Ten Ways to Reduce the Cost of Printing from Your Home Computer

Printing invitations, photos, shipping labels, and other paper items from a home computer is one do-it-yourself activity many people erroneously adopt in an effort to save money. While printing from home rather than buying in a store can save money in some cases, it may actually cost more in others. Those who believe they are always saving by printing from home may minimize or overlook the cost of ink and paper in their calculations.

A search for ink-jet printer cartridges and all-purpose paper on Walmart.com (which, for better or worse, is a store where a typical bargain shopper will be likely to buy these items) yielded a broad range of prices. The most expensive and least expensive brand-name cartridges both cost about 2.5 cents per page to print (based on the estimated page yield stated in the product descriptions). Spot-checked prices for other cartridges had per-page prices of more than 3 cents. (If your printer requires more than one cartridge – say, black and color – you have to add those prices together.) One off brand had a much lower price, just over half a cent per page. Another reputable online retailer, 247inktoner.com, has compatible ink and toner cartridges at a fraction of the cost of the name brand cartridges.

All-purpose paper bought by the ream, also on Walmart.com, cost an additional penny per page. The lowest price for photo paper (fifty 4×6 sheets) was sixteen cents per page. At Staples.com, the bestseller list includes Avery shipping labels. They cost $11.99 for a 25 sheets of 30 labels each – 48 cents per sheet. Specialty papers, such as those used for resumes and invitations, also add to print-at-home costs.

So how can you keep printing costs as low as possible? The most obvious answer is to print less. You can accomplish this goal several ways:

Ask yourself if you really need to print. If you need a hard copy to carry with you, give to a client, or keep as a historical record, print. If an electronic copy of a document is equally practical and effective, skip the hard copy.

Get it right the first time. Before you print anything, proofread it carefully. Check the page margins, font, and other relevant details. By catching errors before you print, you can avoid printing documents multiple times before getting a perfect copy.

Send away for photos. Even buying the lowest-priced photo paper and ink from Walmart.com will cost you more than 16 cents per 4 x 6 photo. Several online photo sites — Snapfish, York Photo, even Wal-Mart — offer better quality prints at lower per-photo prices. Even after shipping costs (which you can avoid or decrease by taking advantage of special offers), it pays to send away. Plus you don’t have to deal with the frustration of photos not printing correctly or printers breaking down.

Copy and paste. Put the relevant information from a web page or email into a word processing document before you print so that you don’t waste ink on header information, ads, and other details you don’t need.

Practice your handwriting. Rather than print out driving directions, confirmation numbers, or other short bits of information, go low-tech and write down the details you need on a piece of scrap paper.

Once you’re printing as little as possible, you can look for ways to reduce the cost of materials.

Don’t buy address labels. Instead, print addresses on plain paper and stick them to envelopes with shipping tape. Some frequent shippers recommend taping over the top of labels, anyway, to keep them from falling off en route, so why bother paying for that extra adhesive on the back of the paper?

Print addresses directly on envelopes to completely eliminate the need for extra paper. Many printers take at least #10 envelopes (larger envelopes may be a bit difficult to run through properly). It may take a few tries to figure out the right way to insert them.

When possible, print on both sides of the paper.

Consider buying refillable ink cartridges or refilling regular cartridges. Refilling can save you a good deal of money, but some customers say that refills cartridge are hard to use, messy, less effective than new cartridges, and prone to clog printers.

Look for good deals & stock up. As with most products, the prices of ink and paper are not fixed. Clearance sales, closeout stores, and even yard sales may have these products at significantly lower prices. When you find a great price, buy as much as you know you will use and have room to store.

A few pennies per page may not sound like much, but they add up to more than what you might realize, especially when you habitually print a lot from your computer. By decreasing both the number of pages you print and the cost of printing materials, you should be able to notice a difference in your home office expenses.

Image courtesy of sondratheloser

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13 Responses to Ten Ways to Reduce the Cost of Printing from Your Home Computer

  1. Traciatim says:

    Buy a black and white laser, outsource your colour printing to a print shop, and your photo printing to an online retailer or one hour photo place. Places like photocheap.biz will print 4×6’s for around 10c a piece (even lower is you pre-pay). You’ll never find a home printer that looks as nice as a quality professional setup anyway, unless you buy a a really nice laser colour printer and also a Dye Sub printer for photo printing. . . that’s probably going to run you 2 grand anyway for just the equipment.

