Farhad Manjoo at Slate says your computer printer may be lying to you. He bought a cheap laser printer a couple years ago. When the machine decided it was out of toner, it stopped working. But the last page it had printed looked just fine. Manjoo was puzzled:
I’m a toner miser: For as long as I’ve been using laser printers, it’s been my policy to switch to a new cartridge at the last possible moment, when my printouts get as faint as archival copies of the Declaration of Independence. But my printer’s pages hadn’t been fading at all. Did it really need new toner — or was my printer lying to me?
By using the power of Google, he stumbled upon Fix Your Own Printer, and found a dead simple hack that has allowed him to use the same toner cartridge for another eight months and hundreds of pages.
Manjoo’s article includes tips for circumventing the “smart” sensors in these devices, which attempt to predict how much ink and toner remains. Manjoo notes that tricking your laser printer is fine, but that running an inkjet printer out of ink can actually ruin it.
Here’s a Get Rich Slowly discussion forum thread on how to save on printer ink. My own method is to stock up on ink or toner when I see a sale. I bought several ink cartridges last year when a local store was having a clearance, for example. The big risk there is that I’ll switch printers before I use my stockpile of ink!