Printer ink (or toner) is expensive — there is no way of getting around that.
Typically most residential and home office computer users have one of two types of printers: a color ink jet (prints color + black and white) or monochrome laser (prints black and white only). The printer may be single function — printing only or multi-function — handling duties such as printing, copying, and scanning. Some multi-function printers also add a fourth function, faxing. Just as an example, for the past four years I have used a multi-function printer made that is Dell branded. (It was actually made by Samsung, but that point is not relevant). This model is a monochrome laser and prints, copies, scans, and faxes. I’ve been happy with getting four years out of it; I doubt this printer will make 5 years.
The trend in how these things are sold is troubling. $80 printers are common, even multi-function models can be had for under $100. However, the black and color cartridges combined might also cost $80. Furthermore, these cartridges won’t get you more than a couple hundred prints. WOW. For laser printers, the cartridges are referred to as toner cartridges. They might get you 2000 to 5000 prints, but will cost upwards of $100 or more.
First you should decide — do I need to print in color in a regular basis? In our family, we decided a long time ago that we don’t. For the few times a year that we need color, we will gladly print those items out at Kinko’s (Fed Ex Office) or Staples. Laser printers give you the lowest cost per print. However, I know many of you like to print an occasional photo, a letter or an invitation with color, etc. It used to be that the inkjet printers were made for consumers (at a lower cost) and laser printers were made for business. However, the lines are now blurred. Inkjet printers generally cost less, but laser printers have also gotten really affordable in recent years. As with so many consumer decisions, you are going to have choose what works best for you.
I’ve helped clients set up several printers over the past year. Two that I like over all others are the Brother MFC 7860DW (a multi function monochrome laser) and the Epson WorkForce 845 (a multi function color inkjet). Based on Amazon’s prices, they are $250 and $140 respectively. FYI, there may be newer models of each printer that have been released this year.
HOWEVER — nearly in ALL CASES I never recommend buying replacement (aftermarket) ink / toner. Avoid Brand X or store brand re-manufactured cartridges. They may not work properly and could damage your printer. The only alternative to OEM branded cartridges that I’ve found remotely legitimate has been CarrotInk(dot)com. They’ve been serving customers for over 10 years. Once I had an issue with a laser cartridge I purchase from them and they promptly sent me a new one at no charge. Still, given that Amazon usually has good pricing on name brand cartridges and free shipping for orders over $25 I hesitate to recommend after market products.