Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Saving money on printer ink

If you are like me the above picture may represent the number of ink cartridges you go through in the course of a year.  I find myself printing off articles, coupons, decorating ideas, instructions, coloring pages, kids homework and other things on a daily basis.  I do try to only print what I deem absolutely necessary, and still I go through reams of paper like water it seems.  While I've thankfully managed to score some great deals on paper, the major cost of printing is not the paper, it is the ink.

If you find yourself printing more than a few pages a month you might want to look into refilling your own ink cartridges.  I save about 75%  over the cost of purchasing new ink cartridges, and it just takes a couple minutes each time the ink cartridge runs low.  If you have never tried refilling, here are a few tips to consider:

1.  Don't be scared!  It's just black ink, not a snake!  Follow the directions on the refill kit and you should be fine.

2.  Not all printers work well with refills.  I use a HP printer and mine does just fine.  You'll just have to try it with your printer and see if it works.  Do some research on the internet for your particular printer, and see if others have any tips.

3.  Don't overfill.  If ink overflows the top of the cartridge slowly pull some back into the syringe.  Always better to underfill than overfill.

4.  Don't let the cartridge dry out - refill as soon as the printer starts running out.  Drying out will ruin the cartridge and then you'll have no choice but to purchase a new one.

5.  Check for a store that offers ink refilling.  Once in a while Walgreens in my area will run a one-day special, offering to refill an ink cartridge for $1.  Even I can't refill my own cartridges for that cheap!  Even their everyday refill price is less than purchasing a new cartridge.

6.  Set your default printer setting to draft, that way you save ink on every page.  The draft setting works just fine for 95% of what I print out - including coupons.  If I need to print something that I need to look professional, I change the setting to "normal," or "best" just for that document, then change it back to draft.

7.  Cartridges can usually be refilled between two and 10 times.  They will eventually reach the point where you have to just shell out money for a new cartridge.  Consider either recycling them (most schools have recycling programs) or turning them in yourself and earn some cash.  For example, I get $2 in Staples rewards for each ink cartridge I turn in.  Payment is sent out quarterly (I believe it's quarterly anyway) in the form of a Staples Reward certificate, which is just like money that you can spend at that same store.

8.  Once you are saving money refilling your own ink cartridges, start looking around for good deals on paper!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Say "Cheese!"

Today's money-saving idea comes from my favorite sister-in-law Debra:

Here are a couple of ideas that might be new to someone out there:

Did you know you can freeze milk?  The lower fat milks freeze best for longer times.  Whole milk ought to be used within 2 weeks.  To use frozen milk, just let it thaw (on the counter is how we do it), shake it well, and drink or use as desired.  We like it best when it still has ice slushies in it - YUM.  Anyway, freezing milk helps me limit my trips to the grocery store and thus save money.  I also get to take advantage of sales on milk this way.  Try it!

You can also freeze cheese.  Shredded cheese or stick cheese are naturals for freezing!  Just plonk them in and use them within a year or so.  I do like to buy my shredded cheese in bulk and divide it into quart or sandwich bags before I freeze it.  That way, I just get out what I will use right away and the rest stays fresh frozen. 

Block cheese freezes beautifully and can keep for about a year in the freezer.  When you freeze block cheese, there is a trick to getting it to not crumble when thawed.  Make sure you thaw it in the fridge instead of on the counter.  That is the big secret.    Now you can take advantage when cheese goes on sale and stock up for later!  BTW, I have frozen all kinds of cheese successfully from cream cheese (thaw completely, then stir it well to restore creaminess - or use without stirring for cooking) to Monterrey jack, cheddar, parmesan, Mexican cheese blends, etc.  I have NOT tried American cheese.  We don't like it, so I've just not tried freezing it.  Has anyone else?