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Ask DSM Readers: How Do You Save On Printer Ink and Paper?

by Tara Kuczykowski on May 13, 2010 · 85 comments


It's been a long time since I've done an "Ask DSM Readers" post. I know I've always found these posts valuable because I love hearing your tips, tricks, and perspectives, so this will become a regular Thursday post. If you have a question that you'd like me to share, I'd love to hear from you!

Onto the question for this week -- I'd love to hear your favorite ways to save on printer ink and paper. Obviously printable coupons are a fantastic way to save on your grocery bill, but do you ever wonder if the cost of printing them is worth the savings? Printer ink and paper can get downright expensive, especially if you have kids like mine that are always walking off with paper for their "art projects".

So how do you save on printer ink and paper? Have you tried refilling printer ink cartridges? Has anyone tried some of the downloadable software that claims to reduce the amount of ink used? Do you have any tips for recycling printer paper?

{ 85 comments… read them below or add one }

1 P May 13, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Staples sales for $1 or FREE reams of paper! Occasionally a cheap ink refill at Walgreen's (but that often doesn't work).

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2 Heather the Designer May 13, 2010 at 4:30 pm

And Staples also gives you $ for returning empty ink cartridges :0) If that is still going on...

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3 Kelly May 13, 2010 at 6:16 pm

Yes, it is. We take advantage of that program.

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4 Kelly May 13, 2010 at 4:11 pm

I changed my printer settings to "Fast Draft" and it has saved me LOADS ink! I used to have to replace my ink once a month and now I replace it about every 3 months.

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5 Kelly May 13, 2010 at 4:12 pm

I meant to write *LOADS of ink* :)

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6 Laura May 13, 2010 at 4:15 pm

When I bought a new printer cartridge a few weeks ago, I used a rebate check I received from Staples, in the amount of $43, and that cut my cost in half.

As for paper, I always open junk mail. Many times companies will use only one side of paper, so I use the blank side to print coupons. I also check at work in the paper recycling bins for paper that's blank on one side. As long as there's nothing confidential on it, I use it.

Also, I do the same as P - whenever there's a free or $1 ream of paper at Staples or CVS or wherever, I snag it.

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7 Anna May 13, 2010 at 4:20 pm

When I print one coupon I turn the paper over and around to print the second one (from hitting my back button) on the other side on the opposite end. It' says me tons of paper!

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8 laura May 13, 2010 at 4:23 pm

I order Ink from a recycler online and it's way cheaper than anywhere else I've found. I do the same deals at Staples previously mentioned, and try to reuse the other side or bottom of the paper!

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9 Barbi May 13, 2010 at 4:24 pm

I have chosen to use a laser printer (black & white) over an inkjet. I purchased mine from Overstock.com aprx 6 years ago & at that time I paid $300.00. I have seen them much cheaper lately. Mine is an HP 1100 LaserJet. I use the econ-mode for printing. It uses less ink. The laser cartridge generally costs around $50.00 if you purchase it without a deal. I usually can get it for between $30 or $40. MOST IMPORTANT...this cartridge will generally yield anywhere up to 4000 copies. I never think twice about printing anything.

Paper.....I use both front and backs of my paper. The only time I use new paper is when I need to print off something special. I always print my coupons on used paper. No one has ever said a thing to me, but if they do I am so ready for them. I will respond that I am a green person....which I am. I always try to give every item I come in contact with at least 2 lives. Meaning I use a piece of paper at least twice. If not for printing then cut up for scrap paper. Some of the crazy things that show up on the backs of my coupons and no one ever says a word. Seriously who would argue with a green person. Green is everywhere. Look around, you will actually find paper everywhere. If you have kids, I'm sure the school is constantly sending home all kinds of info on paper that you discard.... my mailbox is a world of paper that I straighten and reuse. My printer will suck anything into it and print on it. It has actually become quite a fun challenge to collect paper.

Hope this helps!!!

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10 Donna May 13, 2010 at 4:28 pm

I buy my ink when target has a sale if you buy two. When I purchased my printer I made sure that my printer would work with just black ink.

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11 Lisa M May 13, 2010 at 4:30 pm

I have tried using refillable ink before and it screwed up my printer head. So, to save on ink I only print coupons that I know I will use.

To save on paper, I reuse whatever paper I have that I don't need. For instance, when I make a payment online and print the receipt it only uses half the paper. I turn the sheet around and use the other half to print a coupon.

