Cartridges, Cartridges, Cartridges..

A defining part of the 21st century will surely be how consumerism is becoming increasingly driven by deals and bargains. That is, the modern shopper is always on the lookout for the best prices and how to get the most value for their currency. And at times, unfortunately, the simple fact is that there is no way to save on some things. Good news though: while that may be true for certain things, it is not true when it comes to purchasing cartridges for your printer, even if some printer manufacturers would like you to think so.

There are a few ways you can decrease the amount your spending on printer cartridges, some of them unknowable unless you are well-versed within the industry and others just simple, subtle things you can do to decrease your usage or the overall cost. Keep in mind that this will not include more localized savings oppurtunities, like an establishment close to you that might have particularly low prices, or other emerging ways to find a smart buy, like "daily deal" sites such as groupon, so there may be even more potential for you to keep some of that hard-earned cash in your pocket (like it stays there long, I know).

Enough jibber-jabber. Here's four ways to save money on ink cartridges:

  • Have Them Refilled (Or Try it Yourself, Like a Crazy Person): Most people, when their ink cartridge is empty, discard their current cartridge and go purchase a new one. This is, by far, much more expensive than having the cartridge you already have refilled with ink. Unless you need the utmost quality (need as in you are willing to pay much higher prices to avoid the slight lack you MIGHT find with ink refills), then there really isn't any good reason to not have your cartridge refilled. It's cheaper, they definitely work, and it is also much better for the environment by keeping that plastic out of the landfill a little longer. There seems to be a stigma attached to ink refills; people fear that they will leak, void their printer warranty or even break the printer in general. To avoid these (really just the first one, the latter two aren't actually legitimate risks), you definitely want to make sure you have your cartridge refilled by a reputable establishment, preferably  with some size behind them. Names such as Cartridge World, OfficeMax and Walgreen's are all good examples, and there are certainly more, especially depending on where you are located. Like I said, what establishment is irrelevant, as long as they are somewhat credible and have enough size and money to handle any problems or returns you might have. You can also try to refill your cartridges yourself, but I really don't recommend this. In fact, I kind of cringe and make a face like I just stubbed my toe when I say that you can try this. You will get ink all over yourself and other things, you will save money but not time, and there is a fair chance it won't even work if you don't get it quite right. Alas, all you would have to do is go online and find a "refill kit" for the kind of cartridges you have and order it. This will usually come with the ink, the syringes and needles (sometimes other things depending on the cartridge), and may even include instructions. Lastly, there are some cartidges that simply can't be refilled, or that will at least be refused at most establishments. This doesn't happen often. If you have a printer made within the last ten years, the chances are you can get your cartridge refilled without too much trouble or travel.
  • Print With Black Only: The cost of color ink is much higher than black, and because printers mix all three (sometimes more) colors to make various other colors and shades, you can end up using your color ink as much as three times faster than your black. If you limit your color printing to only what you absolutely need in color (which for most people, I have to be honest, is nothing, so if you want to save...), you will probably reduce what you will spend on cartridges throughout the life of your printer by 50%. On some printers, this setting is known as gray-scale, and others simply ask if you want to print in only black. Accessing this printer setting should be pretty self-explanatory, but sometimes I have customers who sturggle with navigating their printer options, so remember you can always look in the associated manual (if you lost yours you can download one for ANY printer online at the makers website).
  • Always Use the Printer Friendly Version: Unless this is your first day surfing the internet (if so, what paradise island of social seclusion were you on?) then you have probably seen websites or emails touting a "Printer Friendly Version" link at the top or bottom of the page. Just from my experience working with customers, I am given the impression most people don't use this function when printing from the internet, but it is very handy. Firstly, the printer friendly version will only include the content you are interested in. So this will decrease the ink your putting on the page, often substantailly, and you won't end up with that second page that only has the footer of the email on it. Seriously, use the printer friendly version.
  • Don't Print: If you can't afford the price of gas, don't drive. Unfortunately, we can't always afford everything; we've all heard about making sacrifices to save money before. For most people, not using their printer isn't the most cumbersome of these. That doesn't mean you can't ever get anything printed. Libraries often allow you to print for free or pretty cheap. Public schools don't always allow access to students for printing, depending on where you are, but that may be an option. Most colleges do. And, if your printing needs aren't regular, you can always go to places like Staples or FedEx Kinkos that will print your files for you -- for a price. This isn't a very economical way to get things printed, but it is a sensible alternative to buying a printer and cartridges if you won't need to use them much.

Depending on how much you print now, you can easily save yourself between $100-$500 or more per year by employing these tips. If you think you pay a lot for black, you should boycott the use of color ink entirely. If you avoid color and use the printer friendly version, you're already saving quite a bit. If, when you finally run out, you get them refilled, then you just payed a lot less for the ink you are now stretching and using efficiently. Happy saving!