Slash Your Small Business Printing Costs

Posted July 24, 2015

Reportedly, one of the biggest expenses for small businesses after office rent and the employee payroll is printing. It may seem hard to believe, but buying paper, ongoing printer maintenance and wasted prints can account for a substantial amount of costs.

The Guardian claims that unnecessary printouts and inefficient machines cost the Brits more than £15bn every year (or roughly 23 billion in U.S. dollars). That's a lot of money going straight into the waste paper basket. The U.S. government alone wastes more than $440 million dollars of the $1.3 billion dollars it spends every year on printing.  

Obviously those numbers will be far less for a small business, but why throw money away when reducing those costs is easy if you make just a handful of changes. Printing less and changing behaviors saves money for your small business, and it increases your "green" image. You'll feel good about it, and so will your customers.

5 Ways to Lower Printing Costs

1. Lease a Printer

There's no denying that printers are essential, but they can eat budgets as quickly as they eat pristine sheets of A4. Old printers, in particular, can prove costly, functioning inefficiently and requiring frequent repairs. It makes sense to replace tired machines with newer, more efficient models.  They're designed to use less ink and include power save modes, thus keeping the costs down.

Even better, however, is to lease a printer from a third party. You get your pick of economical machines with the very latest high tech specs, but you can also enjoy maintenance at a fixed cost that eliminates nasty financial surprises. Whether you need network printers, large format, or even a 3D printer, leasing is an attractive option.

small business printing tips

2. Set Basic Printer Options

Some offices around the world frown upon printing so much as an email, let alone forgetting to tick the two-sided-printing box. Initiating a few simple, basic printing rules is a quick and easy way to both cut costs and to ensure that the workforce contributes to the effort.

Rule number one: do not print unless absolutely necessary. Nearly 20 percent of prints are unnecessary, forgotten, or simply tossed in the trash. Enforcing a policy that prompts employees to think twice before pressing print is an easy way to cut costs. Spread the message further; have employees add a line next to their email signature asking recipients not to print the email.

Rule number two: ask staff to set up inbox folders so that they can file emails digitally. Half of the reason we print is to keep information handy, but an inbox folder (or one stored elsewhere on the network) makes documents easily retrievable and provides safer storage.

Rule number three: if you must print, keep a scrap paper box. Reuse any non-confidential prints as scrap paper rather than going directly into the recycle bin. You are recycling, right?

3. Don't Print in Color

A substantial number of the documents we print do not need to be set for full color. This can increase the costs significantly. Consider this: NPR reported that at $4,731 per gallon, printer ink costs more per unit than vintage champagne.

It stands to reason, therefore, that printing in greyscale will save a great deal of money. However, we don't always remember to go into the printer settings and select the black-and-white button, so you may need to help employees take up this habit. Otherwise, if it's possible to do so, change the settings centrally so that all prints are automatically set to black and white. Also, ensure that logos and signatures appear in a print-friendly greyscale.

Laser printers are generally more economical than inkjet, in terms of the number of prints you can get from them. So if you must print in color, consider a laser printer.

4. Offer Employee Incentives

Everyone loves a bit of gamification to make the working day that little bit more enjoyable; so why not employ a few techniques in your attempt to cut printing costs? New printers should include a printer log feature, which reveals who's printed what—managers could check to see which member of staff has kept their color printing and/or their printing in general to a minimum. Why not award some type of perk to those who sustain their print-free existence? Or reward the team that collectively becomes paperless?

5. Ink-friendly Fonts

Not many people know that certain fonts consume more ink than others. It took a 14-year old boy to show the U.S. government it could save $400 million a year if it switched to Garamond; he worked out that ink makes up 60 per cent of the cost of a print. Businesses can try this same tactic, using thinner, printer-friendly fonts such as Times New Roman, Calibri and Century Gothic. Yes, using the right font can actually save you money. It makes sense to have employees use a less ink-intensive font.

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to reduce your printing costs. Try just a couple and you'll be amazed at the savings.

Tom Chapman is a content specialist at Vertical Leap and wrote this article on behalf of Hardsoft.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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