Frugal Printing, Is It Possible?

IMG_1490.122104112As a child I recall the promise of a paperless society. What ever happened to that idea? It seems as if the technology to bring us the paperless society has in fact made it easier and more convenient to print more than ever.

Where the line between needs and wants use to be very clear, in today’s society that line has blurred. For most of us, the thought of a home PC without a printer for our convenience seems ridiculous.

Recently I was in a local office supply store on another errand. The store had changed somewhat since my last visit. This including moving all printer inks to one large section. I stopped to contemplate the options for a cost conscious shopper in need of a new printer.

On occasion we’ve all heard comments from people about the expense of printer ink. We joke about the conglomerates that suck us in with the cheap printer only to rip us off with overpriced printer ink. Is that really true? All it takes is a different perspective on pricing to learn that some of us are paying as much as $4000 per gallon in printer ink! With that kind of mark-up you would think they would give us the damn printer!

Once I learned of the true cost of ink, how could I not take measures to reduce our use of ink? We made some easy changes to the printers default settings. This has cut our ink expense by half for the black ink and over a third for the color ink. On the one hand if feels good to know that five minutes with the manual can save significant money, on the other hand it is frustrating to think how much I have already wasted in the past.

With so many printer choices I began my quest with an inquiry to the store associate working in the area. Interestingly, when asked, the clerk threw out several “economical” options. He then when straight into is employee role (his trainers would have been proud) of selling me on the features and benefits of 2 brands heavily promoted by the store.

After clarifying that I wasn’t buying a printer today, nor cared about features, did he hear that I was looking for inexpensive ink. The clerk scanned the shelves, mumbled a couple comments under his breath and eventually picked and presented a black ink cartridge that cost $14.99. Like too many consumers he looked for the lowest price listed, not necessarily the most cost-effective option.

To illustrate, the packaging on this ink indicated its printing capacity to be 200 pages. Working the math we learn this choice will cost $.075 per page. But is that a lot or a little? I began randomly pulling other inks off the shelf to calculate their relative cost per page. Surprisingly a number of them failed to list on the package how many pages each cartridge was capable of printing. I can’t help but wonder how expensive it really gets!

The task to find the best choice was challenging due to the number of choice. Among the hundreds of choices there were only a few brands. Each had dozens of options for the various printers they have sold over the years. My goal was to find the most economical choice, after calculating several inks which all fell in the .06-.12 the clerk mentioned one more brand, almost as a afterthought.

Hidden between all the bright and colorful boxes, down low on the shelf were a couple of oddballs, Kodak ink. Kodak, it would appear, have taken a different approach. Instead of dozens of different cartridges, they have basically one standard size for all printers. The standard Kodak black ink cost $9.99. Based on its published capacity of 425 sheets this would work out to $.023 per page.

How often can you save 70% on a consumable? This is a huge difference.

Readers: Do you own a Kodak printer and do you like it and what do you think about it? What other steps do you take to reduce your printing costs?

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17 comments to Frugal Printing, Is It Possible?

  • Having a scanner these days is great to keep PDF copies of documents rather than printing them out. I also try to print in B&W rather than full color.
    .-= Craig/FFB´s last blog ..Credit Card Benefits =-.

  • I have a laser printer I use for most of my printing. However, when I need to replace the toner I shop online. I’ve had pretty good experience this way. Yet, sometimes the printer won’t take the cartridge, then I have to dig out the manual and figure out a way to make it print. A few years ago I had the same brand of printer and couldn’t ever get it to print again. Why did I decide to purchase the same brand of printer again? I don’t know. I think it was the least expensive laser option at the time.

    p.s. Thanks for mentioning my link!
    .-= Little House´s last blog ..Monthly Update for May =-.

  • Bonnie

    I try not to print as little as possible and try to print nothing from the internet. Sometimes we see things on the internet that we want to remember or need to keep. We print out a confirmation number on an 8.5″ X 11″ sheet of paper when what we need is 8 numbers from that page. Items can be bookmarked or emailed to yourself, kept electronically and then deleted when they are no longer useful. I think sometimes just asking yourself the question, why am I printing this document and is there another way for me to retain this information can go a long way in saving ink costs.

