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How to Reduce Printing Costs for Individuals and Businesses

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As our digital world continues to grow and evolve, it’s easy to assume that the traditional printed page could disappear altogether. Yet, the hum (and occasional rumble) of printers remains a familiar soundtrack in both homes and corporate offices across the world.

While our heavy reliance on physical documents keeps the act of printing alive in both our personal and professional lives, the associated costs can often escalate quickly… and inconspicuously.

The good news is whether you’re a student trying to cut costs on assignments, a remote worker preparing for a presentation, or a business leader looking to enhance everyday efficiencies, this article will walk you through top strategies to help reduce printing costs across home and corporate print environments.

Cost Saving Strategies for the Individual Printer

Tip #1: Go Paperless Whenever Possible

In today’s digital age, there are plenty of solutions available to help reduce the need for hard copies. Embracing digital storage, sharing, and collaboration tools will help reduce printing costs. 

Cloud Storage: Platforms like Google Drive, Dropbox, and Microsoft OneDrive allow you to store, share, and access your documents from any device, eliminating the need for physical copies.

Online Collaboration Tools: Use platforms like Google Workspace, Microsoft Teams, or Slack for collaborative work, which can reduce the need to print and share physical documents.

Digital Signatures: e-signature tools like DocuSign or Adobe Sign allow users to sign documents electronically.

Electronic Invoicing and Billing: Opt for e-bills and e-invoices from service providers. Similarly, you can offer electronic billing options to clients. As you do with paperless systems, your customers will appreciate the simplicity of yours.

Digital Notetaking: Utilize tools like OneNoteEvernote, or Google Keep to take notes.

Digital Notebooks & Smart Pens: For those who love the glamor of working with traditional pen and paper, there are also products available to mimic the real thing without the waste. Investing in an iPad or reMarkable 2 may be the steppingstone you need to help transition into the paperless world.

Tip #2: Adopt Mindful Printing Habits 

Can’t go completely paperless just yet? When a hard copy is necessary, you can still reduce your spend on print by adopting more mindful print habits.

Only print what you need: Everyone is either guilty of, or knows someone that’s guilty of, printing out an entire webpage or document, only to keep one page and recycle the rest. Instead of printing everything upfront, select only the content you need. Tools like PrintFriendly.com make it easy to format online content (articles, recipes, etc.) more efficiently, so you can easily cut out clutter before you print.

Digital proofreading: Always review your document on-screen before sending it to the printer. Catching errors before printing can save ink, paper, and the need for reprints.

Optimize Page Layouts: Adjusting the margins, font size, and line spacing on your document can help fit more content onto a single page.

Print in Black and White (B&W): Printing in color consumes significantly more ink than black and white. Whenever possible, choose the monochrome option for text rich documents. Reserve color printing for graphics and more impactful print jobs.

Use Draft Mode: Consider using the “draft mode” on your printer. This setting uses less ink and prints faster, making it perfect for less critical documents or personal use.

Double-Sided Printing: Cut your paper usage (and costs) in half by printing on both sides! You can configure your printer settings to print double-sided by default. 

Tip #3: Save on Equipment & Supplies

Invest in a High-Quality Printer: While it may seem counterintuitive, investing in a more expensive printer can actually save you money in the long run. Higher-quality printers tend to be more efficient, offering a lower per-page cost and longer lifespan.

Device Maintenance: Regular device maintenance can extend the life of your printer and prevent unnecessary waste by ensuring it continues to run efficiently. Preventative care recommendations may vary across different makes/models so be sure to refer to the user manual specific to your device for proper guidelines.

Cartridge Care: With inkjet printers, it’s also important to ensure your ink cartridges don’t dry out. Printing a small page at least once a week can actually help prolong the longevity of the cartridge. 

Don’t Replace Your Cartridge Prematurely: It’s helpful to note that the “low ink” warning is not always an indicator that the cartridge needs to be replaced immediately. As with the low fuel warning light on a car, you still have gas left in the tank, but will need to prepare to stop for a refill soon. 

Buy Compatible or Refilled Ink Cartridges: Purchasing compatible or refilled ink cartridges from reputable third-party vendors can be significantly cheaper than original manufacturer cartridges. However, it’s important to remain cautious with extremely cheap alternatives, as they may compromise your printer’s performance.

Cost Saving Strategies for Office Printers

Tip #1: Create a Print Policy

It’s standard practice for companies to implement policies to govern employee processes across the organization. Whether concerning how the company will manage PTO or who should receive access to confidential information, these policies create a standard that can be referred to for quick decisions.

The same is applicable when implementing a print policy. By setting guidelines on printer usage (e.g. using draft mode for non-essential documents), companies can influence user decisions to help significantly reduce ink and paper consumption. 

Tip #2: Monitor Usage

You can’t manage what you can’t measure is especially true when it comes to managing a company’s print environment, as you need to be able to identify areas of waste before you can address them. 

Employing print usage monitoring software (such as Papercut or uniFLOW) can help provide insight into a company’s printer usage by collecting usage data across different functions, departments, employees, and locations. Over time, it will become easy to identify usage patterns across multiple devices – who is printing, the types of documents being printed, and if the appropriate printer (desktop or copier) is being used.

Taking the time to monitor and analyze this data will help you determine if any further action should be taken to optimize your print environment.

Tip #3: Consolidate Printers

It’s common to see multiple desktop printers floating around an office building. It’s easy to see why this happens – employees don’t want to walk over to the shared multifunction copier to pick up documents and they may be concerned about printing confidential information on a shared device. The easy solution is to get an inexpensive inkjet printer for their desk. However, the cost per page ends up being significantly higher than printing on a modern shared copier, and that’s without considering the added cost of service and support.

It’s far more cost efficient for companies to invest in a few high-quality shared devices (multifunction printers or copiers) and have them strategically placed around the office.

Additionally, organizations that continuously monitor their print environments can leverage printer usage data to make more strategics decisions as to which device models are needed in which areas. Also known as optimizing or right-sizing your print environment, it’s important to ensure that current devices are in the right place to meet your organization’s needs.

For example, let’s say your company owns ten printers, but only two of the printers closest to the marketing department are being used in high capacity. This could indicate the need to upgrade those two devices to handle the current volume more efficiently and potentially remove devices that aren’t being used.

Tip #4: Implement Secure Print Release

How many times have you witnessed unclaimed documents at the office printer copier station? These unclaimed print jobs usually make their way from the output tray to a nearby counter before eventually ending up in the recycle bin.

With secure print release, jobs are only printed once the user arrives at the device and confirms their identity using their unique code, swipe card, or badge. This can help prevent the unnecessary waste associated with abandoned or accidental print jobs and protect sensitive information from ending up in the wrong hands.

Tip #5: Partner with a Managed Print Service (MPS) Provider

Reducing printing costs isn’t just about cutting expenses, it’s about optimizing operational efficiency on an ongoing basis. And the truth is, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for optimizing a company’s print environment. That’s where managed print services can help.

Of course, managed print services tend to mean different things to different people. In its simplest form, a managed print service plan goes far beyond a service agreement for your devices. It offers a comprehensive approach to optimizing your print environment – providing maintenance, supplies, service, printer usage reporting and ongoing efficiency evaluations in one simple package.

If you’re beginning the process of reducing printing costs and improving efficiency at your company, you may want to consider partnering with a managed print service provider.

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