How to save money on printing costs
Printing can be expensive, but there are lots of ways to cut the costs. We review the best value printers, and share tips on saving money on ink and paper.
Investing in a good quality printer could end up saving you loads of money in the long run.
When considering which printer to buy, think about the features you want it to have, the cost of the printer itself and most importantly, how much it will cost to run.
The general rule of thumb is: the more a printer costs initially, the cheaper its ink tends to be (weird one, we know). There are printers out there for less than £30, but that's often a ploy to lure you into paying that whenever you have to stock up on ink!
We've reviewed some of the best value printers on the market, and share a few secrets to help cut the cost of student printing – both at home and at uni.
How to reduce printing costs
6 ways to save money on printing at home
So we've established that splashing out on a home printer is a good investment for students, but often the biggest expense is actually keeping it running!
Go to printer ink refill shops
Once the machine is yours to have and to hold, one money-saving print solution is to locate your nearest ink-refill centre. Yup, printer ink has become such a lucrative business that they even have shops specialising solely in refilling your cartridges.
Alternatively, use discount ink websites such as Cartridge People, which have ink for all major brands and are cheap and easy to use.
These refill shops can often slash your ink costs, meaning you might be able to print off all those homemade Christmas cards after all!
The printer manufacturer might try and tell you only to buy official ink cartridges or toners (obviously they would!), or even that their cartridges can’t be refilled. This isn't usually the case, so take along a few empties to a refill shop to get their theories tested.
In fact, some printer companies may even tell you that your warranty will be voided if you don't use their official cartridges. This is a lie.
According to the law, electrical manufacturers can't be anti-competitive in their warranties. We won't go into the legal specifics, but in this case, it basically means that they can't stop you from buying compatible cartridges/toner from other companies.
As long as your printer is still within the warranty period, the manufacturer will have to prove that using unofficial cartridges/toners caused the fault – otherwise they have to help.
Sell old printer cartridges online
If you're not quite brave enough to refill your old cartridges, or you end up with a surplus, you can always trade in your empties for cash.
Some sites make a living out of selling refilled cartridges, so they're more than happy to take them off your hands. If you email them and tell them what you have, they'll send you a quote and a Freepost envelope to send them in. Once they've received your cartridges, you'll get a cheque in the post!
Buy cheap printer paper in bulk
Once your printer ink is sorted, consider your paper supply!
Admittedly there's something undeniably satisfying about splashing out on thicker, higher-quality paper to make your dissertation look longer – but please resist!
Lecturers won't be interested in seeing how much of your Student Loan has contributed towards deforestation.
If you really want to buy more expensive paper, club together with your course mates and split the cost of a ream – you'll probably never get through the whole thing, anyway. As you'd expect, you can buy supplies of paper online.
Buy a printer with your housemates to share the costs
If buying a printer for yourself simply isn't an option, talk to other people in your flat or halls – if they're savvy savers like you, they might be willing to split the cost and buy a printer for the whole flat to use. Going forward, you'll also save on the ink and paper costs.
The only problem comes at the end of the year when you're all fighting about who gets to take the printer home – if the printer makes it to the end after coughing up numerous dissertations, of course.
Make your document smaller
Many students forget that there are also savings to be had before anything is even sent to the printer.
If you have an irritating three lines taking up a second page, check out the ‘shrink to fit’ option in your word processor. You can fit more text on a page by decreasing margin width, reducing text size by just one or two points, and minimising line spacing. Just make sure it's still readable!
Get savvy with spreadsheets. It's easy to find yourself with 20 pages spilling out of the printer when you thought you were printing off a small Excel document. Be sure to highlight the cells you need to print and right-click to print only those selected. Better still, hit ‘print screen’ on your keyboard and paste the resulting image into a document. Then crop or change the image as you like
Print in draft mode
Setting up your printer software and word processor with economy budget options is well worth doing, so play around with your printer settings. Your printer will have different modes to change how much ink it uses as well as printing speed.
If you're just printing out notes for uni, you don't need to use the premium setting for the highest-quality print. Draft mode uses the least amount of ink and will save you money, but it may not be suitable for printing out coursework and CVs. Just check that it's still readable!
Only print the pages you need. Specifying pages 2–5 when that's all you need will save you throwing pages away.
