As a speaker and trainer, I have the need to produce high quality color handouts for my audience and students. Unfortunately, this can get expensive real quick, especially if much color is involved. The price of paper, ink and toner can get crazy. Have you priced an ink jet cartridge lately? How about a color laser cartridge multiplied by four. WOW! I did some searching for lower cost alternatives, but the journey got frustrating real quick. Printing in color is not cheap.
I went to my local office supply store, to see what it would cost to have them print color documents for me. The prices ranged from 39 to 69 cents apiece, but I had to buy rather large quantities to get a good price. While this was a fixed cost, I need a variety of documents printed. Printing 100 to 300 copies of a single document just doesn’t scale for me. I looked online, but here again, the prices were reasonably high per letter sized page, and high quantities were involved to bring prices down. Frustrating.
Then I looked at refilling inkjet cartridges and recycled/refilled laser cartridges. The prices were somewhat lower, but warranties were voided and the reviews were disappointing. As a long time computer tech I can tell you there is nothing worse than dealing with 3rd party ink and toner when problems arise.
So what to do?
Option One. Low Cost Inkjet Printing
I went in to my local Staples office supply store and talked with one of their printer specialists. I told him I was looking for low cost color printing options. He showed me different printers, both laser and inkjet. There were all sorts of options, but they all got really expensive when you had to replace ink or toner. Then he mentioned that he had numerous churches and other small businesses that did a lot of printing on a weekly basis. Their best solution was very interesting. It involved three things.
- Buy a higher end multifunction machine from HP, built for higher print volume that works with Instant Ink.
- Sign up for the HP Instant Ink Program
- Buy a two year extended warranty.
At first these sounded like expensive options, but then I did the math.
Here is how it works out.
The initial cartridges are high volume and will give at least a thousand prints. The instant ink program is based on cost per page and can be full color 100% coverage. Once the initial ink that comes with the printer is gone, you sign up for the program and get new high volume cartridges sent to you by mail. You get 300 full color pages per month for $9.95. The extended warranty ensures that the printer will last for at least two years or you get a repaired/new one.
So let’s add everything up.
With initial cartridges and instant ink for two years that gives us 8200 copies.
The cost of the high end multifunction (HP Officejet Pro 8620) was $200 on sale. Two years of instant ink is $240. The extended warranty is $36.
Total cost $476/8200 copies = 5.8 cents per page.
White/colored paper ranges from .5 to 2 cents per page in volume.
Heavier glossy paper or tri fold pages are 3 to 15 cents per page in volume.
Bottom line: Guaranteed low cost color printing for at least two years for under 10 cents per printed page.
Then you still have a machine that will continue printing for $9.95 a month for 300 copies or 3.4 cents/full color page until it dies. The ink jet color prints are sharp and look great. With the extended warranty, if anything goes wrong with the unit in two years, it will be repaired or replaced. These machines go on sale all the time, and often have coupons for additional savings (I saved over $100 on mine). Additionally, the one I bought included a duplex scanner and fax machine.
Option Two. Low Cost B&W Laser Printing
I’ve used this option for years. I just pick up a low cost Samsung or Brother low cost laser printer when they are on sale. For my needs at home the included toner cartridge lasts about one year. I usually buy the printer on Black friday (After thanksgiving) for as little as $50. I’m not sure how many copies this actually makes, but the whole printer costs less than one toner cartridge. When I’m done with the year, I donate the printer or buy a high capacity cartridge($69). This is a nice option to use with your color documents above. Just pre-print your color letterhead, flyer, or brochure and then customize with black text from this printer. Works great for weekly newsletters, bulletins etc.
Option Three: Low Cost Photo Prints.
This is a fantastic option for making low cost full color note cards, business cards, name badges, book marks, daily planners and many other creative items. For my printing needs, I use Costco. Their printing takes just an hour and I can create custom name tents, business cards, and note taking sheets that my audience just loves. I can print out two business cards/sheet. Currently 4×6 glossy or matte prints are 13 cents each. I can customize business cards for each audience, with special QR codes that lead people to an online video or podcast.
To create these cards you can use Photoshop or online programs like PicMonkey. Just create a 4×6 document and create as necessary. Upload online and then pick up from your print store later in the day. Costco has larger sizes too.
Overall: With a little research you can find all sorts of templates for really custom items. If you are a real estate agent, teacher, church administrator, or small business person, I think you’ll love the low cost options above.
Question: What low cost printing options have you found?