printer ink cartridges

8 Ways to Stretch Your Printer Ink Cartridges

by Mike

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Ever wonder why electronics companies sell computer printers for $8.99? The ultra-sleek variety with scanners, copiers, and fancy touch screens? Take a look at the cost of replacement ink cartridges and it’s as obvious as soy sauce on a white shirt! If you were to buy a gallon of black printer ink at Bulk Goods Club you’d have to sell off a generous lot of furniture to afford it. When you’re paying over $2,500 for plain, black printer ink per gallon, who’s grabbing the winning side of this marketing tug of war?

This is news to no one who’s fallen for the inescapable scam. We all know about the ridiculous price of printer ink and the manufacturers’ borderline monopolistic tactics to prevent third party vendors from offering cheaper alternatives. What many of us don’t know is what we can do about it to save money on our end.

1. Find out the price of replacement cartridges before buying the printer.

Even if the price is too good to be true? Yes. Because it probably is! Consider the Dell 3-in-1 printer for home offices, which costs $59.99. Replacement cartridges will set you back $15.99 for black and $19.99 for color (generic not available). The HP Photosmart 3-in-1 on the other hand will cost $69.99 up front with and option to buy remanufactured cartridges for $11.99 (black) and $14.99 (color), saving significant amounts over the lifetime of your machine. Identify the type of printer you need (inkjet, photo printer, laser, etc.) then find out which brands have a generic or remanufactured option for ink. Don’t forget that the factory included cartridges, which come with your shiny new printer, contain less than a third the ink that new cartridges contain.

2.  Recycle cartridges for a discount on new ones.

Both Staples and Office Depot offer buy-back rewards for recycled ink containers. I’d be tempted to send a thank you letter, except that they still make 1000% percent off re-inking and reselling the “donated” cartridges. Staples coupons for “donating” your cartridge amount to $2 back toward the purchase of a new replacement (generic or name brand) whereas Office Depot coupons for the return equal $3 back. It’s not a shabby offer. If you purchase a generic cartridge you could save up to 30% on replacements.

3. Change your printer settings to “draft” or “black and white only”.

If you’ve tried to do this before and can’t seem to find where the settings are, and the exact wording of the ink saving mode, you’re not alone. I’m convinced this isn’t an accident in design. Comb through your printer manual to find machine-specific directions to print in monochrome color, grayscale, or draft to avoid using the color cartridge. When you print in color, the multi-chrome cartridge mixes various ink colors to create an exact color rather than black, which uses only one. By printing in both black and white with a draft setting for jobs that don’t need a professional look, you’ll save a ton of money over a couple years.

4. Print two pages per sheet.

For drafts of projects or pages with large graphics, two or even four pages per sheet will allow you a cheaper way to edit without printing on a full scale. The setting for “multiple pages per sheet” should be near where you select grayscale, but each printer has a different location for it. Grab your glasses before you attempt to read the small print!

5. Buy generic cartridges.

Be forewarned that not every printer offers a generic cartridge, especially if it’s not a widely sold model. You just might be stuck paying $35 for a black refill. But if you have the option to buy an off-brand cartridge they print with the same quality ink and cost up to 40% less. Most office supply stores sell generic counterparts for select units. You can also look for ink & toner coupon codes to help off set the cost of purchasing generic cartridges.

6. Copy and paste a selection you need to print.

“Print selection” will become your new favorite button if you’re tired of inking pages of useless fluff from websites. More than likely, you don’t want to print an ad on becoming a millionaire with acai berries. You just need a hardcopy map that gets you to Uncle Joe’s house. Select the section you want to print, set to “grayscale”, then “print selection” (which should be on the main printer menu).

7. Reduce the font size.

This falls in line with printing multiple pages per sheet. Editing a project in a different size font helps you catch mistakes, too. Print in a smaller size, still in grayscale, before finalizing your work with a high-quality color finish.

8. Re-ink your own cartridges.

Of your many stick-it-to-the-printer-man cash savers, this is the sketchiest option. Buying your own ink sounds like a fabulous idea. It may even recall fuzzy memories of 1st grade watercolor painting. But re-inking is akin to tinting your own wall paint–plus it requires latex gloves and copious paper towels. If you’re up to the challenge, be my guest! Just don’t get upset when a tiny drop of red finds it’s way to your taupe carpet. Review the steps to self-inking before diving in.

Don’t let the soaring costs of ink cartridges restrict your printing needs! With these few minor changes you’ll have an inkling into just how much can be saved over the life of your printer.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Money Beagle

The risk/reward on re-inking is absolutely way out of whack where I would never in a million years attempt this!

I’ve found that the best method for me is to purchase from 4inkjets.com as they sell generic bundles at pretty good prices, and you can usually find a coupon code for a percentage off. I ordered enough for essentially two entire cartridge refreshes, and the total price was less than what I would have paid for one cartridge refresh anywhere else, so it was well worth it!

In the past I had tried to take my cartridges in to get re-filled, but this seemed successful only about 33% of the time. About a third of the time, they were unable to fill it and the other third would usually involve the cartridge failing way too prematurely after the refill.
Money Beagle´s last [type] ..Even The Cats Cant Escape Smaller Packaging



These are all great tips for saving money on ink cartridges. Some stores will even give you a free printer with the purchase of a computer! I find that buying generic cartridges is a really good option, while having your ink cartridges refilled is not. Re-inking your cartridges wrong can damage your printer.
Moneyedup´s last [type] ..What if I gave you 500



What about, when your black ink runs low, just switching the color over to navy blue or any color, really. I mostly print out word documents, and it doesn’t really matter to me what color they are as long as they’re legible.


Budgeting in the Fun Stuff

We tried having a couple of cartridges refilled, but neither one lasted very long afterwards. Now we buy 2 blacks and 1 color for $51 at Sam’s Club and go through about that much every year or year and a half. Printing everything possible as draft really does work well for us. :-)



Hey Crystal, you’ve been bitten by the spam filter bug. Damn askimet.


Budgeting in the Fun Stuff

I noticed I got shuttled into the Great Spam Beyond a few times today. Hopefully it’s a short-term problem since I doubt everyone’s going to save me from the Askimet spam fires…
Budgeting in the Fun Stuff´s last [type] ..6 Extremely Frugal Methods of Saving Money



what is going on in the Green market with eco friendly cartridges. i know reusing them is good, but are their other efforts we could take above and beyond that?


Phils printer ink

When your printing non important documents then using both sides of the paper is a very good and economical idea!


Black ink cartridges

I have a Canon PIXMA MP160 I refilled the ink cartridges and now get the E5 errors. I tried the common fixes and so far nothing has worked. Do you know a fix besides buying a new ink cartridge?


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