Many money saving websites and related articles will proclaim the power of cutting costs in your home office through the wackiest of ways. While this isn’t to say that using envelopes from junk mail, decreasing the brightness of your computer screen, and reusing rubber bands from the mail, will save you money, but the savings are minimal when compared to other areas. Having worked in an office the majority of my career, and now from a home office, I’ve found that the majority of costs associated with office work of any sort come from two main supply categories – printer cartridges and paper. If you can decrease costs on these two products, you may be able to cut your office supply budget by as much as 50%.
1. Compatible vs. Original Ink Cartridges
With office supply stores and drugstores now offering either refill programs or discounted compatible cartridges for most consumer printers, you can slash your office supply costs. With originals often selling for several times the prices of refills and compatibles, they can be real budget busters. Even if you only go through one or two cartridges a month, choosing compatibles or refills can save you from 40-60% or more.
2. Print in Black and White
Avoiding using your color cartridge, except in occasions when it is absolutely necessary, can also save you undue costs. Changing your printer settings to print in only black and white, or taking the color cartridge out of your printer completely (assuming it still works without it), can reduce the amount of color ink you use, avoiding having to replace those more expensive color cartridges.
3. Consider Best Before Dates
While in some cases, it is advisable to buy in bulk to receive discounts, this isn’t always the case with printer cartridges – especially replacements and refills. These items only have a limited lifespan (many cartridges can only be refilled 3-4 times before they begin to lose effectiveness) and exposure to air over time can cause them to dry out. Therefore, consider your usage before stocking up and try to keep cartridges in their sealed packages until you are ready to use them.
4. Reuse Paper
It often isn’t until we begin working from a home office where we are responsible for office supply costs that we realize the significant expense of buying paper. When an employer is paying, those misprints probably go right in the garbage or recycle bin, but when you are footing the bill, it’s a different story. While you certainly don’t want to send professional documents on reused paper, if you’re only using the documents for personal purposes, why not use that blank side to print on as well?
5. Make Smaller Copies
By using your print options, you can often print between 2-4 pages (that are still easily legible) on one sheet of paper. That means a total of 8 pages on one sheet of paper (front and back) or a total of 4,000 pages on a ream of 500 sheets of paper.
6. Recycle Notepads & Scratch Paper
We aren’t done with those sheets of paper just yet though. If you really want to get your money’s worth, rather than recycling or trashing them, keep them in a scrap pile for jotting down notes rather than using a notepad.
7. Use Paper Clips
As I mentioned earlier, I’m not going to focus too much on the little stuff. There are however, several smaller supply categories, which, if handled with care, can significantly reduce office costs over time. One of these categories is clips. These tiny helpers can be used dozens, even hundreds of times, cutting down the number of staples you use, and reducing paper waste by avoiding rips and tears.
8. Pens & Notepads
I haven’t bought a pen or a notepad in years. Stocking up on these types of products whenever you can, by grabbing freebies from banks, hotels, hospitals, realtors, etc. can eliminate this cost from your supply budget altogether.
This won’t help with reducing paper waste, but you can get a stapleless stapler (I recently ordered one from ThinkGeek for about $6). As I understand it, it takes a tiny strip of paper and runs that through the stack of papers to hold them together. It only works for five sheets or less, but that’s often the range of sheets that I staple together, so should help me significantly cut down on the number of staples I use.
The best way I found to save on ink is to not use it at all. Get a laser printer. The toner cartridge can usually print 8-10 times as may pages as the ink jets. That saves a lot in the long run even over the refilled inks.
If you really want to save money on printing and ink, get a cheap lazerjet for any black and white work. The cartridge can last years and doesn’t have the life span issue of inkjet. You can also get black and white lazerjets for not much more than a cheap inkjet. Of course, needing colour will make it more expensive, but again the colour cartridge will last until it runs out rather than till it dries up and clogs
There are fonts designed to print with less ink. One free one you can download is called Spranq Eco Sans (the publisher, though, simply calls it “ecofont”: It’s fine for drafts, such as those you might print on the back of previously-printed paper.
I second the idea of having a small laser if you print frequently. I had a cheap one not long ago from Samsung that was surprisingly fast, and cost well under $100.
I also like producing written stuff in OpenOffice.org (free) and exporting them to .pdf files. That way, I can proof them on screen looking just how they would if printed, without having to print them at all until I am pretty sure they are perfect as I can make them.
jim mc donald says
A lot of good office supplies companies about. Shop about for bargins the competition is fierce and the margins low. Theres no better time to buy.
Mo Bradley says
These are great saving tips. When it comes to printing, you can save ink buy change your printer settings to economy or even fast draft. Also, buying remanufactured ink online would also help you save some dollars.
I refill my cartridges, also use the printer on draft plus turn the printer off when you are not using it.
Save Money Hound says
Another good good money saving tip is to reduce printing and save and store files in digital format.
Cheap Dude says
Great list! One more tip with printing in black is to print in a fast print or draft mode. It uses way less ink than just printing in black if this option is available on your printer.