How to Save Big Bucks on Printer Ink Cartridges

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This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure statement for more details.

A few years ago, my husband and I found a great deal on a wireless Brother printer/fax/scanner combo (similar to this one). We’ve been pretty happy with it. I love the wireless, although it occasionally has some connectivity issues, and it’s so nice to have my own scanner for old pictures and contracts.

But when it came time that the issued ink ran out and we needed to buy new … my heart sunk. I worked at the college bookstore for 4 years and I remembered the steep prices of those tiny boxes of ink that hung behind the counter.

The whole reason we had basically stopped using a printer for years was the high cost of ink cartridges.

Well, I decided I might as well see if the prices were any lower on Amazon. And was stopped in my tracks when I saw a pack of four cartridges—all three colors and a black—for about $4.

Was it too good to be true? Well, over the past three or four years, I’ve NEVER paid more than $6 for this 4-pack of cartridges and NEVER had any problem with the ones I’ve purchased. At $4, it was worth it to me to take the risk that they wouldn’t work at all. And I’ve not been disappointed.

Now, I don’t think I would go printing pictures with these refurbished pieces. But for printing your basic forms, coupons, contracts, and whatnots, it works just fine for me.

Let’s do some cost comparison, shall we?

  • If I bought the four catridges for my printer [Brother MFC-490CW] at BestBuy.com, it would cost me $54.98. At the current Amazon prices, it would be $29.44. Or I could buy the compatible cartridges for $1.46 and $1.99 shipping for a grant total of $3.45. That’s a 94% savings off the Best Buy price!
  • Now, not ALL printer ink is as cheap as mine. Let’s say I have an Epson Workforce 545. I could pay $66.48 from Epson.com for the three colors and black or slightly less from Amazon. Or we could get the compatible cartridges for $21.97, a 67% savings.

How do you find these little gems? Just do an Amazon search for your printer model and the term “non-OEM.” OEM means “original equipment manufacturer.” So you are telling Amazon you want ones that are compatible, not from the printer company. (If you are anti-Amazon, you can just do a Google search and see other online ink suppliers as well.)

So … that is my most sought-after secret. No one wants to know about my old boyfriends, if I partied like a wild child in college, or the time a really cute EMT hauled me out of the Y on a stretcher only half-dressed. They just want to know how on earth I get my printer ink so very cheap.

Do you have an amazing money-saving secret?

Added to Works for Me Wednesday at We Are THAT Family and Thrifty Thursday at Living Well Spending Less. 

Disclaimer: I am NOT promising that your non-OEM cartridges will work. Please don’t come after me if they don’t. But I am saying mine have always been fine.

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42 thoughts on “How to Save Big Bucks on Printer Ink Cartridges

  1. Wow! Thank you! Great tip to buy on Amazon, even cheaper than where I was getting them. I was buying 18 cartridges for about $50, but Amazon is even cheaper! WOO HOO!!! And don’t forget you can recycle the empty cartridges at Staples for a $2 credit for each one. You can also recycle at Office Depot or Office Max but they have restrictions that Staples doesn’t have.

    • Staples has changed it’s policy. You must spend a certain amount on ink every 6 months or they won’t give you the rewards.

      • Yes ,they have made it so very difficult to keep track of, that I do not even bother anymore… used to be a great perk at Staples… not so much anymore… if you forget, or miss by one day, or by a dollar, you lose the reward. Seems like they are doing this on purpose, they do not really want to give the rewards out perhaps?

        • Yes, Staples has made getting their rewards harder. They boast you get 5% back on Everything!!! BUT, if you do not spend enough by the end of the quarter, then they delete the rewards you have accrued thus far. I find that to be very deceptive. I have NEVER spent enough to get any 5% reward at all.

  2. The only problem with this is many of the newer printers now have more sophisticated anti refurbishing stuff in their chips. So if you find that you get printer error messages soon after installing these, that may be the problem. I have used refurbs for years with no problems. I did however have a problem with my big expensive HP all in one eventually. Since it kept getting upgrades from HP when ever I was online and using it, eventually these refurbs did not work in it, kept getting error messages. We went back to the full price factory new ones and voila! it was fine…

    • You could possibly get around this by using the same cartridges and just refilling the ink. INSANELY cheap. Search Amazon for “ink refill”. I paid 15$ for my kit maybe a year ago and I think I will still have ink for another five. I print coupons and am a college student so it isn’t for lack of printing. Now, you may have to reset the digital-thingy on the fancy cartridge to avoid error messages but I just ignore mine and therefore do not get a warning when my ink is going low. No biggie since I always have on hand 😉

  3. Gonna try!! Thanx 4 taking ur time to share this!! (It is greatly appreciated whether it works or not, which I really hope it does work!!) ;*}

  4. THANK YOU!!!! Our printer runs out of ink faster than we run out of groceries and it drives me bonkers! I came across your blog post when I was searching Pinterest for the paper-clip trick to get ink to last longer. I logged on to Amazon, bought the 5 cartridges for under five dollars, got them a few days later and they work great!!!! Thank you thank you thank you!!!

