That Printer Ink Cartridge Costs What?!

That Printer Ink Cartridge Costs What?!One of the things I miss most about my old day job is the free printing.  I’m not kidding either.  Even though we live in a digital age, I still find myself printing out a ton of documents nearly every single day.  I print out everything from contracts to shipping labels and everything in-between.  At my old job, there were three laser/color printers within 25 feet of my desk.  I was in heaven.

I know you’re not supposed to use company resources for personal use but no one I know really follows that.  In fact, I would always save all my personal printing for work and it was part of the four hours a day I spent not working.  But now, all that has changed.  And even though I don’t have free access to a laser printer anymore, I still have just as much stuff to print.

I Forgot How Expensive Ink Is

I have a standard HP Office Jet printer that I bought from Costco five years ago and it still works very well.  It’s an all in one with scanner, fax(what’s that??), and of course printing.  I primarily use it for scanning and printing though since I don’t even own a home phone line.

All that ‘work printing for my job’ enabled me to get by on a couple cartridges I bought a few years back.  But when my ink ran out the other day, I went online and typed in to Google: “HP 74 XL Ink Cartridge”.  The first result was directly from the HP website so I clicked on it and the price was $41.99!  Alright obviously I’m not going to buy ink from HP, that would be like going to the dealership to get your car fixed.  But even good ol’ reliable Amazon had a pretty high price at $34.17.

Time to Get Creative

I did a bunch of searching and the best price I could find was for seller refurbished cartridges on eBay.  I bought 2 black cartridges(74XL) and 1 color cartridge(75XL) for $10.65 with free shipping and no tax.  That’s about $3 a piece since color cartridges are usually more expensive.  The black ink cartridge was 10x cheaper than the cheapest price that I found on Amazon.  WOW!

I think these cartridges are so cheap because the companies that sell them ship off old cartridges to China and fill them up with ink there and then send them back to the US and sell them for dirt cheap.  It’s a smart business model if you ask me because they’re able to undercut US ink cartridges by 10x.  That’s just ridiculous.  Why would anyone buy a regular cartridge?

Quality of Cartridges

I know some people will probably tell me how much better quality the HP cartridges are but honestly, I bet they come from the same factory in China!  And there’s no way they’re 10x better.

That being said, the HP ink cartridges may be higher quality and they may last longer but the physical quantity of ink in both cartridges is definitely the same.  And I’ve found that there are actually some things you can do to make your ink last longer regardless of whether you buy manufacturer or refurbished cartridges.

In order to extend the life of your cartridge it’s all about preventing your ink from drying.  When the ink dries, it becomes useless and can really cut into the life of your cartridge.  Here are some tips for making your ink last longer:

  • Avoid extreme temperatures – Printer ink can be a little sensitive and hot more so than cold can make the ink evaporate and dry up faster.  Try to leave your printer in a nice cool or shaded place.
  • Turn on and off your printer manually – On most printers, when you manually turn off the printer, the cartridges are parked in a spot where they are exposed to less air.  So by turning on your printer only when you need it, you’re effectively extending the life of your cartridge.
  • Print at least once a week – You might not think that printing ink would save you ink.  But if you don’t use your printer for a few weeks, the ink will start to dry up and leave less ink for printing.  Try to print at least one page a week to keep the ink fresh and prevent the cartridge from drying up.

Readers, are there people that actually spend $40 on a black ink cartridge?  Can’t you get a new printer for about the same price these days?  What do you think about my eBay solution that’s 10x cheaper?

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-Harry @ PF Pro

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Hi, I'm Harry, the owner and head writer for Your PF Pro. I started this site back in 2011 in order to create a place where young professionals could come and get all of their financial questions answered. On the site, you'll find articles on everything from asset allocation for retirement to saving money at Chipotle! So enjoy..

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Comments

    • says

      No problem Todd, at $40 per cartridge I can see why you would postpone buying ink. I literally don’t think I could bring myself to pay that much haha. I’d just never print again.

  1. says

    Your article just reminded me to order some new color cartridges for our Canon printer. I have tried the aftermarket cartridges, but they messed up my old Epson printer to where I had to buy a new printer, which is the aforementioned Canon. I think ink-jet printers are used as a loss leader by the printer companies, and they make the real money with the ink cartridges. Due to the high cost of ink jet cartridges, I started looking around for black and white laser printers with relatively low cost consumables. I decided to get a Brother laser printer after reading reviews and user comments on bogleheads.org. Since we also had an aging scanner, I decided to get a laser printer with built-in scanning, copying, and printing. Laser toner cartridges are less than $50 each for supposedly 2,700 printed sheets.

    So now we have a laser printer for b/w prints and an inkjet for color. In the long run, it should save a lot on the cost of consumables.
    Bryce @ Save and Conquer recently posted…Networking to Help Our Niece Get a JobMy Profile

    • says

      Yea I thought about going laser but I’ve had pretty good luck with these aftermarket cartridges. You’re probably right about printers being sold at a loss then companies making money off the ink though. I know in my industry(aerospace) a lot of planes/parts are sold at a loss and then we make all our money in aftermarket selling $3,000 bolts.

      A lot of companies are popping up though and offering the same bolts for a few hundred and they’re just as good as ours. I think that’s what’s going on here..

  2. says

    If you can ever spare the money for a color laser printer, and one of a GOOD caliber, not a crappy one, I recommend. I hate inkjet with a passion, essentially because inkjet ink is more per gallon than gas. I owned a color laser printer, a cheap one, which I wouldn’t recommend–the color was terrible! so I now print the occasional photo at work. I will say that a color laser still has trouble with purples with the limits of CMYK laser toner.

    At my old job, we had a beautiful color Konica copier/printer that was connected to my computer and right next to my desk. I’d print the occasional personal color print and love it. I have color laserjet access now, but to a much smaller HP printer so although I never printed my own color novel at my previous job, I definitely can’t now, lol, as this thing has slow print speed.
    Tara @ Streets Ahead Living recently posted…How I Play the Rewards Card Balancing ActMy Profile

    • says

      Yea I think a laserjet might be the way to go for b and w. I rarely print color to be honest and even when I do it’s not really necessary. I think I’m going to add that to my registry list! haha

  3. says

    It is absolutely mind blowing how expensive ink really is. I have been in that situation as well where you go from getting free printing at work to having to pay for it yourself. And, needless to say, it is no fun. It can add up really quick, and can burn a hole through your wallet if you are not careful.

    Another way to save on ink is to buy refillable cartridges. Often times the cartridge will make it a bit more expensive. Buying refillable cartridges can potentially save you a lot of money as well.

    • says

      Haha yea it truly is. I’m back working now so I’ve got free printing again btw haha.

      I haven’t tried refillable cartridges but I think that’s definitely a good solution. I know Costco has cheap refills but you have to make sure you don’t let the cartridge dry out.

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