Fire up your printers, darlings! Anita writes:
Thank you for your new blog and for being pretty.
I assume there’s a better way than paying $25 for an ink jet cartridge at Staples? Can you enlighten me as to what that way is? I assume there must be generic ink jet cartridges out there that are comparable in quality to the name brands?
I’m not sure that anyone’s ever thanked me for being pretty, before. I like it. I like it way more than the cost of ink cartridges, if you must know. Then again… I like liver more than I like the cost of ink cartridges.
Remember back when we had those dot-matrix printers that took the gigantic striped paper with the holes all along the sides? No? Did you just call me old? Hmph. You kids today, I tell you what. Why, back in my day—
Huh? Oh! Right! Ink cartridges!
Basically, you have three options when it comes to putting ink into your printer.
- You can buy the brand-name cartridges for your specific printer. This has the advantage of pretty much always working correctly with a minimum of hassle, but the disadvantage of sometimes requiring you to take out a second mortgage to pay for your ink.
- You can buy generic cartridges. This has the advantage of being cheaper than brand-name, but the hassle factor can be higher. Plus, depending on what, exactly, you’re buying, it may not be of as good quality as the cartridges made specifically for your model printer.
- You can refill your existing cartridge via ink injection. This is the most cost-effective option, as well as the most likely to cause aggravation.
Let’s work our way backwards through the options, starting with injection refills. I think this article is a nice, even-handed analysis of the pros and cons of doing refills. They ultimately concluded that it’s a good option if you’re looking to save some money, although I must say I was given pause, in particular, by this:
Spilling or leaking ink, overfilling the ink reservoir, and damaging the print nozzle are potential problems. These problems are less likely to occur if you follow the instructions that accompany the kit. Lower ink quality and poor printing results are the primary concerns after you refill a cartridge. By law, manufacturers cannot void a printer warranty based on the brand of ink you choose. An additional challenge comes from changing technology. Some Epson cartridges contain a built-in chip that can detect a re-used cartridge and block the printer from using it. You can, however, purchase chip-reset tools that work around this problem.
Yes, after I’ve bought the kit to save myself some money, I’d like to run out and buy a chip-reset tool. I also plan to smash my head against the desk repeatedly, while doing so, just to make sure that I’m really getting the maximum amount of enjoyment out of the whole thing.
So, yeah. Read the article; they’re less biased than I am. I’m not interested in doing my own refills (although I might consider using a refill store). If I want to spill ink everywhere, all I have to do is pick up a pen.
What about a generic cartridge? That’s a great option, if you can find one that fits your printer, at a price you’re happy to pay. My printer is sort of old and (apparently) not all that popular, so I’ve not had much luck finding generics for it. Hope springs eternal, though. I know that Target and other places carry generics right alongside the name-brands, so by all means, compare.
By now you’ve figured out that my choice is to stick with the manufacturer’s recommended cartridges for my printer. I’m a snob that way. So how do I do it without breaking the bank?
Remanufactured. Do you know this big, scary word? Do not be afraid! Guess what it means, when we’re talking about inkjets. It means they took an empty cartridge and refilled it with ink. They spilled it on their desk, and they worried about whether or not there was any chip that needed resetting. Lovely! Now it comes to you as—for all intents and purposes—a brand new cartridge, and it comes with a lower price tag and a guarantee, to boot. Remanufactured is a great option to save a few bucks.
Inkjet discount sites. Go do a Google search for discount inkjet cartridges. I’ll wait. Oh, you’re back! I can see by the way your brain exploded out of the top of your head that you were a bit overwhelmed by the choices. That can happen, for sure.
I’ve used this site before, and probably my new favorite is ASAP Inkjets, not the least of which because they are offering free shipping on all orders right now. You get exactly what you need at a significant savings. What’s not to love?
Great coupons at office supply stores. This one is more hit-or-miss, but patience pays off. Stores like Office Depot and Viking (which, oops, looks like Viking is Office Depot, now) will sometimes offer a fabulous online coupon, like $20 off any order or somesuch. Whenever I see one of those, I snap it up and head straight for the ink. (Wow, that sounds dirty. You know what I mean.)
You have to decide what works for you; what works for your sensibilities, and what works for your budget. The only thing I can tell you for certain is that there is no reason to pay full price, ever. There are plenty of lower-cost options. And full price is for suckers and people who don’t listen to me.