  5. Pingback: How to Save Big Bucks on Printer Ink Cartridges - Money Saving Mom®

  6. Wow. Why did I not know this when I bought ink two months ago! We actually upgraded to a different printer and purposely bought one that would get more prints per cartridge. We went nearly a year before having to replace them. It was nice, before we were replacing every 2-3 months. Why does ink have to be so expensive and why does no one tell you about this. I love saving money. thank you for your post. I am going to save my ink choice in amazon so next time I can save buckoo bucks. Thank you.

  7. Well, I’d really like to hear the “Y” story. lol
    Thanks for the tip, searching Amazon right now.

  8. We have an hp deskjet 995ck and I didn’t find any non-OEM cartridges on amazon when I did my search. Did I miss something?

    • It looks like there are some marked as compatible. Honestly I don’t know if there’s a difference between that and non-OEM. amzn.to/1pGyB4R

  9. Not a fan of the refurbished cartridges. Be careful as they can ruin your printer. There are many ways that u can save ink when printing by changing the print properties. This is the easiest way to save ink. Also, Staples will not take the non-OEM cartridges in for recycle, just am FYI. If you don’t know how to change your printer properties, just Google it! Good luck!

    • We used to refill our cartridges on our older printer, but when we bought our newer Epson xp-400, we tore it up buying off brand cartridges from Amazon. .

      • I bought the refurbished ink cartridges and used them somewhat successfully on my HP printer. It recognized the non eom cartridges & always gave me a hard time. Eventually I did bypass the error messages & got them to work. With time these cartridges did destroy the print head of two printers. I have since bought a new printer & now only buy the original ink cartridges. I too change my settings to “draft” and that saves me ink & keeps me from buying ink so often. I am not against reburshished/ non eom cartridges, if they work, why not use them. I just didn’t want to take a chance on the brand newl printer.

  10. Our Epson printer recently stopped working for no apparent reason. When I contacted customer support, the first question they asked was if we were using Epson brand ink cartridges (we were). I got the impression that they wouldn’t honor the warranty if we were using off-brand cartridges. Something to consider.

    • Not sure if this is true or not, but my DH said that they can’t not honor a warranty for not using only their brand ink… he said it would be like the chainsaw companies not honoring a warranty on his $800-$1500 chainsaws for not using their brand chainsaw oil. He knows his chainsaws, but not sure he knows printers! LOL

  11. I got an Epson printer in college and bought off-brand compatible cartridges, and it messed up the printer, as printer companies warn may happen.

  12. Thanks for sharing your secret! Wish I would have read it before we bought ink at Wal-Mart a few days ago! We use a ton of ink at our house.

  13. You can also get cartridges refilled at the photo counter at Walgreens for cheap. Mine only worked a couple times before throwing error messages though.

  14. I also buy generic ink cartridges from eBay & have only had a few that didn’t work (one was a dud from the start & was replaced right away by the seller and 2 others were over a year old… & they say to use them before they are a year old). You don’t have to search for non-OEM in the search & will greatly limit your search results if you do. Just use the printer name & model and you can also search for the printer cartridge name (ex. HP 96). If you don’t know the cartridge name search for your printer by name, check the listing to find out what cartridges your printer takes, & then search by ink cartridge name (I always get a TON of listings for cartridges by cartridge name but not nearly as many by printer name).

    There are oodles of listings for cartridges, including empty cartridges, so be sure they are FILLED cartridges for starters, & I always check off the option on the side of the product being located in the USA only. I don’t want to wait 3-5 weeks for cartridges from China. Also, I will pay a little more (maybe $0.50-1.00) more to buy from a seller who says there is a warranty (I think they usually say 1 year, but it may be 6 mos, etc.). Oh, & also be sure to check the page output the cartridges will print (they are approx., of course) because some of the cartridges will print say 500 in black & some will print 750… and they may even be the same price.

    • Thanks, that’s a lot of good information! You’re right, non-OEM doesn’t always give you the best choice. I’ve found a lot of “compatible” ones, etc.

  15. Oh, thank you! I am going to be looking on Amazon next time around! Just spent close to fifty bucks for ink for our printer…and since we are going to start homeschool this year, I know we will be going through the ink!

  16. Not suggesting everyone run out and buy a new printer but when my Epson stopped working for no apparent reason, I did a ton of research before buying a new one including what brands you could get the cheapest ink for. I ended up with a brother and it was a great decision! Using generic ink has saved me so much money and it works great! No issues with the ink at all.

  17. Canon printers are the cheapest ink. Your printer will quit quick on any ink if you don’t clean the heads regularly. I learned this the hard way! When my dell quits, I am returning to the Canon brand! On ink expire dates: I would ignore them. I am using ink that is over 9 years old. Yes, no joke. I do print regularly.I thought I would try it and it works fine, still using the colored one but just ran out of the black ink. Got a compatable black cartridge.

  18. You are an answer to prayer! Hubby just lost job and we need to print stuff on the cheap. Just ordered 10 cartridges ,delivered tomorrow, under $25.
    BTW I am a mess too, grace is a wonderful thing.

  19. I too have been getting the ink cartridges on Amazon for my Brother printer and they work great!! I would definitely recommend checking Amazon prices for ANYTHING you buy. Not everything has a great deal on Amazon (some things cost DOUBLE the price actually) but if you do a little research, you can find some really great deals (like the ink cartridges). 🙂

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