How to Save Money on Printing Costs

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How to Save Money on Printing Costs
By now you’ve heard the claim that at close to $4731 per gallon, printer ink is more expensive than vintage Champagne, rare whiskey, and Russian caviar. PCWorld reported on that almost ten years ago, and not much has changed since.

These days, printer ink will still run you about $20 to $35 per minuscule cartridge, each yielding 400 to 1000 printed pages. In fact, unlike everything else in the world of consumer electronics, ink prices are going up--as much as 30 percent since 2009.

In a business where hundreds of pages are being printed each day, those costs are significant. It’s easy to dismiss a single page coming out of the machine as inconsequential, but with a price per printed sheet (per color used) now hitting anywhere between 3 and 10 cents, a business that goes through 500 sheets a week could be spending $2600 annually on printing--and many times that if staffers regularly print in color.

Printing is a substantial business expense, but ultimately you have more control over it than you might think. Sure, some printing--packing slips, mailing labels, legal paperwork, and so on--may be unavoidable, but there’s a lot you can do to cut printing costs. Here are some ideas, from the relatively painless to the rather aggressive.


Do those little email-signature 'Please consider the environment before printing this email' notices, followed by a tiny green tree, do any good? (In my experience, when you do print such an email, that message invariably ends up on a page of its own.)

Hey, at least it’s a start. The recycling bins of the world’s offices are crammed full of pages that never should have been printed.

Instead of printing on paper, save your document as a PDF that you can archive and search easily.
Ending that wasteful practice starts at the top. If you’re a small-business owner, lead by example: Don’t print memos, maps, baseball scores, and “interesting articles” to leave on employees’ desks. This is why email was invented. Instead of dropping a 30-page report on your assistant, forward it as a PDF. Word can save documents directly in PDF, and sites such as Pdfcrowd can save Web pages as PDFs (if for some reason forwarding a link doesn’t work). You can even use the print-screen function and the Windows Snipping Tool to create quick screen grabs instead of printing them on paper.

The bottom line: There’s virtually nothing you might be accustomed to printing that you can’t reproduce in digital form instead. What’s more, you can archive, index, and search digital files much more quickly than paper files.

Paper Tricks

Duplex printers save cost by using both sides of each sheet of paper.
One of the oldest tricks in the playbook to reduce printing is to cram more information onto each page. This task is easy with a duplexing printer (one that can print on both sides), although the options might be buried in your printer preferences. By the same token, when you're printing PowerPoint slides, use the option to print multiple slides per page instead of just one. In PowerPoint's Handouts mode, you can print up to nine slides on a single side of paper (albeit very small).

Another paper-saving possibility is the 'shrink to fit' option in Excel and most Web browsers. This setting keeps orphaned text and columns from being cut off when you print a page that’s ordinarily a bit too large for your printer. Using 'shrink to fit' can save you from printing lots of sheets with just one or two words (not to mention likely having to reprint the whole job).

Next Page: More Money-Saving Print Strategies

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