Is It Worth It to Buy a Printer?

Photo credit: Dean Hochman, CC BY 2.0.

Two weeks ago I wrote that I should probably buy a printer instead of doing all my printing at the public library — and the fact that I’m going to need to fill out nine pages of a 34-page TIAA form in order to roll my 403(b) to Vanguard kinda makes the decision a little more urgent.

But let’s do the math, because you always have to do the math.

The library printer costs 15 cents per page.

Buying a basic all-in-one printer from Amazon would cost me $100 ($40 for the printer, $60 for the ink). Plus I’d need to buy a ream of paper, so… well, it’s less expensive to buy paper in bulk, so let’s say three reams (1,500 sheets) for $15.

I could print 766 pages at the library before I came close to covering the cost of a printer, ink, and paper — and if I tried to print 766 pages on my own printer, I’d have to buy more ink at least once and possibly twice.

There’s also a print shop nearby, in case I ever need to print 300 pages of a novel draft or something. If I don’t like their prices, there’s always FedEx. (The last time I printed a novel draft at FedEx it cost me $28.19.)

So I’m not buying a printer. Even if it’s more cost-effective per page once you own it, the setup cost is more expensive than a year’s worth of paying for printing. Maybe two years’ worth.

Also, when I look more closely at this TIAA form — I should be able to fill it out online and use HelloFax to get it back to TIAA.

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