Web Culture

How To Keep Printing Costs As Low As Possible

Tina Sieber 01-08-2012

lower printing costsLet’s get this straight – printing emails and documents is primeval! Not only does it cost money, it also wastes resources, storage space, and time. In fact, half of all pages printed are never used! And once you have to find something in your printed documents, doesn’t it usually take ages? Compare that with a tiny little hard drive (and a second one for your backup) that can store the equivalent of a library and let’s you search and find information in light speed. Who still wants to pore over printed documents?


Well, that said, there are of course legitimate reasons to print. Reading text on paper is undeniably different than reading it on a digital screen. You can fold the paper, mark it, make notes, and rip it apart to release your anger. So for all those cases in which you do have to print something, here is an article that will help you save resources and keep the printing costs as low as possible.

Before we dive head-in, let me share my assumptions: I take it for granted that you already own an energy efficient printer. Moreover, I assume that you have researched the best ink, toner, or paper for your printer and purpose.

Save Energy

A printer that is turned on or in stand-by mode and waiting for a print job uses energy. If you hardly ever print anything or if you keep the printer in stand-by mode, even though you know you won’t be printing anything for a few hours, for example over night or during the weekend, you are wasting energy. And we all know that energy is getting ever more expensive.

The easiest way to save energy, is to turn off your printer whenever you don’t need it. Depending on your printer model, custom printer settings may also include options to automatically turn off the printer over night, during weekends, or after it has been idle for a set amount of time. If you want to save energy in that way, it’s worth reading your printer handbook, which probably is available as a PDF online or on the CD that came with your printer.

lower printing costs


Save Ink or Toner

Ink and toner are probably the most expensive printer supplies, hence this is where you can save the most. Also, it’s pretty easy to save some money here. First, edit your documents before printing, so that you print only what you really need. Second, print in low quality, unless you really need a high quality print. Finally, print in black & white, unless you really need to print in color. You can change your printer settings to print less wastefully per default.

The exact options available to you will depend on your printer model. Generally, you can access these options via the Windows Control Panel under Devices and Printers. Right-click your printer and choose Printing preferences. Switch to the Paper/Quality tab and choose Black & White. When clicking the Advanced… button in the bottom right you can change additional settings, including the Print Quality (print resolution in dpi) or Paper Size.

reduce printing costs

Are you using an inkjet printer? Please be aware that a high quality black is often mixed from colors, rather than taken from the black ink cartridge. This can turn out to be a very expensive ‘feature’ and makes it even more important to print black & white and in a low quality per default.


Whatever options you change in printing preferences, they will be your default options for every print job. However, you can adjust the settings for each individual print job, so you can print in color or high quality anytime. Simply click the Properties button next to the selected printer before you start a print job. In this same window you can also make some further settings to save paper, which will be our next point.

reduce printing costs

Did you know you could save even more ink by using an ecofont?

Save Paper

Other than not printing to paper, there are many more ways to save paper. First, start by editing your document and its margins to print more per page or remove elements you don’t want to print. Second, print only selected pages. Third, print double-sided. Finally, print multiple pages per sheet. Again, you can choose default settings depending on your printer model.


To change the default settings, go to Devices and Printers via the Control Panel, right-click on your printer and select Printing preferences. In the Layout tab, see what options are available to you and choose the ones that seem like the best fit.

lower printing costs

Know that you can change these settings for every individual print job as described above.

Now if you do end up printing something you don’t really need, you can save paper by re-using it. And last but not least, you can recycle it.


Use a Local Print Shop

The most economic way to occasionally print something is to outsource your printing to a local print shop. This typically guarantees you access to a state-of-the-art printer that simply works and produces nothing but awesome quality. And you won’t ever have to deal with empty paper bins or clogged up ink cartridges again. Let go of toxic fumes emitted by a laser printer or wasted energy due to a printer in stand-by mode.

Go Paperless

Maybe you are wondering how you would go about going paperless? Well, it’s fairly simple and can be summarized in three steps:

Follow the resources listed under each point to learn more.

For many more great resources on this topic, view the following articles:

How do you save printing costs?

Image credits: Print CMYK via Shutterstock, Energy Saving Puzzle Pieces via Shutterstock

Related topics: Printing, Save Money.

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  1. Cathlyn Park
    October 21, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    Personally, I am all for a paperless office, but at the start, our company is a little bit traditional and still of course bought some printers. These tips are pretty useful, so thanks for posting them! I also totally agree that for some small businesses a local print shop might help. They said that 85% of companies in America are small and medium businesses, and they would actually be able to cut cost and still maintain quality with a local print shop. Saw this neat infographic while researching http://adcreative.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/is-printing-too-costly-for-small-businesses/ However, I think going for a more modern approach we all should go for PDFs in Google Docs, or some other cloud server. Since everybody in business should have a smart phone or iPad these days, E-documents like that are the way to go to just cut printing costs altogether.

