10 ways small businesses can cut the cost of office printing

The cost of printing, scanning, and copying can quietly mount up for small businesses. But by making some straightforward adjustments to the way your business approaches printing you can save money, reduce environmental impact and increase staff productivity.

Here are ten ways small businesses can save money by making a few simple changes.

1. Set draft as the default

Draft mode is a setting that can be used to make a device print documents without regard to the print quality. If you can, set every company printer used for internal printing to use draft mode as this will consume a fraction of the ink and toner compared to printing in higher quality settings.

Draft printing is not only cheaper, but also quicker, and can easily be adjusted back for the production of fine quality client documents.

2. Switch fonts

Some fonts burn through more ink than others, adding a surprisingly hefty expenditure to your print outgoings that could easily be avoided. Switching fonts from Arial to Century Gothic or Times New Roman can save around 10% on printing costs. A good tip is to set office documents to use lighter fonts by default as this will save a lot of money in the long run.

Reducing the font size is a way to save even more money; for example if you usually type in the standard point size 12, drop down by a couple of sizes as this uses far less ink and paper. Avoid using big headers and the bold or underline features too.

3. Print less

This probably seems obvious, but it’s amazing how much money you can save by putting a stop to unnecessary printing. Of course, there will always be certain resources and documents that need to be printed out, but try to implement a ‘think before you print’ strategy, that encourages staff to be more resourceful with their printing.

4. Go paperless

Integrating digital processes into your business can drastically reduce printing and ink costs. Distribute your internal documents, newsletters and memos via email or on an intranet and make use of online and cloud platforms such as Google Drive and Dropbox for sharing important files with colleagues and customers.

Microsoft Word, and some other programmes, offer draft mode as a print option. Draft mode is a good option if your business does not want to replace printers with newer devices, as typically, older inkjet printers are the worst culprits for using a lot of ink.

5. Upgrade your hardware

It may seem like a costly expense, but investing in up-to-date hardware will generate long-term savings for your business. Printing technology has come a long way in the past few years, with some machines halving the consumption of electricity and print supplies.

Modern equipment tends to be more energy efficient, generating less heat and often featuring clever sleep modes, and duplex (double-sided) abilities. Staff productivity can also improve with newer models because start-up times are much quicker and the prints are produced at a faster speed, meaning less time is spent waiting around for documents.

6. Consider a print audit

Larger businesses are generally able to benefit from a specialist IT department responsible for monitoring printing levels, making it easier to calculate and manage costs. For small businesses, this isn’t always possible, so seeking the expertise of a third party company that specialises in print management solutions might be a good idea.

These companies can conduct a print audit and provide an account of printing costs within your business, as well as offer recommendations for adjustments that can generate significant savings.

7. Pay less for paper

Using cheaper, low-grade paper for everyday internal printing and saving high-quality paper for external documents and brochures will save your organisation a lot of money in the long run.

If you can, set office printers to work in duplex mode as standard. Printing on both sides of the page will theoretically use half the amount of paper, so it won’t need replacing as quickly. Encourage staff to recycle paper where they can, and reuse the back of old documents for taking notes instead of purchasing notebooks.

8. Preview and review

Clicking on the preview function before sending a job to the printer will enable you to see the layout of the document and how many pages it requires – do you need them all? If not, just select to print the important ones. This is particularly relevant for printing out web pages, emails, PDFs, and spreadsheets as information can sometimes distribute unevenly across the pages.

If your file is spanning across numerous pieces of paper, there are a few tricks to help get more information onto each page, besides reducing the font size and using two-sided (duplex) settings. Make page margins smaller, reduce line spacing, and utilise the ‘shrink to fit’ function. Similarly, if the work you need only takes up a small amount of room, then aim to print multiples per page – this works especially well for images, handouts and presentation slides.

Having your staff adopt these simple but effective processes can help to prevent unnecessary wastage. Encourage colleagues to proofread before they hit print, to avoid costly re-prints because of errors.

9. One for all

If you’re using multiple devices in the workplace that are all performing different functions, for example, printers, scanners, fax machines and copiers, then savings can be made by replacing these with an all-in-one device (also known as a multifunction device).

Although the price of an all-in-one device may exceed the cost of a standard printer, the total expenditure will be less than purchasing numerous pieces of equipment. Multifunction devices also use less energy, are cheaper to maintain, much easier to troubleshoot and upgrade, and free up plenty of office space.

Another problem with having lots of different hardware is that replacing single devices can become extremely costly, especially when you’ve forked out for a stockpile of specialist cartridges, ink and other consumables that just end up being wasted.

10. Go greyscale

Black ink and toners are generally cheaper to replace than colour ones, so setting your devices to print only in greyscale will save some more money. Obviously, there will be times when colour printing is required, but preventing this from being the norm, and using it only when necessary, will create some serious savings.

Print savings can really add up! £4,000/yr in this example

Changing your approach to printing can help to cut the cost considerably. That was certainly the case for County Linen who saved £20,000 over a five year period.

The family-run laundry business has been running for over a Century and was experiencing issues with a mix of older devices – such as desktop printers, a fax machine, a copier and scanners that they had accumulated over the years. To add to the frustration, some machines were situated in different areas of the business, which meant staff had to spend time walking between offices to use some of the equipment they didn’t have locally.

A print audit revealed the cost of running their existing machines was almost £8,500/yr. This was before factoring in the cost of maintenance and the impact on productivity caused by employees not having direct access to the devices they needed.

By replacing all the different devices with three high-performance, low energy consumption, multi-function printers they cut their printing costs and gave all staff ready access to all the functions they needed. All the new machines were from a single manufacturer, which cut the number of different types of toner needed to be stocked, and the print audit also accurately projected how much toner needed to be ordered in advance, which prevented over-ordering and wastage.

In total, the changes will save £20,000 over 5 years, increase staff productivity and improve eco-efficiency.


Adopting a good print strategy in the workplace can reap many benefits for small businesses. Making a few of these simple adjustments to your print methods can help to boost your profits while also save some of the world’s valuable resources.

This guide was written for ByteStart by Mark Bailey, Managing Director of Essex Business Machines Ltd, suppliers of printers, photocopiers and software solutions to small and medium sized business throughout Essex, London, and the South East.

Last updated: 20th February, 2021

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