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The Best Way to Save on Printer Ink Cartridges and Refills

Depending 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

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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)

David Bakke
David started his own personal finance blog, YourFinances101, in June of 2009 and published his first book on ways to save more and spend less called "Don't Be A Mule..." Since then he has been a regular contributor for Money Crashers. He lives just outside Atlanta, GA and most all of his free time is taken up by his amazing three year old son, Nicholas.

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