  • Thank you for giving me a whole new perspective on how to buy an ink cart. I usually just go to the store, look at the prices, whine & groan for a few minutes and generally make everyone around me miserable because i have to pay such a high price. I never looked to see how many sheets i am getting per cart and what it is costing me each. I will now start checking that out. I resigned myself to the fact that printing on the printer was outrageously expensive and i took everything i could to the local printer and got copies for .10 each. Better deal? I thought so up til now but i am going to do some investigation.

    Thanks for the hint on Kodak…i am planning to check them out next trip to the store…

  • On my printer, I print stuff in draft mode and in greyscale. While this doesn’t print the blackest of blacks, it’s still good… This uses the least amount of black ink as possible. I’d rather replace the black cartridge twice than the color cartridge once.

    I have to wonder if the pages per cartridge calculation is a standard or individually company defined. I could see where companies could use different standards based on supposed client usage. Or course, this could make the metric less valuable for use in comparisons. I’m not sure if this is the case or not…
    .-= Money Reasons´s last blog ..Lemons to Lemonade – Lessons Learned From A Broken Lawnmower =-.

  • Thanks for writing about one of those issues that plagues nearly everyone, while hardly anyone knows what to do about it. I always print in draft mode, and monitor what I print, but I still haven’t figured out how to beat the “ink jet printer conspiracy”. Maybe Kodak is onto something. I saw that advertised on TV and am curious how well it really saves on ink.
    .-= Joe Plemon´s last blog ..Things People Accomplished at Your Age =-.

  • Oh they know when they sell you these ultra inexpensive printers that they got you on the ink. It infuriates me. I only use my inkjet printer for when I print enlarged photos at home. It is a stupid HP model that takes 6 different color cartridges. The only reason I haven’t kicked it to the curb is because it is also a scanner/fax/copier.

    I bought a laser printer for pretty cheap and that toner lasts forever! Plus, the ink doesn’t run if it gets wet like an inkjet can. Love love love my laser.
    .-= Everyday Tips´s last blog ..Why I Prefer to Cook Instead of Eating Out – And It’s Not Just About Money =-.

  • I do not own a Kodak printer although I first became aware of their “cheaper” ink by watching Celebrity Apprentice. The show dedicated a whole episode to branding their ink. It was pretty convincing, just not convincing enough for me to buy another printer.
    .-= Roshawn @ Watson Inc´s last blog ..Yakezie Round Up and Uncommon Money News (Vol. 95) =-.

  • I have a newer printer, purchased about a year ago, but have to say that my strategy to reduce printing costs is to print very little. Sounds very simple, but it works!
    .-= Squirrelers´s last blog ..Squirreling Gone Wild #8 – Doubling Down =-.

  • @Craig – Good points… going paperless is intriguing. I keep seeing those newer document scanning systems but I’m scared after obtaining years of a particular file format newer technology will create compatibility issues. I’m torn but I am still a fan of physical documents for all the really important stuff.

    @LittleHouse – my pleasure….

    @Bonnie – I see the same thing at work. People print out an entire chain of email when they only need one line.

    @Finallygetttingtoeven – Certainly can’t imagine the local print shop can do it cheaper. I hope you are successful.

    @Money Reasons – Great point, company a could print 10 lines on a page while company b could print a ink sucking picture. hmmmmmm something to look in to!

    @JoePlemon – Draft mode and duplex (2sided) printing are now the default on our printer too. I think the only way to beat them is to avoid printing!

    @Everyday Tips – For the cost of some inks it just might be worth replacing what you have. Thanks for the laser suggestion, something to keep in mind.

    @Roshawn – Who knows… maybe after your next trip to the office supply store you will reconsider?

    @Squirrelers – You’ve got the best answer!
    .-= LeanLifeCoach´s last blog ..5S In Action – Organize and Simplify =-.

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