message that the print head was damaged, which I am sure was created by HP. I did some research and sure enough that is what had happened. They wanted me to buy all my ink through their instant ink program. I had to buy a new printer. Can anyone tell me how to avoid this from happening again?

Posted by:

Robert A.
21 Nov 2019

Costco also offers printer ink refills at the counter up front by the TV and electronics department. Their prices are competitive, and they can usually do the job while you are shopping there. You have to bring in your own spent cartridges though, as they do not have piles of empty cartridges for refilling. If you stop at the food court and get one of their great $1.50 hot dog and Pepsi combos, or a slice of pizza, your cartridges should be filled by the time you finish your meal, nd you'll have the refilled cartridges right away, ready to use when you get home, too.

Posted by:

21 Nov 2019

Inkjet printers waste a lot of ink; in "Head Clean" mode. If you have ever taken an inkjet apart, there are built in pads to absorb this wasted ink. As a matter of fact this is what killed our Dell AIO Inkjet. Excess ink got into the gears and would not advance the paper. Our next printer was a Canon B/W laser printer,scanner and copier; cost us $80 and generic cart were $7 on eBay. There have been no problems in the 4 years that we had it!

Posted by:

Tom Rieg
21 Nov 2019

Love LD Products! Great deals! $80.00 color toner cartridges for $18.00.....and they last longer!

Posted by:

21 Nov 2019

On your advice and others, I bought a box of LD cartridges for my Canon printer. One of them printed the wrong color and a few others leaked between opening them and getting them in the printer. I trashed the rest and went back to Canon cartridges. More expensive--yes. But I've never had a problem with one.

Posted by:

21 Nov 2019

I find that if I need to print anything at all I can print it at the public library.

Posted by:

21 Nov 2019

Dear Bob,

As a victim of the HP Cartridge fiasco - my new latest colour/scanner/email facility model seems to KNOW when my local top-up service (which I used for over 11 years) has supplied the ink and will only give 20 copies before totally refusing to work. I am angry about this because the original HP simple printer worked perfectly all that time on the top-ups.

Your article is. therefore, of great interest/value to me and I will advise members when replacing presnt HP cartridges are empty.

Posted by:

21 Nov 2019

I picked up a Brother DCP 7020 lazer printer for free at a Thrift shop. They could not resell it as could not test it properly to see what condition was. Turned out to have 75% of toner remaining, and used it for 5 years before ran out, then I purchased 5 tanks of toner in bulk and will probably never have to buy again - total cost for toner was about 75.00. One refill does about 5,000 to 6000 pages. Couldn't really go wrong, but only black and white and gray tones.

Posted by:

21 Nov 2019

If you think InkJet savings are big, colour laser toner is even better. My OKI C531DN duplex colour networkable colour laser cost me around £230 a few years ago. A proper set of high capacity OKI toner would be best part of £500, I qualify for a discount to £400.

I can get 3rd party cartridges that are also high capacity and work fine for the grand price of £60 saving of at least £340. Once the other parts of the printer need replacing (fuser, belt) I'll simply buy a new printer.

Posted by:

21 Nov 2019

For decades I have printed on the back of previously used paper; not for a business letter, but for many situations. Think of the junk mail you get; some is printed on one side only.

I use PRINT EDIT add on in Firefox to eliminate anything on a web page I don't need to print.

Posted by:

21 Nov 2019

Bob - for your information and to those considering ordering from LD Products - the company only ships to the US and Canada.

Thank you Bob - but there is life outside of the US hahaha

Posted by:

21 Nov 2019

Try the Epson ecotank. I'm using the ET-4500 and fill the tanks every 6 to 9 months

Posted by:

22 Nov 2019

On Bob's advice previously, I have ordered from 123inkjets and was satisfied with them.

I would also add to check your printer settings: on some printers, when you select "black and white" the printer will combine the color ink in with the black - you should be able to select "use black ink only".

Posted by:

Emily Booth
23 Nov 2019

I purchased a new Epson printer several years ago. I had an Epson before. I could use non-OEM printer cartridges with the old Epson. Not with the new Epson. What happened is the non-OEM printer cartridges somehow damaged the printer heads. I can print 3 - 5 good pages and then I must go thru the very time consuming process of testing, cleaning and realigning. I buy OEM printer cartridges at Wal-mart or on eBay, whoever has the best price. I don't do that much printing and I'm at a point where I try to avoid it whenever possible.

Posted by:

01 Dec 2019

I did some research earlier this year and compared cartridge inkjets and tank inkjet printers from Canon, Epson, and HP.(HP doesn't sell their tank printers or ink bottles in the US)
The initial price of a basic tank printer with printer and scanner only will run you about $18, which would be a lot more than a basic cartridge printer. If you buy an all in one business model the price difference is nill between the cartridge and tank printers.
The real significant difference is that the tank printers come with four(CMYK) front transparent tanks. The printers come with 70ml each of CMY and 70 to 135ml of black. The cartridge printer cartridges have 3.5ml to 13ml of ink and you have to trust the printer to tell you when they are empty.
By using each manufacture's published page yield figures for their respective cartridge vs tank printers you would need to buy approximately 8 to 15 black cartridges and 11 to 15 color cartridges, depending upon the brand to, to equal the page yield of the tank printers.
The replacement cost for a 3.5 to 7.0 ml cartridge is $13 to $20 for black. A 70ml replacement bottle of black ink for a tank printer is $13 to $18. The color ink bottles are all 70ml and all $13 to $18 per bottle.
A new cartridge printer would require over $950 worth of cartridges to equal the yield of a tank printer. All the prices are based upon the oem website prices and yields.
Canon makes MegaTank printers, Epson makes EcoTank printers. HP makes HP Ink Tank printers but doesn't sell them in the US.
Canon and Epson tank printers cost per page is about 1/4th of 1 cent per page. Canon and Epson cartridge printers cost about 5 to 7 cents per page. A Canon mono laser printer cost about 3.75cents per page...

Posted by:

Dave Leippe
01 Dec 2019

The initial price should read $180 for a basic tank printer and scanner.

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