10 Crazy Secrets to Saving Money on Printer Ink Cartridges

When I hear people decrying the high cost of printer ink, I cannot join the lament because it costs me almost nothing to print. While some of my strategies won't work for you, some may apply to your situation. Read on, for 10 crazy secrets to saving money on printer ink cartridges:

I can find ink for my old printer at
garage sales and thrift stores.
Courtesy: 360 Technologies
1. I use an old printer, from 1998, for which it's easy to find ink cartridges very inexpensively on eBay, at garage sales, or thrift stores. If you have more than one printer (if you see another one in the trash or really cheap at a garage sale, you might want to pick it up), you double your chances of finding a good deal on the right ink cartridge.

2. Know what kind of ink you use, so you can take advantage of thrift store or garage sale bargains. Expired ink, even ink that is several years expired, is usually fine. Writing your ink types on the back of a business card kept in your wallet, or keep a memo on your iPhone.

3. Exchange your used ink cartridges at an office supply store for store credit. An ink cartridge you paid $2 for could yield $2 in store credit once you've used the ink. If you use your store credit for something you have to buy anyway, this essentially makes your ink free. For that matter, if you're driving down the road and see a printer in the trash, stop the car and nab the cartridges to exchange, even if you leave the printer behind.

4. The pen is your friend. Print less. If there's only a small amount of information you might need, grab a pen and scratch paper to jot down pertinent information; or, if you can just save it on your computer or flash drive, do that instead. 

5. Reduce the size and print quality. The method varies by operating system, but in Windows Vista and Windows 7 (which is all I can vouch for), in the "Print" pop-up window, go to Properties, and in the Paper/Quality tab, choose "draft;" in the Layout tab, I often choose two pages per sheet. Not a good idea for a doctoral thesis, but it will be good enough for many applications.

6. If you're printing a document for which you can choose the font, choose a thrifty font. Some fonts use far less ink than others.

7. Proofread and use the Print Preview feature so you don't have to reprint due to a typo or other error. If you need to make multiple copies, print just one first, to be sure everything is fine, so you don't end up with 20 sheets that have errors. Depending on how cheaply you find your ink, it might be less expensive to use a copy machine to make additional copies rather than printing them all on your printer.

8. While you're saving ink, you can save paper, too. Make a stack of scratch paper with blank back sides, and keep it near your printer, so you can save your good paper for when you really need it.

9. Don't print this blog post. 

10. Did I miss anything? If you have any other strategies for saving ink, please comment!

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