Cost-Effective Printing: 19 Rules to Save Every Penny


Are you paying triple – or more – than you need to print documents?


Whenever you print to a color multifunction printer rather than your black and white printer (or a regular laser printer) when you only need a black and white copy, you’re paying at LEAST triple the cost.

Now, we are “only” talking pennies (or even fraction of a penny) for one page of a printed document. But we all know the Ben Franklin saying, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” When you print or copy thousands of copies per month, those pennies add up by the end of the year. 

Saving those pennies is where print rules become important. Using print control and tracking software such as Canon's UniFlow and PaperCut NG or MF from PaperCut, businesses of any size can control costs AND increase security with follow me printing.

Print jobs can be automatically routed according to rules designed to support your print policy, including sending documents to be printed on the most cost-effective device. Depending on how much administrative control you have access to for your printing infrastructure, you might need to talk with either your internal IT folks and/or your copier partner to be sure these rules are set up accurately. 

Print Management: Rules to the Rescue

Start making those pennies add up with printing rules. We all know it and we’ve all done it – simply printing to the closest printer or copier to us. Employees routinely print to a color printer that’s 20 feet closer to them than to a more cost-effective black and white printer 50 feet further away. 

More productivity, less hassle, and less cost to print.  You don’t have to do it yourself.

With print rules, you can ensure that you effectively monitor what is printed, where it’s printed, and who’s doing the printing. 

This list of easy to follow print rules and habits will help you start adding more pennies to your bottom line.

  1. COMMUNICATE! As simple as it may sound, telling your employees that their printing is being tracked is sometimes enough to put the brakes on excessive printing. And if you do decide to track print activity, send users or departments a monthly report so they can visualize just how much they are printing.
  2. Set your printer drivers to automatically default to black and white, or automatically convert all color jobs to greyscale. This forces everyone to consciously select to print pages in color. Even the smallest speck of color on a page, such as a color hyperlink in an email qualifies as a full sheet of color nearly ten times the cost of a black and white page.
    print rules 5.png
  3. Set printing permissions and restrict certain types of printing access per user on your network.
  4. Set automated messages when printing in color or printing an email such as “Are you sure you want to print in color/this email?” to alert your users when submitting print jobs. Messages such as these disrupt their thinking and cause them to give their actions a second thought.
  5. Once a job has been submitted and printed, send a message to the user that their print job is complete so it’s not forgotten on the paper tray.
  6. Encourage users to be selective and print the one page they need, or cut and paste portions into one file to print instead of the entire 100-page document.
  7. Default printers to duplex pages and save on paper. Even better, encourage the 4-in-1 rule: if your users just need pages as references, have them print four pages on a single sheet with an N-up print setup (2 pages per side), and duplex.
    print rules 8.png
  8. Automatically route color and high-volume print jobs to devices with a lower cost per page or have a dedicated print room specifically for these kinds of jobs so that the rest of your employees’ smaller print jobs don’t get held up. Send an alert to the user so they'll look for their print job on the right device!
    print rules 11.png
  9. Set file restrictions. If you suspect a lot of personal printing of family photos, etc., set global file restrictions on image files such a JPEGs, GIFs, and TIFFs that require administrative approval to release.
  10. Assign print budgets. Put a price on the printed page by setting limits on your employees’ printed pages. A limit such as $5/week per user is particularly useful in academia, where unauthorized users frequently cause copying and printing to get out of control.
  11. Automatically delete print jobs that do not satisfy the print rules you have in place. This way, files are not just hanging in the print queue clogging up your print stream
  12. Re-route print jobs to a free copier when there is a print backup and notify the sender when it can be retrieved. This helps prevent someone from printing a job twice because they forgot to delete the initial print job after they realized there was a backup and printed the job somewhere else.
    print rules 9.png
  13. Flag and trash duplicate print files in the print queue because someone was impatient and clicked “print” more than once.
  14. Jobs over a certain threshold require manager approval – page count, color, cost, etc.
  15. Route faxes to email inboxes rather than the traditional flood of physical faxes.
  16. Get in the habit of proofing your document digitally on screen with electronic annotation tools versus printing and marking a page by hand. If your eyes can’t handle it, enlarge the text as you go, or adjust your screen brightness.
  17. Send business documents via email in PDF format instead of printing, mailing, or faxing.
  18. Use electronic signatures and return them to the sender via email.
  19. Create your own rules. Don't see a rule exactly like the one you need? Administrators can combine job conditions, triggers, and actions to create rules specific to your business needs.

    Ready to start penny pinching? Check with your IT team and/or your copier partner to determine what rules you can create and apply.
    Do YOU have a print policy? Print rules save money. Download 14 print rules you can use now.
    Note: We've updated this post with more rules and new information since the original publication date of August 31, 2015.



About The Author

Dave Quint, president and CEO of Advanced Systems Inc. and past president of BTA Mid-America. Dave has worked with copiers, MFPs, scanners, and document workflow software since joining Advanced Systems as a sales associate in 1989. His favorite part of the job -- “there is no greater joy than to see the positive impact these solutions have in our client’s businesses.’ You press print, we take care of the rest. Contact us for more information >>