The Thrifty Accountant Newsletter

--Two minutes of money saving strategies


Print more, spend less–buy a low-cost laser printer

Greetings fellow thrifty accountants!

Have you ever had a possession so long it felt like an old friend? Me and my printer were like that–we’ve been through a lot of paper together. But in every friendship, there comes a time . . .

Anyway, my printer was getting a little erratic sometimes, and it was about to run out of toner, so rather than purchase a new toner cartridge ($160), I bought a new laser printer–a Brother HL-5250DN. You will probably face this situation sooner or later, so read this newsletter to avoid spending too much on a printer–or more significantly–on printer ink or toner.

This newsletter details four criteria for purchasing a new printer:

  • Cost
  • Speed
  • Noise
  • Convenience

Print More and Spend Less

If you just look at the specs, ink jets will list a maximum resolution well beyond the 600 x 600 to 1200 x 1200 dots per inch of the typical sub-$250 laser. But toner gives crisper, cleaner edges than ink, and your reports, proposals and resumes will have a more professional look.

So for better looking text output, get a laser. And I prefer monochrome, rather than color lasers.

1) Cost

If you print 20 pages per day/5 days per week, that’s 15,600 pages per year. Assume you keep the printer for 3 years.

Printer cost (current and future):


Brother HL-5250 DN

Lexmark E120N
Toner cartridge$85$67
Initial page yield3,500500
New toner cartridge
page yield
Total cost-3 years$389$690
Cost per page2.2 cents4.2 cents

Note that new printers often come with a toner cartridge that is not full, and can only print a reduced number of pages. Also note that I found it difficult to find information about the initial toner cartridge yield.

Bottom line: be sure to check on toner cartridge cost and yield. You may very well (like me) keep your printer for more than three years, so the toner cost can really add up.


2) Speed

The stated speed of the printer in the manufacturer’s materials is often inaccurate. I rely on reviews from PC Magazine to get realistic assessments. The Brother printer came close to the claimed 30 ppm with a test result of 28 ppm from PC Magazine. In any event, it seems pretty fast to me.

3) Noise

My printer is next to my desk, for easy access. My last printer (NEC SuperScript 860) was so loud when turned on, I kept it turned off when not in use. My new printer is completely silent in standby mode, so I can keep it turned on all the time. Obviously, this makes printing faster and is also more convenient.

This particular printer is noisy when it starts up, but that doesn’t bother me as much as a constant hum. Some product reviews mention noise, but I got my noise information from comments at provided by actual users.

4) Convenience

My Brother HL-5250DN has a built in network connector.

  • Printer models with an “N” in the model name usually have a built in network connector.
  • Network connector adds about $50 to the price.

I plugged the printer directly into the network hub/router, rather than into the back of my CPU. The setup CD walked me through the setup, and I was able to print through our wireless network within a few minutes.

So if you have this printer at home, you could print from your laptop in another room! Totally convenient!

Where to shop

I bought my printer from on 04/13/07 : total price $219, with free shipping and no sales tax. On 04/30/07, the price on Amazon was $231, so the price apparently varies somewhat.

At Office Depot it was $282 ($259.99 + 22.42 sales tax), with free shipping. The advantage of buying from Office Depot is that it is easy to return it if you have any problems.