Printing is something of a necessary evil. Compared to 20 years ago, we need to print stuff pretty rarely. But... print we must. And when you occasionally need to print something out, it can cost you plenty. Between the ink, the paper, and the printer itself, printing can be an unexpectedly big expense.
Still, it's possible to save. Here are 5 tips and tricks that can cut your printing costs significantly.
1. Beware of cheap printers
There's long been a saying in the technology industry: the cheaper the printer, the more expensive its ink will cost. Inexpensive inkjet printers in particular, which can cost as little as $30 to $50, have a reputation for requiring super-expensive inkjet cartridges.
Indeed, the ink cartridges often cost more than the printer itself and they run empty pretty quickly. They may also rely on color ink cartridges that combine colors, and when one of those colors is empty, the whole cartridge needs to be replaced. That can mean you're tossing a whole lot of unused – and exceptionally pricey – ink.
As your dad might have told you, these printers are "penny wise, pound foolish."
2. Nurture your ink
When your printer tells you it's time to change the cartridge, you probably don't need to that right away. Some printers warn you when the cartridge has as much as 40 percent of its ink still left inside, so don't change it until absolutely necessary.
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Also, think about what you're printing. Unless your document must look a particular way, you can reduce the font size to fit more information on each page. And you should print in black and white whenever possible--color ink is generally much more expensive, and may run out more quickly.
3. Tweak your printer settings
You should opt for the most economical printer settings, typically called "draft mode" or "eco mode." These settings tend to use less ink and have the benefit of printing faster. You may not even notice a difference in print quality. Want to go the extra mile to save money via printer settings? Install an "eco-font" on your PC. That's a font which is explicitly designed to use less ink when printed.
4. Consider the environment (to save money)
Okay, thinking about the environment is noble, but that's not the only reason I'm suggesting you do so. It might also save you some cash. Printing on both sides helps you cut your paper usage–and cost–in half. Investing in a printer that does this automatically (called duplex printing) makes this much, much easier.
Take Dell's H625CDW Multifunction Color Cloud Laser Printer, for exmaple, It's an affordable printer that offers this feature, and Quill has it on sale right now for $180. If you sign up for email updates from Quill, you get a $20 coupon that brings the price down to $160 – significantly less than the $250 to $300 that you'll pay for this printer at Amazon or Dell.
5. Look at ink prices before buying a printer
The key when buying a printer is to think about your printing needs. If you print a lot, a more expensive multi-function device could be what you need. But if you print infrequently, a less expensive inkjet could be just right. The key is to do your homework. Read reviews, keeping in mind that most reviews tend to mention when a printer uses expensive ink. Research the best prices on printers and the best prices on the ink they use. Doing all of this will help you make sure that the great bargain you've found really is a bargain after all.