22 Ways to Print for Less

A recent article in Woman’s Day magazine stated that the average household goes through a ream of printer paper every three to four days and spends about $60 every three months for printer cartridges and paper. That’s $240 per year on printer supplies. Ouch. Our household spends far less than that – about $60 per year on paper and ink, yet we print a fair amount. How do we keep our costs so far below the “normal?” Here are our strategies.

Use the draft setting: This setting prints exactly what it says: A draft quality printout that isn’t as dark as a regular printout. You wouldn’t want to use it for things that need to be perfect, but it’s great for proofreading and for things like receipts or copies of bills that you’re keeping for your own records. The draft setting uses far less ink than the standard setting. Generally this setting is found in your printers’ control panel.

Print on both sides of the paper: Many printers offer a function that lets you print on both sides of a page, saving you considerable amounts of paper. You may have to experiment with the function at first to get used to feeding the sheets in correctly, but once you’ve got it down it’s very easy.

Recycle ink cartridges for cash: Staples, Office Max, and other office retailers offer store credits in exchange for your old ink cartridges. You have to join their loyalty programs, but you can use the credits to offset the cost of more ink and paper.

Invest in laser printer: Laser printers are far more efficient users of ink than inkjet printers. One toner cartridge can last for 5,000 pages and costs an average of $30 – 60, much less than you’d pay to print the same number of pages with an inkjet. Not only that, a laser printer prints much faster than an inkjet. You can find a good quality home laser printer for as little as $50 – 60 on special.

Print a second draft on the back of the first: You need to print a second draft to do further revisions and you didn’t print on both sides of the paper to begin with, print the second draft on the back of the first. If you have a 50 page document, you just saved 50 pages of paper.

Look into generic ink and remanufactured cartridges: You can find store brands of ink and toner for the most popular printer brands that sell for much less than the name brand. You can also get remanufactured cartridges from some manufacturers. These are cartridges that have been returned by other users and then refilled, cleaned, and tested by the manufacturer. Since they’re not “new” they are sold for less than new cartridges.

Use the printer friendly link on webpages: Many web pages have a link to a printer-friendly version of the page. It prints your page without all the ads and graphics, which are big ink eaters. It also formats the page so that it uses a minimum of paper.

Print in black and white unless you really need color: Many inkjet printers default to color print mode unless you specifically tell it to print in black and white. Change your print setting to black and white unless you really need the color. The color setting uses more ink than the black and white, even if the page you’re printing is all black and white.

Reuse paper when possible: Whenever you print something for your own use, see if you can reuse the paper when you’re done with it. For example, if you print directions to the museum, use them to get where you’re going and then reinsert the paper for another job. When a printout comes out wrong, put the mistake back in the printer the next time you’re printing something unimportant for your own use.

Opt for email confirmations: Choose to have confirmations and cancellations emailed to you when shopping or making travel reservations, rather than printing. Have receipts for online bill payments emailed to you, as well.

Use “Save page as…”: Rather than printing every web page you need, use the “Save as” or “Save page as” feature and create a file you can store on your hard drive. You can save as a text file, HTML, or as a .pdf if you have the right software. When you need the information, just open the file. When you’re done with it, delete it from your drive. If you can’t get the hang of “Save as,” a simple copy and paste into a blank word processing document works just as well.

Bookmark your favorite web pages: Rather than printing web pages, simply bookmark them for future reference. If you’re worried about the content you need changing or being deleted, use number 11, above, and save a copy to your hard drive.

Use Print Preview: Before you print, open the document in Print Preview and choose to print only the pages with the relevant information. This saves you from wasting paper on pages with unnecessary information or graphics you don’t need. If you mess up and get extra pages anyway, put them back in the printer for future use.

Keep your inkjet active to avoid having to “clean” the heads: Inkjet printers will clog up if not used frequently. Most offer a “head cleaning” or similar function, but the cleaning process uses a lot of ink – ink that is simply lost to you. To avoid having to waste ink for cleaning, print from your printer at least once a week.

Use ink and paper saving browser extensions: Browser extensions like Aardvark for Firefox and HP Smart Print for Internet Explorer let you remove what you don’t want to print from a web page, leaving only the stuff you need and saving you from wasting paper and ink.

Don’t print stuff “just in case” It’s tempting to print every bill payment confirmation or shopping order number to have just in case you need to dispute something or something goes wrong. But you don’t need to print it unless that something does go wrong. Save the receipt as a file on your hard drive or have the confirmation emailed to you. If you need to print it to dispute something later you’ll have it, but otherwise you’ll probably never need it.

