The Best Way to Save on Printer Ink Cartridges and Refills

how to save on tonerDepending on how much ink/toner you go through on a daily or weekly basis, your ink and toner costs could be anywhere from minimal to significant. In my household, we probably print a little more than the average household. Since ink and toner are fairly expensive, I think it’s worthwhile to investigate the options out there for saving money in this area. After all, it’s not the sale of printers that companies make money from. That’s why there are always great deals on printers and they are often included with computer purchases. Printer companies will do anything to get their printers in your hands because they make the majority of their money from printer ink, and they know that you’ll be buying it on a consistent basis once you own the printer.

Two Choices

As I see it, there are two choices. One, you can roll through all the toner you want to and replace it with a new cartridge every time you need to. If you decide to go this route, I would definitely do an Internet search on the particular type of toner you need. More than likely, you can find a good deal online. Just today, I was trying to buy a new color cartridge for my printer. Your typical retailers (Office Depot and Staples) had this item for between $35 and $40. This price seemed to be about right. After about a two minute Internet search, I was able to find the exact same product for a little over $19 shipped right to my home. It was from a website I had never dealt with before, so we’ll see if it arrives in a timely fashion, but I‘m sure everything will be just fine based on reviews of the site that I read.

Save Your Empties

Also, if you decide to go this route, keep in mind that your empty cartridges are still worth money. Sign up for a rewards program at either Office Depot or Staples and each cartridge can be worth as much as $3.00. Typically, this is rewarded to you in the form of a gift card good for purchases at either one of these stores. Whether you normally hop there or not, I am sure you can put that money to some sort of good use. Also, it is better for the environment to recycle these old cartridges.

Refill Them

The second option is to get your cartridges refilled. Most drug stores were doing this several years ago, and I thought that most of them had completely stopped doing it. But I’ve recently come to find out that a few of them got back in that game. So, if you decide to go this route, find your nearest drug store that offers refills, drop off your cartridge, and in a few hours you will have a cartridge full of ink. I just had one of my cartridges refilled and it only cost me $10. So you can see that refilling can sometimes offer significant cost savings over purchasing a new cartridge every time.

The Drawbacks

However, keep in mind that there are a few drawbacks to the refill option. Granted it is less expensive, but keep in mind that if you have a cartridge refilled, sometimes this disables the function on your computer to “troubleshoot” any printer ink issues. Also, if you take it to your drug store, they won’t tell you if your cartridge is actually empty. I asked them to do that for me today, and they said all they would do is empty out everything in the cartridge and fill it with fresh toner. So, you do run the risk of refilling a cartridge before it’s necessary.

Your Take

So, now, I’d like to open this up to you, the reader. Which option do you think is most cost effective? Getting those less expensive ones on the Internet or getting them refilled? As you see, I went one route with one cartridge today and another route with the other, so even I have not decided one way or the other on this issue.

(photo credit: klif)

  • Kira

    I bought an HP laser printer for $100 off Craigslist and have never had to fill it.


    It doesn’t do color though. Refilling can be pretty cheap and I recall seeing do it yourself kits for sale. If you buy them online they can sometimes be cheap knockoffs that don’t have as much ink in them. When I had an ink printer I would set the printing option to “draft”, basically a lighter printing color, so that it wouldn’t use so much ink. Good for things like Google Maps directions I’ll just throw out.

    • David/moneycrashers


      I’ve never had any experiences with any of the “re-filling” kits they have…I’d be interested to try if I could save a few bucks.

      I love the tip about setting your printer to the “draft” option…you could probably use this setting for most of your printing needs

      Thanks for commenting

  • Lop at Rebates Money

    Buying ink is by far way too expensive. Sometime, it would be cheaper to buy a new printer since the ink comes with it. I usually look for cheap printer deals and that is how I refill my ink cartridge.

    • David/moneycrashers


      Amen to that!

      Most times, the replacement toner is more expesnive than the printer itself.

      Go figure!

      Thanks for commenting

  • David Bibby

    The drugstore in my area took one look at my ink cartridge (an HP60) and told me that they DO NOT refill those. Only certain models allowed. However, they were happy to point out that that SELL HP60 cartridges. So instead I bought the refill kit which should be good for up to EIGHT refills.

    My hands got messy the first time I did it.. but know I know how to do it myself!

    • David/moneycrashers


      The cartridge I get re-filled comes out of a printer that is ten years old if you can believe that–and my drugstore still refills it.

      Lucky me, I guess.

      I’m going to have to check out those re-fill kits.

      Sounds like I could save even more.

      Thanks for chiming in

  • lostAnnfound

    I just got my HP15 refilled at Walgreens Drugstore a couple days ago (about four streets away from where I live). Using a 50% off coupon off the box of a previous refill, I paid $6.50 to have it refilled. Also they have coupons every couple of weeks or so for $10.00 refills. This is far better than the $30.00 +/- I would spend to buy a new cartridge, even more for the color cartridges.

    • David/moneycrashers


      This is how I currently re-fill my cartridges as well.

      And, on Earth day of this year (I forget when it was), they had a special where you could re-fill them for a dollar.

      I got three re-filled that day!!

      Thanks for weighing in…

  • kseahag

    I buy my ink at Staple’s. They run special sales on HP ink, as well as doubling the price you get for empty ink cartridges and you get 20% instead of the usual 10% on your rewards for buying ink. You have to spend $40 or $50 in the same day and do your ink cartridges on the same day, but it’s worth it to me. I do that once or twice a year. I save my empty ink cartridges up until I do that sale. You’re allowed to recycle 10 per month.

    • David/moneycrashers


      Also, if you time it right, Staples will run specials like they recently did where you can get $5 for each cartridge you turn in if you buy a certain amount of ink the same day.

      I stock mine up now for those days

  • Mike

    My Epson needs 2 cartridges, 1 color & 1 black which cost about $45 from local stores or Epson. I found which has replacement cartridges for $4.95 each & $3.95 if you buy 5 or more. I bought 5 of each back when they were cheaper yet & am still working on that order. They produce prints that look every bit as good as the Epson inks. They don’t have refills for every printer, but I’m keeping my printer till it falls apart because with this ink pricing I can print like I never did with the expensive pricing.

    I also use glossy photo paper from which is cheaper than name brand paper & probably from the same manufacturer as name brand says the website.

    • David/moneycrashers


      Great links!

      Thnaks for sharing. it improves the overall experiene of this blog for eveybody when we have contributions such as yours.

      That’s some killer savings!

  • Jeff

    I got really fed up with paying so much money for ink cartridges years ago. I personally think the best way to minimize printing costs is by purchasing an inexpensive laser printer. Before doing so, however, it is important to ensure that there are compatible non-branded toners on the market for that particular printer.

    I have an HP laser printer; I get 2,000-2,500 pages from a compatible toner that costs less than $20, plus free shipping.

    Following David’s advice, these toners can be turned in for cash, making the ultimate price even cheaper.

    I haven’t done a comprehensive cost comparison, and I don’t require color printing. In the end it may be cheaper to take a free printer that comes with the computer, rather than purchasing one. Of course, there are used printers for sale at reasonable prices on shopping websites. I was fortunate enough to get mine secondhand, and the savings have been significant.

  • Jane

    I think going for refilling ink cartridges is not a bad option provided, you purchase the refill kit from a trusted ink supplier. I do all my ink purchases from an online ink supply store.

    • David

      I think using these types of services is definitely an option as well.

      I picked one up form a site similar to this recently and it worked out great for me.

      Thanks for commenting!