Why I Don't Own a Printer

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Public Domain. MaxPixel

Despite being a professional writer, it would be an invitation for unnecessary clutter and cost.

Trent Hamm's printer has broken and he's in the process of buying another. A long-time staff writer for The Simple Dollar and one of my favorite frugality and finance bloggers, I am always curious to hear what Hamm has to say about life and have mentioned him numerous times here on TreeHugger.

On this occasion he is weighing the pros and cons of various types of printers – specifically, whether it makes sense to buy a low-end printer with a higher cost per printout, or a high-end printer with a lower cost per printout. His analysis is lengthy and in depth and useful for anyone in a similar situation.

I am not in the market for a printer. In fact, I've never owned one, but reading his piece got me thinking about all the reasons why I don't – and I think this might be of interest to some TreeHugger readers. (I realize that my reasons do not apply to everyone.)

I made the decision not to buy a printer around eight years ago and it came down to a single pet peeve of mine – loose papers. I detest the way papers seem to accumulate in the house, covering every surface, creating clutter, making it impossible to tidy and find anything. I knew that if I got a printer, I'd be more inclined to print things out – even when unnecessary – so I figured it was better not to have that option.

This has forced me to be highly selective about what gets printed because it means a trip to the printer at the library. Fortunately, the library is only three blocks away (unlike Hamm's ten miles), so I can get there and back within ten minutes on my bicycle. It costs 25 cents per page, but this is a fraction of what I'd spend on the actual printer, the ink, the paper, the toner, and the electricity, not to mention the mental irritation of having to repair it, store it, dust it, and deal with reams of unnecessary printouts.

The library also has a photocopier and a scanner, both office tools that I use several times a year. It feels good to know that I am supporting my local library, too, and proving its usefulness within the community. If an emergency arises and the library is closed, my husband can print off a few papers at work and bring them home to me. Even schools are going paperless; so far, my kids' school assignments, if not handwritten or drawn, have all been submitted via USB, email, or online.

This little printer anecdote is a good example of how you can save money (and stress) by avoiding certain 'normal' behaviors. There are many things people do just because they're expected, not because they're logical. We pay for big houses, second cars, diamond engagement rings, meat, upgraded phones, TVs, fancy clothes, and all manner of household appliances – printers included – without stopping to question whether or not we truly need them. And yet, if we did, we might discover they add more stress to our lives than worth, and that we can do just fine without them.

I intend to continue my printer-free life for many years to come.