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12 jboli May 13, 2010 at 4:31 pm

Our old printer broke awhile back and we replaced it with a kodak one. I hate to sound like the commercials, but their ink is sooo much cheaper than all the other brands. It has saved us a lot of money.

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13 Bryan M May 13, 2010 at 5:05 pm

We switched to a Kodak printer too, I swear our previous printers ate ink like no tomorrow. That along with setting the print quality to draft copies for everything really helps.

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14 Kaci May 13, 2010 at 8:44 pm

I have a Kodak too. $10 black ink, and $15 color, plus staples recycling rewards make printing so cheap, I don't even think about the cost any more.

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15 jaki May 13, 2010 at 4:36 pm

i print at work. sneakily

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16 me in millions May 13, 2010 at 4:46 pm

I recently read an interesting article about an "ecofont" that saves money on printing documents. This isn't the exact article, but it's the same gist: http://www.wtol.com/Global/story.asp?S=12430989. It doesn't help when printing coupons, but if you have to print other papers it could save on ink over time. I always set my printer to "draft" status so it uses less ink.

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17 Heather May 13, 2010 at 4:46 pm

My husband and I got three new ink cartridges on Amazon.com for $10 each and paid for the whole order with Swagbucks, so $0 oop.

I love the suggestion of using junk mail to print coupons on!

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18 Laura C May 13, 2010 at 4:49 pm

My husband works at a college and he can bring home paper from the recycle bins which is only printed on one side, so I print coupons on the other. I've had cashiers wonder why there is randomness on the back of the coupons but luckily never had to explain about dissected frogs, they were a little gross looking!

I have my printer set to B&W draft mode and a $10 black cartridge (canon inkjet) lasts me several months. I buy my cartridges on Amazon with my swagbucks, but I always recycle them at Staples to get the $3 reward back.

I spend far less on the coupons I print than on newspaper ones!

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19 mrskbc May 14, 2010 at 6:25 am

LOL about the dissected frogs! I'm a teacher and also grab stuff out of the recycling bin. I recently found nice bright color pictures (what a waste of ink!) that were tirections for dissecting sheep's eyes! I passed on those.

When I print multiples of a coupon, once I see where it will print (ie, top of page, center, etc) I will turn the first coupon around and send that same paper back through the printer and print on the other end of the paper as well.

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20 Kelly May 13, 2010 at 4:55 pm

I get my ink refilled at Walgreens. They just had a deal on Earth Day for $1 per cartridge. I also recycle paper like others.

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21 katie May 13, 2010 at 4:56 pm

I cancel the print job once my coupon has printed at the top of the page, so it wont waste ink and paper printing a huge ad on the rest of the paper. I cut the coupons off, and use the other 2/3 of paper to print up to two more coupons.
Walgreens doesn't refill my ink cartridges, but I dont think I would get tghe refilled even if they did. I have heard from everybody that they dont last as long, and can mess up your printer. I buy my color and b/w cartridge from Staples for $31, and get $3 in rewards for every one I turn back in. And I try to stock up when Staples has a coupon.

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22 Elena May 14, 2010 at 2:40 am

i've always thought, "what a waste of paper when advertising prints after the coupon..." idky i hadn't thought about that one... thanks!

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23 Lauren May 13, 2010 at 4:58 pm

We have a laser printer. The upfront cost is a little more but it saves you PILES on ink! Ours is black and white and most things you only need black and white printing from. The cartridges don't dry out like ink jet cartridges do even if they aren't used. Ours was around $100 with a rebate and we've had it for almost 3 years and have only replaced the cartridge once and I believe that is because they don't come with full cartridges (same with the ink jets too!) It is WAY less expensive in the long run to have a laser printer than an ink jet - they just try to sucker you in with really low upfront costs!

Paper - Staples or OfficeMax where you get a rebate or 100% rewards :D

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24 Abbygail May 13, 2010 at 7:14 pm

that is exactly why ink jet printers are so low to purchase. The company all but gives them away for your ink business! I read an article once that ink costs $9000 per GALLON! And we compain about the price of gas!

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25 LeShelle May 13, 2010 at 4:58 pm

I print at work.

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26 AJ May 13, 2010 at 5:51 pm

Is your employer ok with that?

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27 Jen May 13, 2010 at 5:02 pm

I bought an ink refill kit at Drug Mart for $12 and I have used it on my HP cartridge twice now, and I love it. Walgreens did not refill my type of cartridge so I found this refill kit, and it has saved us a ton on money, at least $50 so far.

