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How to Save on Paper and Printing Costs

Saving paper will save your home business money and save a few trees too!


When it comes to paper, don’t just recycle--reduce and reuse too--and save on paper and printing costs. Keep in mind that every time you use the printer you are not just spending money on paper but on toner and ink too. So when you save on paper, you save on printer cartridges too. And in all, you also create a more eco-friendly home office.

I know it sounds a bit simplistic, but to save on paper, print less stuff. However, it takes some discipline and rethinking to put this into practice. Try these 12 tips and spend less on paper and toner.

1. Get to know your printer.


Learn how to use your printer more effectively to save on paper. Before printing, choose "print preview" to check if one line is going to cause another whole page to print.

Don't just blindly hit OK when the print dialogue box pops up. See if you can reduce the print range to the pages you need. If you really only need to pages 2 and 3, don't print 1 and 4 too. You can also highlight only the text you need and choose "print selection." This is particularly useful when printing from websites because you can eliminated the ads.

If you have difficulty printing, clear your printer queue once you've fixed the problem. That way your printer won't spit out the six attempts you made before you figured out you were out of paper!

2. Use a tablet or e-reader.

If you are printing documents because it is easier or more convenient to read them on the go, consider investing in a tablet or e-reader. You can use them to read Word documents and PDFs and even make notes in them in many cases, but when you're done there is not paper to recycle.


3. Take notes, and bookmark web pages.

When viewing a website, jot down important information rather than printing a whole page just for a phone number or address. You can also copy and paste information into a Word document or other organizing software like Microsoft OneNote. Or, if it is something you want to keep for future reference, simply bookmark it. (Keep your bookmarks organized in folders so you can find it later.)

4. Proofread carefully!

Be sure to check your work before you hit print. But if you do find a mistake, hit cancel quickly, so you only have one misprinted page. If the whole document prints before you find the error, only reprint the page with the error, not the whole document.

5. Send electronic invoices to clients.

This will save on postage too. Don't print out a hard copy for your records either. File them electronically on your computer (but be sure to back up your records!). While you're at it, request paperless statements for your bills, and make your office as paper-free as possible.

6. Share documents online with free online office tools.

Use these free online office tools to send and receive documents via the web. These can be downloaded and filed on your hard drive or left online so you and your clients or coworkers can each make changes without ever using a piece of paper.

7. Put your fax machine in storage.

Send and receive documents as PDFs rather than a faxes. The quality is better, and it's a lot easier, particularly if you don't have a second line for the fax. And if you do have a second line, it's a lot cheaper because you can get rid of that monthly bill. But hang on to your fax machine, just in case

8. Use email more; print it less.

Writing effective email is an important skill for a telecommuter, but a good filing system for email is almost as important. If filed and backed up on your hard drive or online, emails will very rarely require printing. Set up folders in you email client and have your email automatically sorted. You won't just save on paper; you'll save on time too.

9. Adjust your margins.

Use wider margins, smaller font and closer line spacing to get more to a page. Along these same lines, one tip for saving on printer ink cartridges is to use the "draft" quality setting or gray scale when printing.

10. Enjoy family pictures in a digital photo frame.

I long ago abandoned the practice of printing family photos. I prefer to view a large volume of rotating pictures in my digital frame rather than the few that I might have chosen to put in an album. And frankly I just don't have time to put them in a photo album. This way I see my pictures pictures all the time, i.e., while I'm sitting at my desk, working on homework with the kids, cleaning up, etc., not just wne I pull out the photo album.

11. Print on both sides of the paper.

This may mean setting up for a two-sided print job (sometimes called "duplex printing"), which could be a little more time consuming but really not that difficult (especially if you've gotten to know your printer as recommended in #1).

This can also mean putting a new print job on the reverse of old paper. Fill the paper tray with old mistaken printings or the fliers that come out of the kids’ folders, taking care that they are facing the right way. After it is finished printing, flip your document over to the wrong side and mark a line through it, so that in the future you won’t waste time turning it over to find the right side.

While obviously you don’t want to use this technique for something you’d send out to clients, it works well for internal documents or kids’ projects that will be glued to a poster board. 

12. Reuse old paper.

Despite our household's best efforts to save on paper, we still have an awful lot of it around the house. Whenever possible, reuse paper. Not only can you print on the back side, as explained above, but you can use it for many other purposes:
  • Cut it in half to make scrap paper for lists. (Cutting it keeps it from getting mixed up with current documents, but you can also just mark a line through it.)
  • Staple it together to form scrap-paper notebooks.
  • Give it to the kids for drawing or scratch paper for math homework.
  • Shred it to make packing materials.
  • If you use electronic bill pay, save the return envelopes that come in your bills and use them to send in the kids’ lunch money or to organized small items.
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