5 Ways to Save Money on Ink for Printers

Piggy bank with ink cartridges

Printer ink can be a significant cost for both business and home computer users. The average cost of printer ink ranges from about $120 to $840 per year. While printing is often a necessity, there are things you can do to reduce the amount of money you spend on ink.

Use an Ink Subscription

While purchasing off-the-shelf original equipment manufacturer (OEM) cartridges is generally the most expensive way to buy replacement ink, many printer manufacturers have introduced subscription options designed to help people save money and time.

Hewlett Packard

Hewlett Packard (HP) offers an Instant Ink program where your printer automatically sends a message letting the company know you're getting low on ink so it gets sent before you run out. Simply choose a plan, ranging from $3 to $10 per month based on how many pages you print monthly. Shipping costs are included.

HP Instant Ink Erollment
HP Instant Ink enrollment kit


Canon's Recurring Ink & Toner program allows you to pre-schedule orders based on how often you typically need to buy ink or toner. Set up automatic deliveries in four-week increments from every four weeks to every 24 weeks.


Similar to the HP Instant Ink program, Brother's Ink & Toner Auto-Fulfillment Program uses technology to automatically detect when you need ink. You'll pay the cost of the ink cartridge for your printer plus shipping and handling.

Buy Compatible Cartridges

OEM ink is not the only new cartridge purchase option. Compatible cartridges are available for most printer models from highly recommended e-commerce retailers.

  • 123InkJets.com: This retailer is described in reviews as "a convenient place to shop," thanks to their "large ink inventory and modern payment options." The store's website promises savings of up to 75 percent, a one-year guarantee, and free shipping on orders exceeding $55.
  • 4inkjets: With a "Best Overall" rating from TopTenReviews, 4inkjets carries more popular cartridges than most other stores, promises to ship orders out the same day, and allows returns up to two years after purchase.
  • InkCartridges: Known for their free shipping on orders to the contiguous United States, this retailer also offers discounts for bulk orders.

Give Recycled Cartridges a Try

Bill Swanson, CEO of Cartridge World North America
Bill Swanson, former CEO, Cartridge World NA

Bill Swanson, former CEO of Cartridge World North America, explains the price difference between recycled and new cartridges: "It's because many components of a printer cartridge can be used again without sacrificing the quality of the cartridge." Swanson states that recycled cartridges can "save customers as much as 30 percent over competitors."

Quality Concerns

It's important to realize that not all recycled cartridges are the same. "As in any industry, there are a handful of companies selling inferior products." says Swanson.

Where To Buy Recycled Cartridges

Brick and mortar stores like Staples and online giants such as Amazon sell hundreds of different remanufactured or refilled cartridges for most of the popular printer brands.

Purchase Refill Kits

It is also possible to refill printer cartridges yourself, though it's important to consider what is really involved with this money-saving approach. Refill kits can save consumers up to 90 percent over buying new OEM cartridges. However, the savings might not always be worth the mess.

Refilled cartridges can spill out into the printer causing a mess and possible permanent damage. They also won't necessarily cancel "low ink" messages. In a review on The Simple Dollar, the user and colleagues deemed refill kits as acceptable as long as you're not "printing photographs or other documents that you intend to share or archive."

Make the Most of In-Store Refills

If you like the idea of refilling ink cartridges but you'd rather not deal with the mess, there a few in-store programs you may find helpful. For example, Fry's refills cartridges in the store for most major printer brands. Refill start as low as $7 and the store claims the service can result in up to a 65 percent savings on ink.

Use a Cartridge Return Program

Many stores offer opportunities for customers to earn rewards points or cash for trading in empty ink containers that can be recycled. Examples of these recycling programs include:

Recycling container full of toner cartridges
Recycling container full of toner cartridges
  • Office Max: Sign up for the OfficeMax Ink & Toner Recycling Program and begin earning your choice of rewards or cash, with payouts occurring after your balance reaches $50.
  • Office Depot: Receive $2 Office Depot Rewards for each recyclable cartridge that you turn in, up to a maximum of 10 per month.
  • Staples: When you recycle your cartridges with Staples, you'll receive $2 in Staples Rewards per item, with a monthly limit of 10. Rewards can be used to purchase any items you need from the store.
  • Quill: You can earn $2 in Quill Cash for up to 10 recyclable cartridges per month, with the value applicable to purchases from the online retailer.

Ten Additional Ink Savings Tips

While finding good deals on replacement ink is critical for getting the most out of your printing budget, it is not the only way you can save money.

  • Printer selection: Swanson recommends "buying efficient printer models" as a way of controlling ink expenditures.
  • Software solutions: Use free software programs to reduce the number of pages printed and ink used.
  • Font size: Instead of using larger fonts, try 10-point type for most documents, something that can save both ink and paper.
  • Font selection: When choosing a font, consider how much ink it uses, opting for those with thin lines rather than heavy ones. A recent study found that Garamond uses the least ink.
  • Use Ecofont: Ecofont is a collection of perforated fonts to reduce ink consumption. A single user-license costs around $8 per month.
  • Quality settings: Adjust your default printer quality setting to low so that you use the least amount of ink possible for day-to-day printing. Manually adjust for high quality printing when needed.
  • Print specific sections: Limit printing to specific sections of documents or web pages that you need to print to reduce ink usage.
  • Regular printing: Ink cartridges that sit for too long can dry out and become unusable. To keep this from happening, those who print only rarely should make it a point to print something at least once a week.
  • Shake the cartridge: When you notice the print quality start to diminish, don't run out and buy a new cartridge. Removing it and shaking it well before replacing can re-distribute the ink, extending its useful life.
  • Rely on mobile devices: It's wasteful for smartphone users to print maps and directions. If you have a phone with GPS, it can find directions for you.

Make the Most of Your Ink Dollars

No matter which of these options you choose, it's easy to see that there are plenty of ways you can get more for your money. Try a few tips at a time to see what options are best for you.

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5 Ways to Save Money on Ink for Printers