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28 Sheryl May 13, 2010 at 5:10 pm

There's also a Rapid Refill that I've used in the past. Saved me some on my ink for the Lexmark. Almost 1/2 I think it is. I just got a Kodak so we'll see. I know it's cheaper even for new ink though. And I reuse my paper/junk mail type of stuff for printing also.

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29 janet May 13, 2010 at 5:11 pm

I print everything in grayscale, as not to use toomuch color. Seems cheaper.

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30 Amy-Cutting Coupons in KC May 13, 2010 at 5:20 pm

I purchased a Kodak printer several months ago and the ink refills are cheap and they last just as long as the more expensive ones. The black ink costs $10 & the color is $15.

http://cuttingcouponsinkc.blogspot.com/2009/11/frugal-friday-saving-money-on-printer.html

I also try to print on scrap paper to save money on paper. I take paper that only has 1 side printed out of recycle bins at church & my husband's office or print on the back of worksheets my son brings home. I had some resume paper stored in the basement and it got wet. I layed it out to dry and used it to print coupons.

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31 Amy May 13, 2010 at 5:23 pm

The best computer thing I ever discovered is the "continuous ink supply system" for printers with the individual color cartridges. Before hearing about this, I thought those kinds of printers were a rip off----so expensive, but now I'm jumping for joy! It cost me around $35 for the system with enough ink to last me over a year, including black. They are sooo easy to install, and you can print coupons and photos all day long and never fret about the cost. I wish I could make a commission on these babies, because I can tell from other comments, nobody seems to know about them. Look them up on ebay. You'll not be sorry!!!

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32 Evan May 13, 2010 at 5:29 pm

Go with a laserjet. I also have an older model and the toner cartridges can be bought from surplus sites off of Ebay for around $25 which lasts for 3000 pages. Less than a penny a page for the toner.

If you don't have a laserjet, also search ebay for older model auctions which you can often get fairly cheap.

One more hint, if you buy a HP laserjet which has its own network card and also have an itouch or iphone, you can download a free coupons.com app to the itouch/iphone and print coupons directly to the printer from your itouch/iphone. Acts essentially as another computer and therefore gives you another couple prints for those hot printables.

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33 John May 13, 2010 at 5:32 pm

To save on ink get a laser printer. I bought a LJ 4P used from an electronic surplus sale at a college campus (most colleges sell of their old electronics in sales open to the public) 5 years ago for $20. Even if i was buying a new printer each time i need ink (i don't) and off-loading the old on Craigslist it is a lot cheaper than most other printers just for ink refills. I even had an option to buy extra toner cartridges for it at $5 each. College Electronic Surplus Sales have saved me a ton on my printer ink.

As for paper i buy it from OfficeMax/Stapes/Office Depot when they have free reams.

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34 Brandy May 13, 2010 at 5:40 pm

Once the warranty on my printer (Epson) expired I started buying refurbished cartridges from inksmile.com. They work great and are way cheaper than buying new ones! My husband digs through the paper recycling bins at his office and brings home useable paper. I print on the blank back of the sheets and recycle the scraps left from cutting out the coupons.

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35 Em May 13, 2010 at 5:41 pm

I use the "fast draft" option for most of my printing. It uses a lot less ink, but still prints great. If you're printing important documents/assignments/work stuff, then use a higher quality print setting. But for everything else, including coupons, use the fast draft option! Just go to your printer's setting and set it as the default method so that you don't have to change it every time.

Also, I find that refilled cartridges don't work as well (and they leak!) so I just buy manufacturer ink that lasts a long time with the fast draft print setting.

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36 Mitchell Wischmann May 13, 2010 at 5:50 pm

I use the fast draft option on my printer to save on ink. Also, when I print one coupon on a piece of paper, I cut the coupon out and put that remaining paper back in the printer.

I've also found that ink refills do not work!

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37 Breezy May 13, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Walgreens refill program isn't it for me. I've NEVER been able to have one of my ink cartridges refilled. They won't even attempt to fill it if it doesn't pass some sort of electrical test. What that electrical test is for is beyond me. The darn cartridge worked just fine before I took it to them. Can't they just refill it and give it back to me? Forget the stupid electrical test! Grrr...... way too frustrating. I have a Lexmark and new cartridges are ridiculously expensive! Any suggestions from anyone would be appreciated! Thanks

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38 Stephanie May 13, 2010 at 5:57 pm

My husband is a teacher and has tons of leftover worksheets and notes pages at school. He brings them all home and I print coupons on those. So almost every coupon has physics problems on the back of it when I turn them in at the store! I've never once had a problem from cashiers about it, and would never even think about printing coupons on fresh paper!

