Are Free Printables REALLY Free?

When I first began homeschooling, I was so excited by every adorable freebie out there. I grabbed them all, and collected them in a folder on my computer. Each week, I began printing out fun games, printable early readers and extra phonics and math practice. It was great! Then I began to notice the amount of ink that was pouring out of my printer. I ran out of color ink within a month. On a super tight budget, I realized printing in color was no longer an option. So I continued printing fun lessons in black and white. That first year, I bought a new black ink cartridge nearly every month, at $12 a piece.

Then I found a solution that not only saved my wallet, but my sanity, and allows me to print every free printable I find! Because I share so many free printable math resources here at Math Geek Mama, I thought you might like to learn how to save on ink too.

Love all the awesome free printables you find on Pinterest, but hate the cost of ink to print them all? Here's a solution that will save you money, but allow you to print anything you want! Even full color pages! Never worry about the cost of ink again.

*Please Note: This post contains affiliate links which help support the work of this site. Read our full disclosure here.*

As I began preparing for a new homeschool year, I looked over my collection of digital resources, and began to feel like they were not nearly as useful or “free” as I had once thought. Surely it would be cheaper to just buy a workbook than constantly print more worksheets and games?

Then a Friend Shared the HP Instant Ink Program

When you have an instant ink eligible printer, you can sign up for their ink subscription service.

This means that every month, you pay a flat fee for ink, but you can print whatever you want. It’s not based on the amount of ink you use!

Instead, it’s based on the number of pages you print. For example, my current subscription is $4.99 per month and I can print 100 pages. This means 100 pages of full color math lessons and games, or simple black and white color pages.
Save up to 50% on Printer Ink Replacement with HP Instant Ink! Receive the 1st Month Free - Sign up Now!

I was really intrigued by this option, so when our printer died, I decided to purchase this HP Envy 7640. I also make lots of copies, so this was a great option at the time.

So based on my previous ink usage and costs, even if I only print in black and white, I’m still saving money on ink.

The amazing thing, however, is that I can now print in color! I can print as many color pages as I like, and if I don’t use all 100 this month? Well, they just rollover to next month.

So not only can I print any adorable freebie that I find for my kids, I can print out the fun math lessons and games I create for you, my readers, and take pictures to show you exactly what it looks like and how to use it.

As you can see from my pictures, the print quality is great (probably better than my previous printer). 🙂

Practice time and elapsed time problems with these adorable Christmas themed task cards. Includes 12 cards with a recording page for answers.

Printing Free Printables Without Breaking the Bank

Now, in months where I know I will be printing more (like at the beginning of the school year), I simply upgrade to the $9.99 plan which allows you to print 300 pages per month.

Many times I have changed my plan up and down, and I’ve never had any problems or glitches with my billing. It’s very easy to do.

Don’t print much at all? Try the $2.99 per month plan. This allows you to print 50 pages per month. That’s only $36 per year.

My only word of caution is this: if you have a month where you know you’ve printed a lot, be sure to keep an eye on your page count.

If you go over, it will cost you $1 for each additional 15, 20 or 25 pages, depending on your plan.

You may receive an email from HP if you’re getting close to the cutoff, but in my experience, it may not come in time, or you may not see it soon enough if you’re printing a lot at once.

Never Run Out of Ink Again

Finally, another added bonus of this program is that you never have to keep up with ink again. The printer keeps track of ink usage, and when it needs to be replaced, HP sends you more automatically.

In the time I’ve used this program, I have always received new ink long before I actually need it. So I never run out!

Obviously, there are lots of ways to save on ink costs. So this might not be the best solution for you. BUT if you have an HP printer that is instant ink eligible already, I highly suggest you try it out!

Or if you need a new printer, consider one of these HP Instant Ink enabled printers. When you do the math of how much you’re spending on ink v. their subscription service, you may be surprised at how much money you’ll save!

Plus, you never have to frantically run to the store or overnight some from Amazon again. 😉

>>Learn more and sign up for the Instant Ink program here!<<

So what do you think? Do you print a lot of “free printables” or digital homeschool curriculum? What other options are there for saving on ink? Share in the comments!


  1. So does this monthly charge negate the price of the ink cartridges? Is there a way to track my page number on my printer? I’ve seen this message come up on my printer but no one ever explained it to me.

    I have had to reconsider some of the free printable just for this reason.

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Jen!
      Yes, this is in place of purchasing ink cartridges. They send you the cartridges in the mail whenever you start to get low. You can then login online to see how many pages you’ve used so far that month, how many rollover pages you have or change your plan. I often will switch to the cheapest plan for months when I’m not printing much and then bump it back up to a larger plan for a month or two when I need to print a lot.
      Hope that helps answer some of your questions!

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