Even in the digital age, we all need to print out documents from time to time. And unlike most things computer-related, the cost of printing has not come down very much. In fact, and this is crazy, but printer ink costs more per gallon than oil – and of course, it always runs out right when you need it!
No matter how much (or how little) you need to print, here are some ways you can save money on printing:
Think before you print. Before you click that print button, make sure you’ve thought about whether you need a paper copy of a document at all. Do you have a specific reason why you need to print it? Can you access the electronic version more easily? Can you send an electronic version instead? Where will the printed version live once you print it out? Answer all of these questions before you add another document to your world that you’ll then have to deal with.
Print to PDF, not to paper. There are many times when you might print a document to give to someone, when you may just as easily (and sometimes MORE easily) send an electronic version. But you need to be sure that they can open the file you send them – don’t assume that your recipient has the same software that you do. Instead, print your documents to PDF, which is a standard format that virtually every modern computer and device can open, and as a bonus, can’t be easily altered. Macs come with PDF printing built-in, and for PCs, use free programs like NitroPDF or CutePDF to add the ability to print to PDF. You’ll then be able to create PDFs which you can email or share easily.
Get settings-savvy. If you do need to print, use software that can help you save on ink. Most printers come with settings that let you choose whether to print in draft or high-quality – you’ll save a lot of ink just by choosing draft or low-ink mode. Unless you have a specific reason why you need the very best quality print, draft mode is the way to go. You can even use specialty software like Ecofont to further reduce your ink usage.
Purchase recycled ink and toner cartridges. Don’t believe it when your printer manufacturer says you have to use their brand of printer cartridges – it’s all marketing! Independent studies by major consumer publications have shown time and again that purchasing remanufactured and refilled generic ink and toner cartridges work just as well as their name-brand counterparts, and they usually cost about half the price (sometimes less, if you find them on sale), and they are better for the environment. Remanufactured and refilled cartridges and toner are available online and at many office supply stores. You can also recycle your ink and toner cartridges when you’re done using them (most office supply stores will take them for you), and many office supply stores and even big-box warehouse stores offer ink-jet refill services.
I know that printing isn’t the most exciting topic – but to me, saving money (and the environment) is always a good thing. Use a few of the tips above to cut down on your printing costs, and hopefully save a few trees in the process.