For the ink, we bought a laser printer when it was really cheap one time, and then I have my settings on "grayscale" and "fast draft" to save on how much ink comes out.

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39 twitch May 13, 2010 at 5:58 pm

I was seduced by the cheap price of a HP deskjet F4435 and am so ashamed of myself for not doing research first! even on draft settings, printing coupons on recycled paper , this thing EATS ink! I have already spent more on ink in a few months than I did on the damn printer. Learn from my mistake!

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40 Karen May 13, 2010 at 6:08 pm

We have a HP LaserJet 1020. My husband got it several years ago and we just had to replace the cartridge this last Feb. My dh really shopped around and finally found a place that sold refurbished cartridges for $35. It prints just as well as it did before. As for paper, I bought 10 reams super cheap at Target when they went on clearance last fall. I also turn my paper around after printing a coupon so it will be good for another printing. When i get the long ads I just cut them off and set the paper aside. If I get a pile of it then I just make a "cover page" with my daughter's name on it, staple it to the leftover paper and she has an instant doodle pad! She loves them. I also use the left over paper for grocery lists and scratch paper.

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41 Carrie May 13, 2010 at 6:31 pm

i rarely use my printer. after i make my grocery list, i print only the printable coupons for items that are on my list when there is a coupon for my favorite brand available.

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42 Michelle Wong May 13, 2010 at 7:03 pm

where is the cancel button located? I have brothers printer HL-2140.

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43 Beth May 13, 2010 at 7:53 pm

It's usually red...not familiar with your printer though...

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44 Abbygail May 13, 2010 at 7:07 pm

Change your print settings to draft mode, black and white. I use both sides of the paper when just by flipping it around and sticking it back in. Like someone said above, I use paper from work that is in the recycle (like fax cover sheets and confirmations). I like the idea of using junk mail paper too! When I first started couponing, I would print EVERY coupon available. (I had about 25 biscuit coupons! lol) Now that I have gotten a feel for which coupons reach their print limit, I only print out the high dollar ones and ones I'm going to use with my current grocery list. I use the scraps left over from the coupons to make my to do lists and grocery lists and I have a recycle box sitting right next to my printer for all remaining unusable scraps.

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45 sokki May 13, 2010 at 7:18 pm

how do you set your printer to fast draft mode?

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46 Beth May 13, 2010 at 7:57 pm

In your control panel, there should be a printer button. Select that and then click once on the icon representing your printer. Then select printing preferences and then fast draft. Hope this helps!

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47 Emily May 13, 2010 at 8:11 pm

I know I've saved tons by using printable coupons, so I'm not worried about spending more on ink than I save. Then on Earth Day (in April sometime?) we refilled 3 ink cartridges at Walgreens for $1 each. Yay! Wish we had had more to refill.

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48 Pink May 13, 2010 at 8:17 pm

Like many, I set my printer's default print to draft, print on both sides, and only print coupons as I need them. I've had success with the ink refill kits, however, you still have to replace the cartridges about every 5th refill. If not, you'll damage the print heads. They are not meant to last forever.

I love the ideas from other readers about printing coupons on junk mail. I never thought of doing that.

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49 melissa May 13, 2010 at 8:50 pm

Office max has the refills on Black for 10.00? I think. Color is not so good. Ask how much the refill is first as it might be best to buy a whole new one. Walgreens is good for refill on color. PAPER.. If you print a coupon and it only takes up the top insert it the other way and copy on the other end. If something is expired and you printed and never cut the paper. use the other side. Always to save color turn your color off before you print coupons to just black.

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50 Rachel W. May 13, 2010 at 9:12 pm

I always turn my aper around to use it twice, but I also stop the printer before it can print additional product information below the coupon itself. Saves a bunch!

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51 Tricia May 13, 2010 at 9:15 pm

I change the font to fonts that use the least ink, like Garamond.

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52 Kasey May 13, 2010 at 9:49 pm

I have a kindergartner, so he has lots of papers. I keep my favorites and then I use the backside of his papers to print coupons. Has saved me a ton!

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53 Carolyn May 13, 2010 at 10:19 pm

NOTE: Coupons from magazines or newspaper inserts have printing on the other side of all coupons....so there is no problem using paper that is printed on the other side.

