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Saving Money on Home Office Printing

written by: Brian Nelson•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 7/7/2011

When you work from a home office, you can't always get someone else to pick up the tab for your supplies. So, when you need pricey inks to refill your printer, do you dare wear non-brand inks? I dared and lived to tell about it.

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    To Use Non-Brand Ink or Not to Use Non-Brand Ink, That is the Question

    OK, let me start by saying that I've had some bad experiences with printers in the past. I swore I would never buy another Brother printer again after some low end black and white laser printer I bought from them ended up with a messed up drum after I had to yank out a paper jam after all else had failed. It seemed to jam all the time, so I said, "Henceforth there shall never be another Brother printer purchased when I have any say about it, stupid, cheap bargain basement knockoff piece of junk." I would read later that being a cheapskate and re-running paper back through your printer was a good way to cause paper jams. Um...oops, my bad.

    Still, there were other incidents with other printers as well, both personally and professionally. As a former high-end computer consultant and contractor, I didn't usually have to get my hands dirty with the printers, but when I was the only IT guy around (that pays real nice) it was on me. I swore vengeance on Lexmark and Okidata so many times that I'm quite sure that virtually everyone who ever worked there is doomed to eternal suffering, though I'm also pretty sure that it cost me and everyone I know souls to get it. Oh well.

    So, I'm the skeptic, the guy scrunching up his eyebrows and doing his "they never learn" head shake at any one who does anything other than buy HP printers and HP ink. But, something happened on the way to the Forum. You see, I'm a professional writer. I have been for some time, but it was just at the beginning of this year that I cut the cord, jumped ship, and parachuted into full-time freelance land. It's a beautiful place and I wouldn't go back for all the gold in Fort Knox. (Well, maybe. I wouldn't have to stay very long, after all. I mean with all that gold. OK, I'll go back for all the gold in Fort Knox.)

    But, there is another side to the coin. I buy the stuff now. Instead of staring down some office supply manager about those brand name inks, I have to pull out my own credit card. Using your own money does something to a man, and I'm willing to try a few things out if I can get a good enough vibe and solid information. Thus, I am the proud owner of a Brother MFC-825CW which I actually like very much. The problem? Super Dooper Woooper "Oh My Dear Sweet Jimminie Cricket Are You Kidding Me?" expensive ink refills.

    And, so with much trepidation (and more so with the knowledge that we have a new color printer), I bit the bullet and tried non-Brother ink refills. Now, if you are going to go the cheap route to save money, you want to go all the way. But, not too far. Ruining a printer is not a savings. So, I did what any self respecting writer does, research.

    That led me to Amazon. I trust them because they let me return stuff and I figure out of all the credit card information they have, the odds of them deciding to use mine for anything shifty is pretty small. I ordered my off-brand inks. They were technically from an Amazon partner, not Amazon itself, but it still seemed fine.

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    The Ink Arrives

    The first thing I did when my ink arrived was to compare it to the "real" ink cartridges. The less differences the better. Survey says? Nicely done, no name, knock-off manufacturer. You can see a couple of structural differences, but nothing to raise any alarms. (The one on the right is the original Brother cartridge.) So, I bit down on a piece of wood (they always do it in the movies if you are doing something painful and don't have access to proper anesthesia) and put the ink into my printer.

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    The Ink Cartridges

    The Inks As They Came PackagedInk Cartridge BoxComparing Cartridges (The brand name is on the right)
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    Results?

    Faboo. Which is my two year old daughter's way of saying fabulous. I wish I could do a before and after shot, but the truth is I was so afraid of using the off brand inks that I waited until the printer flat out wouldn't print any more before replacing the cartridges. But, you can take my word for it that I can't tell any difference, and although I haven't broadcasted this knowledge, I do know that I haven't heard a peep from any clients regarding the quality of our presentation printouts, or deliverables.So, if you are on the hook for your own printer supplies. Give non-OEM inks a try, especially in your non-high end printers. Obviously, this doesn't apply to printing photos where a careful match of ink, paper, and color profiles is necessary, but for regular documents, give it a try.