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Eight Ways to Save Money on Printer Ink

Follow these 8 simple tips to help both your checking account and the environment.

While the costs of computer printers are dropping all the time — you can now pick up a wireless all-in-one machine (that prints, scans and copies) for well under $100 — replacing ink can still be a pricey endeavor. And buying ink or toner on a regular basis is bad for the environment because it means more harmful waste in landfill sites.

Several simple practices, however, can help you get more out of your printer ink. Follow these tips and you'll get many more documents and photos out of the same cartridge.

1. Be selective

Try to practice "selective printing." For example: Do you really need to print all 50 photos from your recent trip to the Grand Canyon? Perhaps you could pick the best three or four for a photo album or wallet. The same goes for documents: Try to shake that habit of printing out your e-mails before reading them. Own a laptop? Bring it to the kitchen to read recipes instead of printing them out on paper.

2. Go with a brand name

While no-name inks might be less expensive, try to stick with brand-name inks from the same company as your printer. Why? Because they've been tested to last a lot longer than generic inks. They may cost more, but brand-name inks will cost you less over time. Plus, cheap ink cartridges have been known to dry on the printer heads, which can cause performance issues. On a related note, you might be tempted to use ink-refilling services, but it might not be worth the hassle since once you mail off your printer cartridge, things may run slowly in the mail and and you won’t get your refill when you need it most.

3. Use the “print” button

If you're surfing the Internet and come across an article you'd like to print, be sure to look for the "Print" button on the Web page — it'll likely be somewhere near the text. It will reduce the amount of images, ads and banners around the article itself (things you don't usually need on paper, anyway). Using the Print button usually will print only the article in black and white.  Or you can go into your printer settings and select "greyscale."

4. Use someone else’s ink

If you're looking to print a couple of photos, do so in the comfort of your home. If you must print a dozen or more photos, use someone else's ink. And there are no shortage of ways to do it: You can drop off your memory card at a nearby store, use a photo kiosk at your local mall or use an online service that lets you upload photos — and they'll print and send them right to your door for added convenience.

5. Get a preview

Before you print a photo or document, be sure to select "Print Preview" from the File tab to see what it will look like when printed. You might find photos in an article that you don't want to print or discover that a recipe extends to three pages when you need it to fit on one page for your cookbook binder. By taking a few extra seconds to review what you're about to print, you can save some cash from unwanted print jobs.

6. Avoid a dry dilemma

It's a good idea to have a replacement ink cartridge handy — in case you need to print something and the stores are closed — but be sure to keep the ink in the sealed container or foil bag it was sold in. If you open it prematurely, oxygen will begin drying the ink over time. If you do have spare ink opened, seal it tightly in a "Ziploc" bag to prevent it from drying. Keep this in mind if you're leaving your printer unused for a long time (for those snowbirds who live elsewhere for half the year).

7. Digitize it

Printing photos is fun, but there are many other ways to enjoy (and share) your memories that won't use any ink. For example: Take your favorite photo from your computer and make it your desktop wallpaper. Or pick up a digital photo frame and set it to cycle through your photos every few seconds. Or you can post photos to Facebook, a blog or upload them to free online photo hosting services, such as Flickr and Picasa. You get the idea.

8. Free the font!

You can also download a number of “economical fonts" that can save up to 25 percent of your ink. These fonts have small holes on the letters, numbers and symbols you type — without affecting legibility — and therefore print using less ink. These 15-odd font styles are available in many languages and they work with Windows (XP or newer), Mac and Linux-based computers.

woman preparing an online recipe chops vegetables in the kitchen.

Setting your laptop on the kitchen counter to read recipes eliminates the need to print out your favorite meals. — Getty Images/Blue Jean Images

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