My husband’s cousin recently enrolled in college and wanted to find a cheap printer so that she could print her term papers.
My suggestion: Skip owning your own printer.
The college where she is enrolled tacks a “technology” fee onto the tuition. That means that anything she prints on campus, she can print for “free.” (Also known as, you’re paying for it, so you may as well use it!)
So all she really needs to do is figure out how to get the papers she writes on her computer at home to the college to be printed.
One relatively inexpensive way is to purchase a flash drive (sometimes called a jump drive). I’ve seen flash drives on sale for less than $5. Simply save your documents to the flash drive (which plugs into the USB port on your computer) and then bring the flash drive to school, plug it into a school computer, and print your document. Flash drives are easy to use… and also easy to lose. My husband has lost many flash drives over the course of his lifetime. And they also don’t do well in washing machines!
My favorite way to deal with transferring documents is Google Docs, which is FREE to use. You can either use the word processing feature (i.e. “Create a document”) or you can upload a word processing file directly to it. Your information is stored in the “cloud” so that you can access it from any computer with internet access. Mac users can save documents to the iCloud, or you can use other services like DropBox. All the services are free – although iCloud and DropBox will start charging you if you store too much data.
Unless you can get a really good deal on a printer (like really cheap, or even free), it’s probably going to be more economical to print it somewhere else – even if you have to pay per page. The ink and paper you need for a home printer can really add up. My HP printer ink cartridges cost $35 to replace, and from that ink, you’re lucky to print 200 pages. Quality printer paper will be at least $4 a ream. So you’ll be spending close to $.19 to $.21 per page to print. My local library charges $.25 a page to print – and I don’t have to ever buy a printer, ink, or paper.
You’ll have to think about how much you’re planning to print – for example, if you’re looking to save money with printable coupons, you’ll have to do that with a home printer. (The printable coupons use unique software to track coupon prints, so you can’t do it from a computer network). And you’ll also have to think about the convenience factor. If you’re working shift work or are a night owl, it may be a challenge for you to print the documents you need when you need them. You’ll need to build extra time into your schedule so that you are able to make your due dates.
But for a college student trying to make ends meet, giving up a little convenience can be well worth it.
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