How I Cut My Printing Costs

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Brother L2340DW

This is the story of how I got tired of feeling ripped off by the cost of printer ink, and finally did something about it.


HP Printer

The HP printer that I had been using for the past several years burned through cartridges quickly. The black cartridge was supposed to be good for 200 prints, and the color cartridge was supposed to be good for 165. I say “supposed to” because I don’t think I ever came close to that number when I was printing in color.

Being an ink jet printer, it was programmed to use color ink – even when printing in black and white. I would go into the printer settings every time I had something to print, and change the setting to black ink only, and every time I would be annoyed that there wasn’t a way to make that the default setting. Clearly this was all a game to use more ink, and I wasn’t winning.

Each time I printed a coupon, I would wonder if I was really saving money by doing so. A couple of the coupon sites that I frequent send coupons straight to your printer, which means those coupons were being printed with color ink. Super frustrating, and I was powerless to do anything about it.

My breaking point came when I burned through a brand new color cartridge in a single day! I was working on a couple projects at the time, but I really hadn’t printed very many pages. In that moment, it became painfully clear just how short of their 165-page claim the cartridges were coming. It was time to move on.

My Solution:

For years, I’d heard couponers rave about Brother laser printers, so I decided to look into them.

Before I spent any money on another printer, I wanted to be sure I wasn’t going to get ripped off again. After a bit of research, I found a model that I liked. It was no more expensive than an ink jet, coming in at around $100, but more importantly, the toner cartridges were reasonably priced, and promised an impressive number of prints.

Brother L2340DW

This is the Brother HL-2270DW that I ended up buying. They now have a newer version, the L2340DW. If you’re looking for a printer with a built-in scanner, they also have Brother DCP-L2520DW.

These toner stats cinched it for me …

The printer comes with a starter cartridge which is good for 700 prints. Once that runs out, you have two options: the TN420 cartridge, which is good for 1,200 pages, or the TN450 cartridge, which is good for 2,600 prints. I can go on Amazon today and buy the small cartridge for $29 and the high-yield cartridge for $45.99 (prices subject to change). That’s pretty comparable to what I was paying for my HP cartridges, but a TON more prints for the money.

My family has now been using this printer since December 2013, and we’ve only had to buy four toner cartridge. When you consider that that’s included printing projects like this one, I think that’s pretty impressive:

Huge Printing Job

How We Hacked our Brother Printer for More Prints:

While our new Brother printer gives us a lot more prints for our money, it still plays that printer trick of telling you that it’s out of ink long before it actually is. In fact, it will actually refuse to print once it thinks it’s out of toner. My husband jumped on Google the first time this happened, and found a quick hack to get it going again. It’s outlined here, and it works perfectly. We’ve now done this twice: once with the starter cartridge and once with the current cartridge.

But What About Color Printing?

Since the Brother HL-2270DW is a black and white printer, we still needed a solution for color printing. While I was testing out our new printer, I just used our old HP for color jobs. It was still as expensive as ever, so I ended up buying an Epson EcoTank printer to handle our color needs.

Epson 4550

Instead of using ink cartridges or toner, it has ink tanks that you fill with a bottle. The model that I own has clear tanks, so you can see when you need to refill them. I love this feature because it means I never run out of ink in the middle of a job.

And since each color has its own tank, you never get stuck replacing an entire cartridge just because you ran out of a single color.

The ink is dirt cheap, too. You’ll pay around $12 for a bottle of colored ink, and $20 for a bottle of black. But the really impressive thing? Each bottle is the equivalent of around 20 ink cartridges! I can currently buy a full round of ink for my printer for $55.30. Figure that the typical HP cartridge costs $45, and it would have cost me $900 to buy the equivalent for my old inkjet printer. Yikes!

Since we print all of our products and packaging ourselves, we went with the Epson ET-4550. It holds more paper and ink, and prints faster than some of the other models. If you don’t need all of those extra bells and whistles, you can pick up an EcoTank for around $280, and that includes two-years worth of ink. Mine came with enough ink to print 11,000 black pages or 8,500 color pages.

We have our B&W printer set as our default, and only use the color printer when we need to. This set up has worked beautifully for us, and I no longer think twice about printing coupons or printables.

If you want to save even more, you can buy off-brand ink for both of these printers. We just ordered a re-manufactured toner cartridge for our Brother this morning for $11.99.

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  1. I was so glad to see this post. I have been searching and searching for an honest review of a laser printer. I had looked at the Brother, but I think now you have decided it for me. Thanks so much.

  2. Glad I was able to help 🙂 It really has been a great printer for us, my only regret is that we didn’t make the switch sooner.

    1. I too have purchased the eco-tank 4550 and I bought it for $250 it was the best thing I ever had unfortunately when I lost it in the house that burned I was unable to replace it with the same item. I have since purchased the eco-tank 2750 model it prints just as well, has a wonderful warranty, uses ink just as sparingly, however it doesn’t have all the features of the 4550 so guard that printer with all your might it’s the best one they made!

      1. Yep, it’s a good one. We recently bought a couple used ones off of eBay as back ups. We use our Eco-Tank to print all of our product labels, so it’s nice to know we have a spare.

  3. Hey just wanted to let you know that I have a cheap HP LaserJet 1100. The cartridges in the past have cost $75 new but sell for around $15 online and usually last me 6mts to a year depending on how much I’m printing. You might want to look for ink on eBay.

    I wrote about saving money on printer ink here.

    1. Good question, Pam. We just kept the HP that we replaced, and we use it for scanning and copies. Since we only use it for that purpose occasionally, a cartridge lasts us a long time.

  4. You can also buy ink and refill your inkjet cartridges. They have a sticker on top of them that you can peel back and find the fill holes, one for a black cartridge and three for a color. The HP I have has large enough holes to use a fairly large syringe needle, but the Canon’s holes are so small only an insulin syringe and needle will work. The HP holes are large enough you can tell on the color cartridges which color goes in which hole. The Canon’s aren’t.

    Fill each hole slowly until the ink overflows, then pull back on the syringe to pull the ink back into the cartridge. When finished, put the sticky label back on tight to keep the ink from running out. I can refill a cartridge several times before it quits working. Saves a bundle.

    1. Hi Stephanie, I absolutely love my B&W brother laser printer. It’s a work horse, and the toner lasts a really long time. They sell a version with a built-in scanner now, if that feature is important to you. Here’s a link to some options.

      I’m less in love with my Brother color laser printer. I actually plan to replace it this month. It just uses toner too quickly, and the replacements are expensive. I’ll be buying an Epson Ecotank this time around. They come loaded with enough ink to last for years, and the replacements are really cheap.

  5. I have the same printer and love it. It started printing poorly so I contacted Brother tech support and they responded very quickly with a solution that worked. So, if it starts printing uneven or dirty and cleaning it doesn’t work, contact them. There customer service is terrific.

    1. I use my Epson to print labels. It can even print on vinyl (waterproof) label sheet that other printers have trouble with, and it’s very economical to print in color. For black and white jobs, like envelopes, it would be a toss up between the Epson and the Brother. They both do a good job.

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