I have 2 HP printers that use #60 ink (HP F4435 and HP D1660). I purchase it from http://www.hp.com, I joined their PRINT REWARD SAVINGS program and get a discount. They have a #60XL which is a great value. I usually purchase enough to get the free shipping. (They deliver next business day) I also have a Kodak printer that I'm not using. The print head for that printer is on the printer...not on the ink cartridge....thus a less expensive way to go. (My printer heads need to be cleaned.) We have 3 computers...thus extra printers.

Check with family or friends that work for companies that change their letterhead or have fliers, etc. that they are not using. Again, use the clear side....and never have to purchase coupon paper. I have also used colored paper and have no problems with coupons unless the paper is the very deep red, purple, blue, green, etc.

Remember.....don't print coupons until they are needed, as the coupon is good for one month from printing. High value ones that may reach print limits right away would be something you need to print as soon as they are available.

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54 Jennifer May 13, 2010 at 10:56 pm

I use a Brother laser printer. I got it on buy.com for $50. I have to get toner once a year and it only costs me $28-32 shipped. I also use both sides of paper to make it last longer and so 3/4 of a piece of paper is not just wasted.

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55 Carol May 13, 2010 at 10:58 pm

I do the same things on printing and on paper. I've been having problems with my coupons not scanning and then either the stores not accepting them or not doubling them. I hate to increase the resolution, but get frustrated at the store. I've found that some stores are better than others, but it's hit and miss. Does anyone have any ideas for me?

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56 Christina May 13, 2010 at 11:15 pm

I took some paper from an office I used to clean. They had a ton of it.. and I buy my ink on Ebay for like $12 for all the colors and black. They aren't "genuine" ones but they work fine..

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57 Lalita May 13, 2010 at 11:15 pm

I use scrap paper (paper that has print only on one side) to print out stuff for myself. Staples has great deals & sales on paper. Ink too - if you recycle your old ink cartridge at Staples, they give you a $3 store credit.

As for recycling printer paper, I either take boxes of paper to my local paper recycle bins at school or use them to line my bird's cage.

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58 Jan May 13, 2010 at 11:58 pm

I try to print one coupon and then turn and reverse the paper to get 2 Qs on one sheet of paper. Also have my printer set to fast draft with black ink only as the black cartridges are cheaper. My printer also takes a cartridge that is suppose to print 3X the number of sheets than the reg. cartridge. Trying it the next time I have to change cartridges. Reg size is around $15 and the XL is $36. So if it does triple the prints this will save some in the long run. We'll see.

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59 Laura May 14, 2010 at 12:04 am

I buy off-brand ink in bulk on Amazon.com. I'm able to get 12 cartridges for less than the price of one name brand cartridge, and I usually have some Amazon.com gift cards from Swag Bucks to use, too! The ink isn't quite as "vivid" as the name brand ink, but that doesn't bother me for coupon and rebate quality printouts.

For paper, I bring home non-confidential paper from our recycle bin at work and print coupons on the back side. I cut out the coupons and save the empty scraps for craps or to bind into small notepads.

When my ink is used, I bring my empty cartridges to Staples in bulk. Some people recycle them on a continual basis ($3 here, $3 there) but I prefer to save up a lot of cartridges and turn them in all at one time so I get large rewards check to use towards something substantial.

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60 Jeff May 14, 2010 at 2:06 am

When I print my coupons, I recycle paper from my office instead of new paper and print the coupons on the clean back of the pages.
It was funny when a Walgreens clerk said I couldn't do that and I asked him if
his ads had anything printed on the back......He shut up pretty quick and processed the coupons.

I had about 6 cartidges saved up and was going to take them to Staples or Office max for a 3.00 credit ea. Instead, Walgreens offered refills for 1.00 each on earth day. I may save them up again and get all 6 filled up again at once next year. Good luck all

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61 mrskbc May 14, 2010 at 6:31 am

I have also used kids school papers to print coupons on. I save the good ones of course, but there is so much, it's no problem to toss a few in the scrap paper bin.

I've ordered "off" brand ink from Amazon, and been very pleased with it. It was SOOO much cheaper than the brand name, even if it lasts only half as long (which I'm not saying it does...I can't really tell any difference). It's been fine, and I think I paid somewhere around $5 for 2 black, and 3 individual colors (red, cyan, magenta? whatever they are).

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