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Save money on printer ink, toner and consumables

Printer makers are happy to sell a cheap printer because they make big profits on ink, toner and other consumables.  Here’s how to save money.

Buy in advance

Stores and printer makers rely on people waiting until they’ve run out of ink/toner before rushing to get more.  You pay a high premium for that rushed purchase or express shipping.

Keep a spare ink cartridge ready to go

I always have two ink cartridges, one in the printer itself (obviously) and a replacement cartridge sitting on the shelf ready to replace it.

When the cartridge is empty and replaced, I buy a new spare right away to keep ‘at the ready’.

That means I have time to shop around and get a new ink cartridge at a decent price.

  • ‘Original’ manufacturer labelled consumables are often available online for a much lower price.
  • Go to a reputable online store like Amazon or Ebay merchants with an established record.

This trick also means I never run out of ink because there’s always a spare cartridge ready to go.

Another option is to keep an eye on your ink/toner levels and order cheaply online before it’s needed. But who remembers to watch the ink supply which can drop fast and at the time of maximum inconvenience.

Use original ink supplies at a reasonable price

Personally, we stick with ‘original’ ink supplies branded for that printer maker but ONLY if they are available at a reasonable (ie non-retail) price.

A small premium for manufacturer branded products is worth it for the reduced hassle.

Be suspicious of ink subscription plans which have hidden traps.

Third-Party printer supplies

Alternatively, try third-party ink/toner consumables (not refills). Check in your local office supplies stores, make a note of any third-party brands for sale.  Give one a try (use the store refund policy, if necessary/available) and, if suitable, look online to buy the same brand in future.

Refilled printer cartridges

Buy original cartridges that have been refilled with ink/toner or buy the equipment to refill your own consumables.

Many readers swear by refilled cartridges, but we’ve never had a good experience with them.

Don’t upgrade printer firmware

Don’t upgrade the firmware on your printer. Firmware updates can fix obscure bugs but more often they are self-serving for the manufacturer.

In 2016 HP tried to force consumers to use their expensive ink/toner by updating HP printer firmware to reject ‘foreign’ cartridges. In 2023 they are doing it again see HP messes up their printers – twice

Update the printer if there’s a specific fix you need, but don’t update automatically.  There’s always the chance that the update will lock out your preferred third-party cartridges.

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