  2. henrik says:

    even simpler print at work :-)

    Might not go well at all places depending on the amount, but I usually print stuff like driving instructions and such at work

  3. disneysteve says:

    Another tip is to print stuff on the lowest quality setting possible for the job. A lot of stuff that is just for my own use, I print in draft mode in black only. I don’t need color and I don’t need top quality which uses a lot more ink.

  4. Hilary says:

    Generic print cartridges are also amazing. I bought mine for my small Canon printer for $2.50 each (retail is around $8.00). When I need really high quality stuff, I’ll use my school’s laser-jet printer, but at home when it’s directions or something, I don’t need the high quality at all.

  5. Karen says:

    When you set out to buy a printer, check the price of cartridges before you choose one. Some printers can use cheap generic cartridges. Others use fancier ink cartridges that contain computer chips, which makes it difficult to save money by buying generics. By comparing ink costs before buying, you can save a lot of money.

    I used generic cartridges for years and never had any problems. The one tip is, if you’re going to use generic cartridges, make sure you print something at least once a week, even if it’s just a test page. The generics tend to cause clogged heads a little more easily than the name brands, but as long as you print something every week or so, you’ll be fine.

    I’m now using a B&W laser printer, which is much cheaper, but every now and then I miss having color printing – not for photos, but for things like maps, documents with colored text, etc.

  6. ben says:

    There is also software that you can purchase such as at printgreener.com that will help you reduce the amount of ink you use.

  7. Rlillysr says:

    You can get generic Avery label sizes for $10.45 for 100 sheets at Worldlabel.com. I beleive they will send samples also.

  8. N Lewis says:

    Just to add to your savings tips. I have been doing the both sides, draft mode, generic ink, copy paste and reformat out the junk that might remain for years, ever since we have had computer/printer.
    One more tip. My son is salesman and often has copies of quotes to customers, only printed on one side.
    He gives me tons of these whenever I need, just use for “in house” information, not to give away. Also has a lot of paper good both sides, except for a 3/4″ logo in one corner. I just number my pages if need 2,4 6 etc and make sure when formatting there is enough room on these for the info not to be blocked out by logo. It takes time, but 99% of my print paper is free.
    I cannot always remember what it read, or want to keep the info, or give to someone and save huge $$ on paper costs!
    Am I a cheapskate or just frugal? Makes sense to me
    N Lewis

  9. Jay Gatsby says:

    I agree with all of the tips in the article and the comments. One other thing to consider is purchasing a used ink jet or b&w laser printer. Such printers may be 3-5 years old, but they still do the job just as good as the ones made today. Unlike the ones made today, older printers do not have a chip in the cartridge that prevents refilling it (e.g., Epson printers have a chip). Personally, I’ve been refilling ink jet cartridges since the mid-1990s and very rarely have needed to buy a new cartridge.

    Also, be judicious about what you print if you’re using a home photo printer. You don’t need to print every picture of your vacation. Just select the top 1/3 of the photos. That way, you’re picking the best and can make sure you and your family look great in every shot you share with other people. Also, if all you want to do is share your vacation photos, you can upload them to Snapfish and other websites, password-lock the images, and then send an e-mail to your family/friends with the password. When you’re tired of having them hosted online, you simply take them down.

  10. apeweek says:

    Most print drivers will let you print at reduced size, 2 to 4 pages per sheet. I do this all the time with the material I print for my own files. 4 pages/sheet = 4x reduction in printing costs.

  11. Lynn says:

    Get a printer that can be used with a continuous ink feeder. To get the same amount of print capacity using cartridges, you’ll spend about $1000.00. My ink feeder cost me $150.00 and I’ve used it for 6 months and it’s still over half full. I do lots of photo work and about 200 Christmas cards.

  12. Mark says:

    I have been using refills cartridges for over 6 years & have no problems with quantity or quality, refilling works, allows me to print when I want & save tons of money. Plus refilling is a recycling option — Reuse = Recycle.

  13. getforfree says:

    For the address labels, I just clip my address from the junk mail or even the bills, if I don’t need it, and save it in a small jar. Then, when I need the label with my address, I just tape it to an envelope or even package, because they come in all sizes.
    I print everything using draft setting and black ink only. I also check the print preview, and sometimes I would only need the first page of the whole document, or I can resize it, so it would fit into one page and take less ink.

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