And finally, keep an eye on the printer queue! Don't get too impatient and click-happy if the first print doesn't run. Chances are, once the printer's sorted itself out it'll start printing off everything in the backlog, and it can be difficult to cancel!
Cheaper printing at university
With so much to think about when buying your own printer and keeping up with running costs, the option of printing at uni may seem like a great money-saving technique – particularly if you have a lot of lecture notes to print off.
But before you top up that student ID card with printing credit, it's important to think about exactly where your money is going.
Here are some great ways to bring the cost down even more:
9 tips for saving money on printing at uni
- Print in grayscale. Do you really need that graph in colour? The cost of colour printing can cost you up to 10 times more!
- Make sure the printer is stocked with ink and paper before you hit the 'print' button. Even if nothing comes out, your printing account may still be charged
- Do printing costs vary across your campus? Call your IT department to find the cheapest place to print, or do a bit of investigating yourself
- Share your notes and the cost of printing! Buddy up with a course mate and take turns printing off slides or notes
- Use both sides of the paper. In some universities the printers only count this as one page, doubling the amount of work you can get for your 5p. You could even try cramming the words into size 8 font. Have a play around with different fonts that let you cram more onto the page. Just remember your reading glasses!
- Keep track of what you print and top up your printer credit in bulk when your loan comes in – if the money goes straight onto your card, you won't miss it later
- Try local printing companies. You might find the cost of printing is even less than at uni, and still not have to buy your own equipment
- Work out your plan for printing before you start – are you going to need to print off your lecture notes every day, or will those essay deadlines be the only time you need a hard copy of your work? Speak to your course mates or friends to compare strategies, and don’t feel pressured into loading your student printer credit up without exploring other options first. Remember investing in a printer may be better for you in the long run!
- On a similar note, only buy what you think you'll need. Some universities won't refund print credits – even if you're graduating – so don't go buying £50 of credit thinking that it's better to overcompensate!
How to print for free
If all of the more honest routes of cheap printing have been exhausted, it's time to get sneaky (within the confines of the law, of course).
- If you're home for the weekend, use your parents’ printer as much as you can get away with. Insist it's for your studies and they should be only too happy to oblige!
- Studying at your mate’s flat? Ask to use their printer and offer to pay them (a bit less than uni rates to make it worth your while). Just don't make too much of a habit of this or you'll stop being invited over, or might find the printer is 'broken' for the foreseeable future...
- Keep an eye on sites like Freecycle and other swap shop sites – you might be able to get your hands on a freebie!
- Got a printer at your part-time job? Get your sob story ready about how you can't even afford to print off your papers at uni and your boss might be nice enough to let you print a few pages for free (or offer you a pay-rise since you're clearly in such need of the money... no promises on that one)
- Take a stand and refuse to print anything in the name of protecting the environment! See if your lecturer will accept electronic copies of your essays, and invest in a laptop or tablet to keep lecture notes on. It is the 21st Century, after all!
Best cheap printers
For those of you on a serious budget but still want the full shebang, the Epson Expression Home XP-257 model is a good (and cheap!) all-in-one option.
As long as you avoid buying the official cartridges, printing costs around 20p for ten black and white pages. Not the cheapest in terms of ink but the printer can be bought for just under £50, so not a bad deal all things considered!
HP (Hewlett Packard)
The HP Envy 5010 All-In-One is outrageously cheap to run, with 10 pages of black and white printing costing a frankly ridiculous 5p.
The printer itself retails for about £40, but bearing in mind the cost of cartridges and the Amazon reviews, it's definitely worth paying a little more – this is a seriously coveted device.
A little bit more expensive to buy, but with similarly cheap cartridge prices, the Canon PIXMA line is a great shout.
The Canon PIXMA TS5050 All-In-One will set you back about £60, and if you buy your cartridges from the right place, will print 10 pages of black and white text for 4p. Not the cheapest up-front, but at 4p per sheet, you can't really complain.
Where's the best place to buy a printer?
As with almost anything you purchase, you're best starting online to compare printers.
Amazon is your first stop when it comes to checking out customer reviews, and they also often have the best prices – and if you have Prime, you can often get free delivery to boot. Have a browse of their printing section here, and find out how to get Amazon Prime free.
Printing's not the only avoidable money-drainer – find out what other unnecessary expenses you could curb to save cash.