11 Ways to Save Money on Paper and Printing

When it comes to paper, don’t just recycle—reduce and reuse too—to save on paper and printing costs. Every time you use the printer you are not just spending money on paper but on toner and ink too. When you save paper, you'll save on printer cartridges, and you will create a more eco-friendly home office.

The simplest ways to save paper is, of course, to print less stuff. However, it takes some discipline and rethinking to put this into practice. Try these 12 tips and spend less on paper and toner.

Get to Know Your Printer

Women using a home printer

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Learn how to use your printer more effectively to save paper. Before printing, choose "print preview" to check if one line is going to cause another whole page to print.

Don't just blindly hit OK when the print dialogue box pops up. Reduce the print range to just the pages you need. You can also highlight only the text you need and choose "print selection." This is particularly useful when printing from websites because you can ​eliminate the ads.

If you have difficulty printing, clear your printer queue once you've fixed the problem. That way your printer won't spit out the six attempts you made before you figured out you were out of paper!

Use a Tablet or E-Reader

If you are printing documents because it is easier or more convenient to read them on the go, consider investing in a tablet or e-reader. You can use them to read Word documents and PDFs and even make notes in them in many cases.

Take Notes, Screenshots and Bookmark Web Pages

When viewing a website, jot down information rather than printing a whole page just for a phone number or address. You can also copy and paste information into a Word document or other organizing software. Or, if it is something you want to keep for future reference, simply bookmark it.

Proofread Carefully

Be sure to check your work before you hit print. If you do find a mistake, hit cancel quickly, so you only have one misprinted page. If the whole document prints before you find the error, only reprint the page with the error, if possible.

Send Electronic Invoices to Clients

Sending electronic invoices will save money on postage, but don't print out a hard copy for your records, either. File them electronically on your computer and be sure to back up your records. While you're at it, request paperless statements for your bills to make your office as paper-free as possible.

Share Documents Online With Free Online Office Tools

Use these free online office tools to send and receive documents via the web. These can be downloaded and filed on your hard drive or left online so you and your clients or coworkers can each make changes without ever using a piece of paper.

Print on Both Sides of the Paper

This may mean setting up for a two-sided print job—sometimes called "duplex printing." This can also mean putting a new print job on the reverse of old paper. Fill the paper tray with old mistaken printings. After it is finished printing, flip your document over to the wrong side and mark a line through it, so that in the future you won’t waste time reading the wrong side.

While you don’t want to use this technique for something you’d send out to clients, it works well for internal documents. 

Reuse Old Paper

Whenever possible, reuse paper. Not only can you print on the back side, as explained above, but you can use it for many other purposes:

  • Cut it in half to make scrap paper for lists. Cutting it keeps it from getting mixed up with current documents, but you can also just mark a line through it.
  • Staple it together to form scrap-paper notebooks.
  • Give it to your kids for drawing or scratch paper for math homework.
  • Shred it to make packing materials.
  • If you use electronic bill pay, save the return envelopes that come in your bills and use them to send in the kids’ lunch money or to organized small items.

Adjust Your Margins

Use narrower margins, smaller font, and closer line spacing to get more to a page. Along these same lines, one tip for saving on printer ink cartridges is to use the "draft" quality setting or grayscale when printing.​

Use Email More; Print It Less.

Writing effective email is a key skill for a telecommuter, but a ​good filing system for email is almost as important. If filed and backed up on your hard drive or online, emails will very rarely require printing. Set up folders in your email client and have your email automatically sorted. You won't just save paper; you'll save time too.

Put Your Fax Machine to Rest

Send and receive documents as PDFs rather than fax. The quality is better, and it's easier, particularly if you don't have a second line for the fax. If you do have a second line, you can get rid of that monthly bill.