How to Spend Less on Printing and Get Better Results

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How do I save money on ink and paper?

From the printer's driver-settings dialog box, you can specify draft mode to save on ink when you don't need the best quality. You can also save by turning off color printing--black ink and toner are usually cheaper than their color counterparts. To save on paper, print two pages side by side on the same sheet; and if your printer has a built-in duplexer, always print on both sides. Also, use cheap multipurpose paper for most jobs, such as printing Web pages and draft documents that only you will read. Keep your best paper for when you need the highest quality, such as for business letters and your résumé.

Whenever possible, buy ink and paper in bulk. Many manufacturers offer bundles of ink and paper that dramatically lower the cost of printing photos. HP's value pack for its Photosmart 375 and Photosmart 385, for example, combines one tricolor ink cartridge with 50 sheets of snapshot paper for $20--less than the $25 cost of the cartridge alone.

When buying toner for laser printers, look for high-yield cartridges. Many manufacturers produce cartridges in large capacities that let you print more for less. Dell, for example, offers cartridges rated for 3000 pages for its Laser Printer 1710n at $70, whereas a 6000-page cartridge costs $90 (with a discount for returning the spent toner cartridge).

Should I buy cheap generic ink or toner for my printer?

It's true that you can save significantly on printing costs by buying ink or toner made by a company other than your printer's manufacturer. And if you want just the cheapest possible printing for short-lived documents, that strategy is fine. However, you're taking a risk if print quality and longevity are important to you. For example, at the temperatures applied by your printer's engine, generic toner may not adhere to the paper as well as the manufacturer's compound. The result could be poorly shaped characters and gray banding across the page--not a great way to impress a potential customer.

When printing photos, you really need to use the ink and paper combination recommended by your printer manufacturer to ensure that your prints have accurate colors and won't fade quickly.

How do I recycle inkjet and laser toner cartridges?

Americans deposit millions of inkjet and laser toner cartridges in landfills every year. Manufacturing new cartridges consumes precious resources and energy. Many cartridges can be refilled several times, or they can be recycled in ways that are less harmful to the environment.

Laser printer manufacturers such as Dell and Lexmark sell toner cartridges at a discount if you return the cartridges for recycling when they're empty. Dell, for example, charges $90 per each 6000-page cartridge for its Laser Printer 1710n when you return an empty one; without a return cartridge it costs $130. In part, this pricing structure is meant to discourage customers from refilling the cartridges, but it can also help protect the environment.

Other manufacturers have programs for recycling their inkjet and toner cartridges. HP, for instance, includes postage-paid shipping materials with most of its printers, to make returning the used cartridges easier; you can also order these materials from the company's Web site. Brother and Oki offer similar programs through their sites. Konica Minolta includes prepaid shipping labels with its new cartridges for returning the used part.

Your local school or charity may participate in a cartridge-collection program that helps it raise money. You can also look for an office-supply store that pays you a small sum or offers a discount in exchange for spent refillable cartridges.

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