Re-Print

Don’t blow a bundle on new ink cartridges -- top off the ones you’ve already got

Cheap Shot
To refill a cartridge, punch a hole in the top, inject ink with a syringe, and seal it back up with a label (ink evaporates quickly). A resetter [orange] fools your printer into thinking you've installed a new cartridge.Illustration: Rob Kelly; Photograph: Luis Bruno

I just replaced my inkjet printer, a model I'd bought less than two years ago—not because it broke or because I didn't like the quality, but because it ran out of ink. Sound absurd? I paid $40 for the new printer (which scans and copies too). New ink cartridges for the last one would have cost me $55. Welcome to the economics of inkjet printing: Give away the printers, gouge them on the cartridges.

2 Other Ways to Save Money On Ink
Continuous-Ink Systems Setting up a continuous-ink system takes a little work, but the tanks can hold as much as 10 times a normal cartridge. Quality varies, so shop around for the best system for your printer model. Off-Brand Cartidges If you don't want to mess around with ink, just look for generic cartridges, which can cost half as much as name brands.Illustration: Rob Kelly; Photograph: Luis Bruno

Luckily, there are a number of cheaper (and certainly less wasteful) ways to thwart that business model. Instead of buying name-brand cartridges, buy generic. Or pick up a kit that lets you refill the empty cartridges, along with a device that breaks the software locks that some printer companies build into cartridges to prevent you from doing so. You can even get a system to continuously feed ink to the printer from large external containers. The process is easy (but messy—rubber gloves are highly recommended), and the quality is fine for printing documents and Web pages. Just keep one set of the good cartridges around and swap them in for making frame-worthy photos.

Web sites that sell cheap ink and accessories abound; check comparecartridges.com and dealink.com for reliable sources, and keep the ink flowing without draining your wallet.