6 Ways to Save Money on Printer Ink and Toner

It's a fact that printer ink and toner cartridges are expensive, and if you have to print often for your business, replacing them becomes a frequent expenditure. However, there are several things you can do to minimize the cost of ink or toner (besides printing less). 

The difference between a toner cartridge and an ink cartridge is that one is filled with a fine powder (toner) and the other with a liquid (ink). Toner cartridges are used in laser printers while ink cartridges are for inkjet printers. Many of these tips work for both toner and inkjet cartridges. However, laser printers have become more popular in recent years.

Buy Compatible Printer Ink Cartridges

Woman packing a printer into a box in the process of moving house
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You don’t have to buy the name-brand toner or ink cartridges for your printer. Many retailers, such as Staples and Office Max, and numerous online companies sell compatible printer ink cartridges (a.k.a third-party, after-market or generic printer ink cartridges). These new cartridges are designed for your printer but usually cost significantly less. With Amazon, for many of these items, you can save money by having them sent regularly.

Have Your Ink Cartridges Refilled

Bring in your old printer cartridges to retailers like Walgreens, Costco and Cartridge World to have them refilled for a fraction of the cost of a new cartridge. Both toner and inkjet cartridges can be refilled but some retailers only work with ink. Cartridges in good condition can typically be refilled 4 to 6 times. Keep in mind that these retailers only refill selected types of printer cartridge models, and some folks report mixed success with these refills. And you can feel good about reusing the cartridge, which might have otherwise gone into a landfill.

Refill Your Own Printer Cartridges

If you're the DIY type, buy a printer cartridge ink or toner refill kit and refill your own. The type of kit will vary from printer to printer. You'll need to proceed with caution, though — it takes a careful hand to refill a cartridge correctly without making a mess.

Buy Re-Manufactured Printer Ink Cartridges

These are printer ink cartridges that have been recycled, refilled and resold. They can be 30 to 60 percent cheaper than the name-brand cartridges. Typically these are sold online rather than at retail outlets.

Recycle Your Printer Ink Cartridges

Even if you prefer to buy new printer cartridges, at the very least make sure you recycle the spent cartridges. Staples, Office Depot and Office Max have rewards programs for printer ink cartridges. Turn in your cartridges and get store credit or coupons.

Many schools and nonprofit organization collect old cartridges and recycle them as a fundraising effort.

All of the major cartridge manufacturers will provide free shipping to recycle your cartridges, but they usually don't pay for old cartridges. 

Use Gray Scale or Draft Print Settings

Set your printer quality setting to "draft" when you don't need a perfect copy. This will use less ink and toner. Also, print in black and white when color isn't necessary because color printer ink cartridges are typically more expensive.