We’re back to the old problem regarding printers: ink cartridges. While picking a printer isn’t all that hard once you’ve decided on what you need, maintaining that printer can be more than you’ve bargained for. Just like me, many of you have a bunch of printers around the house, which are unusable due to their ink cartridges.

With prices on printers going down, in many cases, it’s cheaper just to buy a new printer than to get new cartridges for the old one. Nevertheless, there are ways around this issue, which will allow you to save some money on printer ink and printer cartridges. So, until prices go down on printer consumables, your best bet is to try these methods and see how much money you can save up.

Do your research before buying a printer

If you plan on saving on the long run, check the prices for printer consumables before you buy it. Sometimes, you might find the ink cartridges to be more expensive than the printer itself. There are lots of websites and store that carry these products, so be sure to check them out before you spend any money.

Also, some printers and shops show you the cost per page, which is very important if you plan on saving money later on. Some printer models will come at a lower price, but with a higher price per page. These ink guzzlers will set you back a small fortune over time, so it would be in your best interest to sped a few more bucks for a better printer that has a lower cost per page.

Print only when you have to and use Print Preview

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Either in the office or at home, printing is required. But before you hit that “Print” button, take a moment to figure out if you actually need a hard copy of that document. With all these handy devices that we have today, like eBook readers and smartphones or tablets, you might just not need to print a document. Reading it in electronic format will save up ink and paper for other, more important documents.

If indeed you need to print a document, then you should take advantage of the “Print Preview” feature that everyone has. This allows you to see an electronic version of how the printed sheet will look. Proof reading and doing all the adjustments now will save up ink on the long run, especially if you print lots of documents usually. This method is also very useful when printing from the web. Keep in mind that web pages usually have ads and comments, and printing those is simply a waste of ink. A better way to do this is to copy the content that you want to print in a separate document and print that instead.

Tweak the Printer Settings

Printer software and document editors have some features that might come in handy to those that want to make their ink cartridges last as long as possible.

Printing in Draft Mode will allow you to save money on ink, as the nozzle will only do one pass for each line, rather than the multiple passes it usually does. This means that it uses less ink for the same text than in normal mode. Of course, in some cases, you might see a slightly lower quality print, but on the flip side, it saves money. This method will also improve the printing speed of your device.

Note: Laser printers might not have a “Draft” mode, but they will have a “Resolution” setting, which can be lowered to achieve the same result.

Duplexing is another way you can save up money. While this isn’t an ink saving trick, it will save lots of paper (half of all your paper to be more exact). Duplexing means that the printer will print on both sides of the sheet of paper, which is both more economical and eco-friendly.

Scale documents to size if you don’t necessarily need them to be large. This option is pretty useful if you are printing personal documents that only you will need, or other materials that do not have legal requirements. Scaling a document to letter-size means that you will have a smaller font, therefore, less ink will be needed to print it.

Use Gray Scale or Black and White to save color ink when possible. This feature can be found in the printer’s settings and will allow you to print color documents in black and gray. As you know by now, color ink is more expensive than black ink, so when it’s not a requirement, don’t use color ink, but use black instead.

Reduce the Print Density when possible. Some printers have this option, and it allows you to print documents that don’t use the same amount of ink as usually. As you might know, the letters on a printed sheet of paper are made up of very small points. By reducing the print density, the printer will output fewer points of ink. The result might be a lighter shade of black or color, but it will save you ink in the long run.

Note: If you use design software like Adobe Photoshop, you can also reduce the Print Density from the program settings

Print with ink-saving fonts

Even if you don’t believe this to be true, using a font that will save ink on the long run is possible. For starters, stay away from bold and thick fonts, as these have larger surfaces that need to be covered. Instead, look in your fonts menu for thin, smaller fonts. While this method might not seem as a major ink saver, it will add up over time. In addition, when possible, decrease the actual size of the font. Even 2-4 points will make a difference if you want to save printer ink.

Buy Ink Cartridges in Bulk

Like many other things, ink cartridges can be bought in bulk, at lower prices. While you still pay a lot for them, you do get some discount over buying them individually. This method is best for those that want to buy original cartridges for their printers. Also, keep in mind that ink cartridges have a shelf life, so be careful and don’t buy more than you need, or else risk ending up with expired cartridges that don’t work.

