10 commandments of frugal printing


Frugality is often described as the quality of being: sparing, thrifty, prudent or economical in the use of consumable resources. If you own an inkjet printer, you will know how expensive printing can be so anything you can do to be more “frugal” is a good thing.

In this informative article I outline my 10 commandments of frugal printing and in doing so hope that you discover a tip that helps lower your home printing costs, and it’s not just about buying cheap ink cartridges (although that will reduce your printing costs too!).

#1 – Get to Know Your Printer Driver Software – Your ink jet printer has a technical language all of its own, so your computer program’s need a way to communicate with all the printer’s built in features. That software is called the Printer Driver. Each manufacturer will have its own set of features for each of its printers, so there is no single universal printer driver software. That said, all printer manufacturers have included common print features in their software. It is these common features, often called “settings”, that we can change and so produce cheaper prints etc.

The most common settings are:

# Draft Mode (Economy Mode) – Different printers will have different names for this setting, but basically you do not have to be printing in high quality mode all the time. Unless it is the final print out for an essay etc, consider using the “draft” setting to save ink. This setting will then print a lighter version of the document/photo.

# Greyscale Mode – Under “printing preferences” you will probably have the option to select “Print in Greyscale”. This option will then allow you to print your colour documents, but not use any of the colour ink. Instead any colour sections will print in greyscale. On some printers this option may be called “Print in Black and White”.

# Scale By – This setting allows you to reduce the size of the printable image/document to a percentage of the original. So as an example if you are trying to print an image from the Internet, by setting this to say 50% you will print the image at half the size and so save ink.

# Print both Sides – More expensive ink jet printers come with a facility called “duplex printing” which allows the automatic printing of a sheet of paper on both sides. However, there is no reason why you can’t manually print on both sides of the paper and so save on paper costs! Some printer drivers will have a setting to help you get started manually, others don’t but you just have to hit the print button again (single page) after manually turning over the paper and reinserting.

# Pages Per Sheet – This setting allows you to print multiple pages/images onto a single page. This is handy for proof reading a document etc. For instance you may wish to place 2 or 4 pages onto a single page and so save ink. Some printer drivers will allow you to print upto 16 pages on a single sheet.

Frugal Tip: You can always combine several of the above settings!

#2 – Change Your Font Size – Consider changing your font size! The font size you choose for your documents will have have an effect on the amount of ink you use over time. Times Roman 12pt and Calibri 12pt consume less ink than printing your document in Verdana 12pt.

#3 – Consider your Paper – Your choice of paper will make a difference to how much ink is used by your printer. Under “printing preferences” you may have the option to select the type of paper. By selecting cardstock or any of the “Specialty Paper” settings, you will use more ink during the printing process.

#4 – Consider a Laser Printer – If you are going to be printing documents on a regular basis, such as a student at college or university etc. You may want to consider a second hand mono laser printer, if colour is not important to you. If you choose the right model, such as the HP Laserjet 1018 A4 USB Printer, you can purchase a high capacity toner that will yield around 4,500 pages. Significantly more than any ink jet cartridge can print. Check out ebay for any refurbished HP 1018’s or the popular HP 1020 and HP 1022 models too.

#5 – Do You Really Need To Print? – Ask yourself the question: “Do I really need to print this?” before you hit the print button on any document or webpage. For instance you mat be surfing the Internet and come across an article you wish to keep. So why not “print” the article as a PDF document and store on your hard drive or cloud storage such as Microsoft Sky Drive? How about keeping those invoices, from your online purchases, as a PDF document on your PC? This saves on having lots of paper documents hanging around your house/office, PLUS you save money on BOTH ink and paper! The most popular PDF creator is called Cute PDF – basically it instals as a “printer” on your Windows PC or laptop. Once installed if your Windows program has a print function, you can now opt to “print” the document/webpage/email etc as a PDF document – for free. ONLY print on paper if you really need too!

#6 – Consider Using Third Party Inks – The popular UK consumer magazine WHICH? published an article in their August 2013 magazine entitled “Pay less for printer ink”. In the article they argue the point that 3rd party inks produce good quality prints but at a lower cost per print/page. Not all 3rd party inks are created equal but here at InkFactory.com we sell the reliable Jet Tec range of ink cartridges and toners – all made in England, with a full money back guarantee. (Plus they cost less than original ink cartridges!) …another appealing quality is that many of these cartridges are “recycled” from the manufacturers original ink cartridges so making an excellent “green” option with your printing.

If you are feeling ultra frugal, you could always consider purchasing a DIY Ink cartridge re-fill kit and save money by recycling in your own home. These kits come with all you need – including the ink, tools and cleaning fluid.

#7 – Website “Print Friendly” Option – When it comes to printing website pages, always look for an option to print directly from the page. Many website owners have optimised their pages to be printed and these pages will always require less ink! If you do not see this on-page option check your browser’s print properties and make sure that the option to print backgrounds is unchecked.

Make sure you always use your browsers “Print Preview” option to see exactly what a webpage will look like before you print. What you see on the screen is NOT always how the page will look when printed out. (Note: on some pages you may need to swap to another browser if the page preview looks a little weird.)

There are several online services available for printing webpages in an economical way. One such website is Print What You Like. They offer a free service which will strip away adverts and images etc, leaving you to print just the text you want and so save ink.

#8 – Never Pay Local Store Prices – Ink jet cartridges are expensive enough so why pay more for them by purchasing from your local store? Typically you will make savings when you shop online compared to purchasing your ink cartridges on the high street. By not operating an expensive retail outlet, companies like ours can pass savings onto our customers.

In addition, because we often purchase in bulk from our suppliers, we can then pass on additional savings to our customers in the form of special offers such as: Buy One Ink Cartridge Get One Free.

…most online sites will offer some sort of free shipping and/or next day delivery.

#9 – Don’t Panic on a Low Ink Warning: Just because your printer’s “Low Ink” notification pops up, it doesn’t mean you need to change the cartridge right away! You will still get a few more pages printed before the ink starts to streak/fade etc. HOWEVER, only do this if you have another ink cartridge to replace it with immediately. Depending on the make and model of your inkjet printer you may run into future print head problems if you try and print on an empty cartridge.

#10 – Avoid Printers With Regular Head Cleaning – When purchasing an Ink Jet printer, one of the questions you should be asking is “How often does the model perform a printer head cleaning cycle?” Some models, like the Lexmark OfficeEdge Pro 4000, perform more head cleaning cycles than other ink jet printers. Each time this happens your ink is being used to clean and not print, so you are getting less pages/photos from your ink cartridges!

I hope this article has helped reduce your future home printing costs? ….if you like the article please consider sharing it on Twitter or Facebook. You could even leave a comment below.