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June 22, 2012

How to Buy that Over-Priced Ink

Filed under: Main — admin @ 12:01 am

Printers are cheap! Ink is expensive. So expensive, I don’t need to tell you. The entire Ink Refill On-The-Cheap industry proves it. Hell, printer ink is probably the most expensive liquid substance you can buy. But that’s not my topic.

I confess that I buy brand-name ink. Yep, I overpay for that HP ink and toner for my HP printers. Lots of money, down the drain. I expect it, so I don’t gripe about it that much.

Okay, I do gripe about it, but during the buying process this week I pondered a more reasonable question:

Do I buy the color ink cartridges individually or in a package?

It’s a serious question. For example, when you go to the grocery store, do you buy all the groceries you need at once every time, or do you just re-stock?

In my color inkjet all-in-one silly printer, there are five ink cartridges.

Yep: Five.

There are the traditional color cartridges: Cyan, Yellow, and Magenta. Then there are two black cartridges. There is a skinny black cartridge and a fat black cartridge.

Why are there two black cartridges? They both have the same color ink, right? Maybe they just want you to double-down on black ink. Whatever.

When I go to buy replacement ink, I have many choices. Primarily, I can buy the all-in-one package, which retails for $50 at Staples. Or I can buy each ink cartridge individually for $18 a piece.

Using the consumer math you avoided learning in High School, that means that you can save $22 by purchasing the $50 package that contains the four ink cartridges. But should you?

Most modern printers have an ink meter. You can summon the meter from the printer’s control panel. On my HP PhotoSmart printer (which I bought because it’s the only Bluetooth printer they had), the LCD control panel graphically shows the ink level in all five of the ink cartridges.

If the Cyan ink cartridge is low, mostly because I’m going through my “Blue” photography phase, then why should I pay the $50 to replace all the carts when I can pay only $18 to replace the Cyan cart? Of course, that further implies that later I’ll have to pay $36 to eventually replace the Yellow and Magenta carts, plus another $18 to replace either one of the Black ink carts.

Aw, well, too hell with it: Just pay the $50 and replace all the carts and get it over with, right?

Still, I hate throwing out that expensive ink. So I bought the carts individually, figuring I’d save money. Or did I?

Maybe it’s just cheaper to throw out the printer when the ink runs dry and buy another printer. That may actually save money in the long run.

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