Ignore the Low Ink Warning

I was surprised to see that many users toss their ink cartridges when they see that warning that says the ink is running low. This is a common  misconception, as these warnings appear at certain ink levels. For instance, you might find that clicking “Cancel” when the warning appears will let you print many more pages. The actual level of the ink is anyone’s guess, as each manufacturer has his own system, but in some cases, these warnings start appearing when the ink level goes lower than 45-50%, so you can imagine how much ink you could waste if you toss it when you see this message.

 Save Ink by Repairing your Cartridges

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If you find your printer having problems transferring the ink to the paper, it might just be that the nozzle has been clogged and ink cannot get to the paper. Instead of admitting defeat and buying a new ink cartridge, try your best to fix it by gentry wiping it with a wet towel. I also found that gently dragging the print nozzle over wet toilet paper can work. Many times, ink dries in the cartridge nozzle and only a few drops of water can fix it. If the problem persists, there are some shops that have ultrasound “baths” for ink cartridges, and they can sometimes breathe new life in them.

For laser printers that use toners, the same problems occurs with the toner dust. It clumps together and it gets into all the nooks an crannies of the cartridge. Gently shake it and it might just save you from buying new consumables for your printer. To avoid toner and ink cartridges from getting clogged, try to use them once every 7-10 days.

Recycle Those Empty Cartridges And Re-Use them

If you have bought many ink cartridges in the past and you still have them lying around, then gather them and go to stores that have collecting bins for recycling ink cartridges and toners. They usually give you a discount at new cartridges, and while it’s not a big sum of money, every buck saved is a buck in your pocket.

These empty cartridges are many times refurbished by specialists and sold at lower prices. If you’re planning on making savings, then buying refurbished ink cartridges will definitely save you a good deal on the long run.

Generic Cartridges can Be a Life Saver

All printer manufacturers make their own ink cartridges, but there are other third party companies that create generic cartridges which are compatible with various models of printers. They are usually cheaper than their brand counterparts, and they work just as well. Be sure to look closely at the compatible models of printers.

Buy a printer that has Single Color Cartridges

While some printers come with only two cartridges, one with black ink and one with the other three colors (cyan, magenta, yellow), there are others that have a different cartridge for each color. These are a better solution for those that print lots of color documents, as they can replace only the cartridge that runs out, instead of having to replace all three colors if one of them runs out.

Refill your own cartridges

Probably the best way to save printer ink is to buy a cartridge refill kit and get your hands dirty. This DIY solution is the best money saver of all, as these refill kits are not too expensive (depending on brand and compatibility), and they allow users to refill their cartridges multiple times. Reusing the same cartridges will have a big impact on your wallet, and it’s a great idea to try it out. Keep in mind that refilling cartridges can damage them, so be extra careful when you are doing it.

Worthy Mentions

While these tried and proven methods are great money and ink savers for many, there are other solutions that many others use. For example, reducing the number of start/stop cycles that the printer does. Even though nothing is being printed in this time, the printer acts like it is actually printing. Small amounts of toner dust or ink are lost in this process, and while it is only a minute amount, it can add up over time.

Continuous Ink cartridges can also be used by those that print bulk photos and color documents. While the technology isn’t too mainstream, it has proven a huge money saver for those who have used it. Basically, this system is like an ink IV for your cartridges, and users can buy ink and fill the tanks at any point.

Software solutions for saving printer ink also exist. There are certain programs designed to make your printer more economical, and thus, use less ink for print jobs. While these solutions are not free, if they help you save ink, they will more than make up for what  you paid for them, but over a longer period. An example for such programs are InkSaver or PrintFile.

Image Credits: ShutterstockImage 1 / Image 2

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I often wonder, where is technology heading? What do all of these advances mean for us and for our future? I sometimes miss the days when I didn’t know how to use a floppy disk, or how a computer CPU works, but now, until I find an answer to my questions, I’ll keep tracking these advances and show everything I find to those who share my interests.