Printers: The Place Where Money Goes to Die

I am assuming most students are aware of how much of a money pit printers can be. They eat up your money when you first buy them, when you print and when you have to refill the ink, oh and you have to buy paper too. This post covers my little adventure when it came to printers and can help better determine the right printers for students and how they can avoid spending a TON of money.

A $50 printer that came at a discount when you bought your laptop can cost you more than 3 times that by the end of your undergrad, simply because the cartridges are ridiculously expensive (usually around $20 a shot-and that’s if you’re only buying a black and white cartridge).


So I have decided to investigate, and figure out how to save money on that big printing machine taking up a large spot on my desk by breaking down how much I have spent/will spend on the current printer I have.

Cost of a printer. $50 at Futureshop
Brand: HP
Cost of replacement cartridges: $22-$45 (Regular to XL-3x the printing)
Since a lot of my courses require printed notes I go through about 2 cartridges a semester, which ends up working out to me buying a new printer every semester.
I have owned this printer since 2009 (when I started university) and haven’t purchased a colour cartridge once (since they cost more-and who needs super pretty slides in colour?). The one I do have is on the lowest level of ink now, just so I can keep printing all together. Because some of those clever manufacturers have settings on some printers that prevent you front printing in black and white if you don’t have any colour ink left.
Based on 8 semesters of use, the printer will end up costing me approximately;
$50 initial cost (comes with 1 black and white and 1 colour cartridge)
$22*7=$154 ( I am just going to assume that the cartridges that came with the printer lasted 2 months)
Overall a printer that technically cost me $50 (which I thought was this great deal) ends up costing me at least $200. And that’s not including paper and the fact that I have cheaped out and not bought and colour ink. 

Now the thought of overpaying in the long run for my printer has got me thinking of alternatives to make it cheaper.

Alternative 1:
Refilling ink cartridges instead of buying new ones.
I have yet to try this, but I have been told it costs about half the price of buying a new cartridge. I have yet to test how long refilled inks last, but I am hoping its not half as long.

Alternative 2:
Buying a laser printer instead of an inkjet one.
Unfortunately this is a better option for people starting at the beginning of their university careers. Laser printers are often more expensive, and the toners (yes toners, not cartridges) are more pricey. BUT toners get you a ton more pages per toner than an ink jet printer and are often more efficient, hence why businesses don’t use inkjet printers.
If you are in the later years of you’re university career you could possibly split the purchase of a laser printer between room mates

Alternative 3:
Just print off notes at the library
If you are a light user of printers it may make more economical sense to just print at the library. You pay per page, but it may not warrant the need for the purchase of an entire printer and/or a new cartridge that may dry out from lack of use.

If you are considering buying a printer, make that purchase now. Back to School deals are currently on and you can save up to a $100 on some printers. Before you make the impulse buy to get a printer with a laptop (because it’s a discount) look up a few things online first;

  • Google the printer model-Check out reviews and see what people are saying. Is the printer efficient on ink? 
  • Certain brands of printers don’t have generic cartridge offerings that can cost you a lot less when buying new. Stores like Staples have a generic Staples brand cartridges. Check out this website here to learn how it works. 
  • What functions do you need in a printer? Copy/Scan or just standard printing? If you can get a regular printer for the same price as a printer/copy/scan get the later. The ability to scan and copy certain documents can be a lifesaver.
  • Check what comes with the printer, some don’t come with the USB cable to attach to you’re computer, and that’s another additional cost right there.
Also a few tips from CNet
  • “A multifunction inkjet is a viable option for power users who will make use of the additional copy, fax, and scan options–plus it gives you the flexibility to print in colour when necessary–photo postcards for the family, perhaps? If you decide to head down this path, spend a little extra–more than $100–for a decent model that will be a little faster and won’t chew through expensive ink and paper as quickly.”
  • CNet also suggests students to consider buying laser printers because of their ability to print a lot more pages on a single toner than multiple inkjet cartridges 
  • Consult the rest of the Printer buying guide here
Source: Image

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