It’s common for new sellers to print their shipping labels by running some label paper through their old inkjet printer. The problem is, a 25 pack of Avery Label Paper goes for $11.99 at Walmart. New inkjet cartridges cost $25 or more. That means you’ll spend 55¢ per printed label when you could get the same result for a penny!
Once you get your business running at a good pace you’ll notice those kinds of label costs adding up real quick. If you ship 100 packages you’re wasting $55. Here’s what you should be doing to save yourself some cash.
Get a Laser Printer
Laser printers are 10x cheaper to operate than inkjet printers because they run on toner instead of ink. Their cartridges can print thousands of pages without needing to be changed rather than the few hundred you’d get with an inkjet. Printing labels with an inkjet will cost you 5¢ to 25¢ in ink per page compared to fractions of a cent for a laser. Plus lasers are built for high-capacity so the printer itself won’t wear out as fast.
It is true that laser printers do cost a bit more than inkjets up front. But not much. And you could buy a used one to save on the purchase. If you do, ask what the page count is. You should try to get something with fewer than 10,000 prints on the counter.
One more bit of advice, when you’re shopping for the printer, make sure you can buy refilled cartridges for it. A simple search on eBay will tell you if they’re available or not. If they’re not, then buy a different model.
Never Buy New Toner Cartridges
Once you’ve got a laser printer don’t ever buy a new toner cartridge. A refilled cartridge will cost you about 1/4 the price of a new one. Every cartridge can refilled 4 to 5 times before it physically wears out. There are plenty of places to buy them online and a few traditional office supply stores even carry them now. If you’ve lived this long without figuring it out, new printer cartridges are nothing but a scam.
Refill Your Cartridges
Save even more money by refilling your cartridges yourself. You can get a toner refill kit for under $10. Many kits have enough toner to fill a cartridge several times.
I do want to warn you though, it is messy. Really messy. Do it outside kind of messy. Toner is very lightweight and much finer than baby powder. A tiny squeeze on the refill bottle will make a cloud of the stuff. Since cartridges aren’t really made to be refilled the process can be a bit tricky. Do not ever breathe in toner dust. I would suggest even wearing a face mask for your first attempt.
Set Your Printer on Toner Save Mode
It might not be obvious, but almost all printers have a toner save mode in their software. It will be somewhere in your printer settings menu. You can usually find it by going through your control panel in Windows, selecting the printer, then digging into the fine settings. If there’s an option for “low resolution” set that to active as well. If you happen to have a color laser check the box for monochrome or grey scale printing only. If you don’t, it will print the blacks as a mix of all the colors, not just from the black cartridge. No point in making photo realistic labels.
Never use Label Paper
That’s right, just don’t use it at all. This one suggestion will save you up to 50¢ per print. Use regular paper and tape it to the box. You can easily get a ream of 500 sheets for less than $4.00 which comes out to less than a penny a page. It takes all of 4 extra seconds per box to use packaging tape to affix your label rather than the peel-n-stick method.
I know you may have seen the post office rules about taping labels. Technically you’re not supposed to tape over the bar code. But I do it all the time and they still scan just fine. What they’re really worried about is tape being creased so that it messes up the bar code reader. If you do mess one up and put a fold in the tape, just re-print it and do it over. With some practice you’ll be able to do it without a wrinkle every time.
If you’re extremely concerned about the post office rules, just tape all of the label to the box except the part showing the bar code. I have seen other sellers do it like that plenty of times as well.
Buy Paper in Bulk
When you do buy your paper, buy it by the case. A small case goes for $14.99 for 2500 sheets. That reduces your cost to nearly half a penny per page. Get the larger office size cases and you’re under half a cent per page.
Oh, and I shouldn’t have to say this, but get the cheapest paper. You don’t need the kind specially formulated for laser printers. That’s just another rip off.
Buy Tape in Bulk
If you’re using your packaging tape to stick your labels on then it also makes sense to buy it in bulk as well. For small sellers buy the 8 pack at Walmart. As you grow you can buy them by the case from Uline. In the end, you’ll be paying fractions of a cent for enough tape to affix each label.
Don’t Pay Sales Tax
Finally, do not pay sales tax on any of this stuff. Buy it online or if you don’t already have one, get a vendors (reseller) license and buy wholesale from a local vendor.