Are You Wasting Money Buying Multipack Ink for Your Printer?

by Barrett

The secret weapon against the evil ink conspiracy is supposed to be ‘buying in bulk’ with ink-cartridge multipacks. But there’s a problem with this purchasing strategy…

The secret weapon against the evil ink conspiracy is supposed to be ‘buying in bulk’ with ink-cartridge multipacks. But there’s a problem with this purchasing strategy…

We all know the major cost to owning a home photo printer is the sickening price of those darned ink cartridges. And when you’ve got five different colors to keep track of and replace, (Cyan, Light Cyan, Magenta, Light Magenta and Yellow on my Epson Artisan) you’re almost always about to replace at least one them.
(Different colors deplete at different rates.)

One way you’re supposed to save money when replenishing your ink supplies is to buy the multipacks instead of getting each ink cartridge a la carte…

Here’s the pricing on Epson’s website:

  • The 5-cartridge color ‘high-capacity’ multi-pack costs $79.49 ($15.98 each)
  • The 6-cartridge color and black combo-pack costs $94.09 ($15.68 each)
  • The individual cost for one of these ink cartridges is $17.59
    ($18.49 for black)

So, in fact you do save a few bucks on each ink cartridge if you buy as part of the multipack. But the problem is using this strategy will inevitably cause you to build up a surplus of certain colors.

Ink Imbalance
I just took a look at my ink inventory, and after three years of using my Epson Artisan 837 printer, let’s review my existing cartridge supply:

  • Cyan – 3
  • Light Cyan – 1
  • Magenta – 4
  • Light Magenta – 0 (D’oh!)
  • Yellow – 2

Okay… so it looks like magenta is my color culprit.

One big question is will these extra ink cartridges stay ‘fresh?’
(It looks like I’m not going to get through all of them for some time to come.)

Eternal Expiration?
And what if they go past their expiration dates?
(Yes, they all have “Best Before” stamped on their boxes.)

I looked at one of my Epson ink cartridge boxes… “Best before 7/15.”
(Uhhh… that’s not good.)

Does the ink turn into pumpkin sludge on the anointed date? Or is it like powdered milk, where you can allegedly go years past the expiration date?
(Is that really true?)

Epson says its printers will still take ‘expired ink cartridges,’ but results may vary…

Online, I’ve found a wide range of opinions concerning how safe it is to use expired ink cartridges.

Some report these cartridges just won’t work. Others say old ink creates color abnormalities in your photo prints. And the commentary then continues…

  • Will the ink dry up?
  • Will it clog your print head?
  • Will that damage your printer?
  • I think the logical bottom line is you shouldn’t be hoarding expired ink cartridges. At some ‘undetermined’ point, they’ll become a liability to you…

So use at your own risk…

Future Trash
And even if these extra ink cartridges do successfully survive into your distant future, another question is will you ever even use all of them?

Eventually, you’ll have to replace your printer with a newer model.
(Perhaps due to a misplaced penny)

And remember, cartridge models are always morphing over the years along with their printer masters.
(How convenient)

So if you’re always following the multipack-purchasing rule, you’re inevitably going to be left with a stash of ink cartridges you’ll have no choice but to throw away.

The Painful Truth
This leads to the simple conclusion that you shouldn’t always buy the multipack. Sure, it may seem like a deal in the moment, but you’ve got to take the long view…

You’re immediately going to begin collecting an excess of at least one of your colors that you may never use. And the cartridges may not function if you finally get to them years later.

So after your first multipack purchase, buying future multipacks isn’t really such a deal, is it?

But then again who wants to buy ink cartridges a la carte as you need them?
That’s always an expensive choice.

It seems like a lose/lose proposition.


“Only now at the end do you understand…”

A Little of This… A Little of That
Taking pictures these days may be free, but printing them out with your printer is going to cost you…

So what are you supposed to do?

I say you need to intentionally sprinkle in some individual cartridge buying to maintain a level inventory. That will allow you to get to your older cartridges before it’s too late.

Sure, you can pick up a multipack every so often, but not as a standard practice.

And yes, this all means you’ve now got to pay attention to the little detail of your personal ink inventory.

You’ve got to fight the evil ink conspiracy as best you can. I didn’t say it was going to be fun.

Now, please excuse me…
Apparently, I need to pony up for some Light Magenta ink.