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The Definitive Guide to Printing for Cheap or Free

posted Sep 27, 2009, 12:53 AM by Danny Eusebio   [ updated Sep 27, 2009, 2:20 AM ]

Printing is usually a costly affair, especially for college students. It's my hope that college students will one day live in a print free world, but I don't see that happening anytime soon. There's just something unique and useful about a paper that offers that tactile touch. In this special "Definitive Guide" I'll be teaching you how to print for cheap, smart, and even free. Yup. No bull, just the facts. If you're willing to put in a little effort you'll definitely save a lot of money in the long run. And when you need to print that 25 page paper, you'll be printing it out for as little as a penny a sheet.

More than likely you have a printer in your room. Typically the most popular brand of printers I can think of are those by HP. There the ones that have the scanner, printer, and maybe fax (which is growing out of use) AKA ALL-IN-ONES. If you do have one of those printers, than you shopped smart. I'm sure you got it at a discount price. However, you probably didn't know, that you can probably squeeze a little more out of your printer by just using some software.

What is the difference between inkjet and laserjet printers? If you have one of those HP printers I mentioned, your using an ink based printer. Typically these printers will give you a nice quality print, but at the same time, you won't get as many printed pages as you'd like. I'd probably throw in a number like 200 sheets, and that's being generous. Now, one way to maximize the amount of printing your printer can do is to change the settings. Now, no two printers have the same options; they will vary. However these are the general steps.

  1. Click Print (lets say in Microsoft Word)
  2. Select the Printer you are using
  3. Click on Properties
  4. If you thumb around the options, you may find something that says "Normal Draft" or "Fast Draft"
  5. Choose "Fast Draft" and if there are special options for ink saving, select them.

By doing the above steps you can squeeze a tad bit more by printing out slightly less high quality prints. You'll use less ink this way hopefully.

Ink Software

If you want to save more, I suggest you check out InkSaver 2.0. I tried this software a few years ago and it works wonders. The program simply prints your documents lighter than what your printer settings are. For instance, your documents will print and look more faded than normal. However, the material is still readable. I mean, if your printing out scratch material, there's no point to print it in high quality where it uses up all your ink. So I highly suggest InkSaver, you will definitely be able to double your printing abilities with this software. Try it, there's a free trial.

Ink Refill Kits/ Toner Refill Kits

The next best methods is to purchase injectable ink into your cartridge. Now this process is a little more messy, but I personally have not tried it. Since I haven't, I can't provide any recommendations. A few folks whom I asked have expressed that this process is a little bit messy, so you might want to think about this method before you use it. You can also purchase refillable toner kits that can also save you money. Again, these are somewhat messy methods and their quality I can't assure.

Third Party Ink and Toner

Your printer maker, whether its HP, Dell or Lexmark, produce their very own ink for their own printer brand. However, you don't have to buy the name brand ink or toner products from them. There are actually other companies out there who sell similar generic branded ink and toner for a fraction of the name brand cost. From my experience I've been fortunate enough to buy my printers toner for about $26.00, while it's name brand counterpart is around $60.00. A great place to buy cheaper ink or toner is .

Laserjet Printers

The most cost effect method is to buy a laserjet printer. They are different from inkjet printers. Laserjet printers are built for mass printing, especially for stuff in black and white. You've probably seen laserjet printers, there those large bulky printers you see in offices. Fortunately, you can buy them in smaller compact sizes to fit in your room. I would highly recommend buying one of these as I have been using mine for 3 years now. My laserjet printer can usually output on average around ~700 pages or so.

How to Print for Free

If you are super cheap and need to print that colored 30 page TPS report out, then you might benefit by trying to trick out. Honestly, I don't recommend you using this method. I'll leave the honesty at the door. Just to note, University Ninja doesn't endorse this method. I'm just telling you for your own knowledge.

Buy a printer at local store like Office Depot or Staples. Make sure to keep the receipt. Also make sure to ask about their return policy. How long do you have? or Is there a restocking fee? Usually there isn't one. Take the printer home, gently take it out and use it. After you're done, return it. Its that simple. Most of them don't ask why your returning it. If you do get asked, just tell them you didn't like it.

How I Print a sheet of paper for a few cents

  1. Buying Paper: I buy my paper from Staples whenever they have a special deal. Sometimes Staples will sell paper for "one cent." The only tradeoff is that you need to use a rebate. Fortunately, Staples make rebates very easy to use. I got my rebate back in about 2-3 weeks. 
  2. Buying a Laserjet Printer: I own a HP 1018 Monochrome Laserjet Printer. Find one on Google. They look like their going for around $80.00. You might be lucky to find them cheaper with a rebate. I initially got mine from around $40.00 when there was a rebate available.
  3. Buying Laserjet Toner: I go to to buy my toner. I always get the generic brand which has not failed me yet. Toner Link
Using some very generous math, lets say you can print about 1000 sheets with toner that cost about $25 dollars. Each sheet will cost about $.03 cents each. Not too shabby.

Tip: When you're toner starts to print missing sections, make sure to take it out and shake the cartridge. Put it back in and voila, you'll get another 20-30 sheets out of it.

Let us know if you have better strategies or suggestions.