Share images electronically: If you want to share your pictures with friends and family, there’s no need to give prints to everyone. Burn the pictures to a CD, email them to the recipient, or post them to an online sharing site like Flickr.com. The people to whom you send the pictures then have the option of printing them on their dime, or just storing them electronically. Unless you’re giving a specific print as a gift, there’s no need to print all your pictures.

Consider printing services if you must print a lot of photos: While printing photos at home can be convenient, it’s not the cheapest option. By the time you factor in ink, photo paper, and the cost of your printer, a home print can cost as much as thirty cents. Online sites like Snapfish.com offer printing for as little as nine cents per print (and be sure to look for Snapfish Coupons to save even more) and you can have your photos delivered either to yourself or directly to another recipient like Grandma. Stores like Wal-Mart, Target, and Walgreens now have in store kiosks where you can cheaply print photos from CD’s or thumb drives. You can also upload your photos from home and pick them up later.

Invest in a larger monitor: When I had my tiny monitor I printed all the time because I simply couldn’t see anything on the screen without my eyes hurting. I upgraded to a 23-incher and now I can do all my revisions on screen and I print much less. The larger size is easier to see and less straining on my eyes. You can get a 17-inch flat panel monitor for less than $100 on sale and larger ones with basic functionality are not much more expensive.

Try refilling your ink cartridges: You can get kits to do this yourself or some office supply stores offer refilling services in-store. If it works for you, it can be a great money saver. However, not all brands of cartridge can be refilled and, of those that can, the results can vary widely. But it’s wort a try at least once. If it works for you, it’s much cheaper than buying new cartridges.

Scale your document to fit on one page: Many printers have a “scale to page” or similar option that reduces your printout to fit on the specified page size. This is very handy when printing large graphics or spreadsheets that may lop over the edge onto more pages.

Print in 2-Up or 4-Up format: Many printers allow you to print two pages on one piece of paper, similar to the layout of a book. If you’re just proofreading this can save you a lot of paper. If your eyes can take it, you can also print in 4-Up format, with four pages printed on a single piece of paper.

The best thing you can do to save money on ink and paper is to get very familiar with your printers’ settings and options. Don’t just accept the default settings. Learn to specify black and white. Learn where the draft setting is. Learn how to scale a document to fit on a page. Figure out how to print on both sides of the paper. Once you’ve mastered your printer, you’re well on your way to saving on your printing costs.

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7 Responses to 22 Ways to Print for Less

  1. Holly says:

    I do NOT use nearly as much in supplies as stated here. This may be because I am not a student (lthough most students I know proof work on screen NOT hard copy)and am a single person household.

    I do print a number of coupon pages every week.

    I refill my cartidges.
    I take recycle paper from my office that has been printed on a single side (am careful about any identifying info) and print on the blank side.

  2. Annie Jones says:

    I already use almost every one of the tips you mentioned, and do not use nearly as much ink or paper as the Woman’s Day article suggests is average.

    A great source of paper for our household is all the one-sided handouts that come home from our child’s school. They are often on colored paper, but as long as there are no staples, crayon drawings or glue on them, I reuse them to print pages that don’t require a pristine presentation.

    Ideally, our school would stop using so much paper, but until they do, I’ll do my part to use, then recycle, it.

  3. Noel says:

    You forgot to mention http://www.printwhatyoulike.com, pretty much similar to Aardvark

  4. Joan says:

    A ream every 3-4 days? Woman’s Day just made that up without thinking. A ream is 480 or 500 pieces. Even if it were the slower use of 480 pieces in 4 days, that would be 120 pages printed out per day!
    Jennifer, do you know how to increase the readable font size on your monitor? Perhaps instead of buying a bigger monitor you could have just increased the size at which you view the text. And maybe you need glasses? (Don’t mean to sound sarcastic there.)

  5. kdice says:

    I also find the ream of paper every three to four days impossible to believe for home use. Either people didn’t know what a ream was or they somehow pulled a very biased sample. However your suggestions are all good.

  6. Good stuff, Jennifer. We do waste tons of paper, especially businesses. My job printed 4 sheets for every one that we needed, right into the garbage.

    John DeFlumeri Jr

  7. Gail says:

    I too find it hard to believe the Woman’s Day story unless they were basing the numbers on number of reams sold divided by households. We run an on-line business and only go through a ream of paper about every 2-3 months maybe and that is with printing packing slips and address labels. Misprinted paper gets used for scrap paper and grocery lists, etc. For years we never even had to buy paper as we were working our way through bunches of colored paper that had been given to us. I have also picked up paper at yard sales and wished later I had bought all he had for sale!

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