    • Tina
      October 21, 2012 at 3:14 pm


      Thanks a lot for your elaborate comment and the Infographic. Love it!

      And I totally agree that going paperless with PDFs and electronic documents, file sharing, and online collaboration tools is the way to go for the future.

  2. Jason Williams
    September 1, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    great article, now maybe i can save myself some cashola in the blackhole called printing.

  3. Rigoberto Garcia
    August 2, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    The vast majority of the documents necessary for our daily operation, except for invoices to be printed, converted to PDF or scanned and stored on external hard drives. The frequently used are stored and shared in Evernote.

  4. Trevor
    August 2, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    Download and use fonts that save ink when physical printing is needed. You can "google" and find them.

  5. klobster
    August 2, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    Most Big office stores and print shops have an email address you can send your print jobs to. I live across the street from an Office Depot so whenever I need a printout I just email it to them and then pick them up at my convenience. I pay well under $20 yearly to print.

    • Tina
      August 2, 2012 at 5:20 pm

      And it's not just saving you money because you don't have to purchase a printer and accessories or spend time on maintenance. In the long term, you're also creating less waste as the printers at the print shop are thoroughly used, properly maintained, and potentially re-used or repaired before they are ultimately thrown out.

  6. Petey Pabler
    August 2, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    I am in charge of a "Printer Project" for the company I work for. We have proposals from Ricoh, Xerox, and Canon. They all have great features for business but for example; Canon machines on standby (Which is set by the End User) only use 1W compared to other machines (Average 150W on Standby). From Standby, they can print the first page in 8 seconds. Times have come a long way, but of course, you have to upgrade to these new "Green" Machines. These are all great tips above though for anyone who doesn't have the resources for the new style LEED machines.

  7. Pierre Hugé
    August 2, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    It is also possible to save ink by the use of ink-saving fonts. Some of them like Ecofont, Century Gothic, Century Schoolbook, Baskerville Old Face are suppposed to reduce ink consumption by 15-20% compared to Arial (All these fonts are available for free). http://www.labnol.org/internet/fonts-for-saving-printer-ink/12603/ provides an interesting comparison of ink consumption by various standard fonts

    • Tina
      August 2, 2012 at 5:17 pm

      Great point Pierre! I actually covered this in an earlier article on how to save printer ink.

  8. Bruce Colthart
    August 2, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    My office inkjet takes forever to shut down, let alone to start up! I guess it's getting old...

    I'm regularly editing documents, printing 2-up or cutting-out big solids from screen captures, or encouraging my kids to copy/past text from black web pages before printing(!).

    Another inkjet cost saver is using refilled cartridges; saves about 20 - 25% over retail cartridges.

    I like that you've avoided the widespread and uninformed approach to print-versus-electronic viewing/reading that claims paper usage is unsustainable while ignoring the utter unsustainability of the always-on PC and server farm culture, including cooling. *If* your article was tackling the broader concept of energy-saving, I'd recommend that it advise people to consider, on occasion, printing out the [appropriate] document and then shutting down the PC. Now that's energy-saving.

    • Tina
      August 2, 2012 at 5:16 pm


      I like your way of thinking regarding printing vs. running the computer. That's a very valid consideration. So with the bigger picture in mind, you're absolutely right; printing can potentially save more energy or costs than not. However, the focus of this article is keeping the printing costs low.

  9. Paul-G
    August 2, 2012 at 11:20 am

    For InkJet printers that do a lot of printing - replace the cartridges with a 'continuous ink' system.

    From Wikipedia "Continuous ink is a method for delivering a large and practically unlimited volume of liquid ink to a comparatively small inkjet printhead. Many business and professional grade printers incorporate a continuous ink system in their design to increase the speed and volume of printing capacity. Some aftermarket companies also build retrofit accessories to convert certain models of consumer-grade printers into continuous flow systems."

    Buying ink in bottles to refill the tanks costs about 10% of a cartridge cost!

    My system cost about £60 and has paid for itself many times over.

    • Paul-G
      August 2, 2012 at 12:59 pm

      Another cost saver that most modern printers are capable of is duplex printing (printing on both sides of the paper) which can considerably reduce paper costs.

      • Tina
        August 2, 2012 at 4:02 pm

        Great points, Paul!

    • Oron
      August 2, 2012 at 6:04 pm

      Great point Paul. I too use a CISS which cost around the same as yours, and the running costs are so low that I now print almost exclusively to my inkjet rather than the laser printer unless I need the laser print's durability.

  10. Andrey Zvyagin
    August 2, 2012 at 9:51 am

    A great way to save ink - is to use a continuous ink supply system

  11. James Miller
    August 2, 2012 at 12:35 am

    looks good - however never had luck with refilled carts.