In case you are unfamiliar with an annuity, it is a type of investment where you pay a fixed sum for guaranteed payout every month for a predetermined period, often until you die. Ink recycling is a great way to develop a tiny annuity. For a small upfront cost you can earn money in the form of office supply store credit each month. The plan is to use the ink recycling programs from Staples and Office Depot to turn ink cartridges into credit.
The first step is to sign up for each reward program. The two are Staples Rewards and Office Depot Rewards. If you are wondering about Officemax it falls under Office Depot. The rules for each ink recycling program are slightly different and one will likely fit you better, but feel free to sign up for both. Here are the rules:
Office Depot – You receive 200 points ($2 value) per cartridge up to 10 cartridges per month when making a qualifying purchase amount of $10 or more in the same month.
Staples – You receive a $2 credit per cartridge up to 10 cartridges per month when making a qualifying purchase of $30 or more of ink within the last 180 days. If you are a Plus or Premier member you can recycle 20 cartridges per month; you can reach this level after spending $500.
Now that we are signed up and know the rules, the next step is to get our ink cartridges. If you are a hoarder it is time to dig through your belongings and cash in those cartridges. For the rest of us I recommend purchasing in bulk on eBay. Search for “used ink cartridges” or a specific number such as “100 ink cartridges” to make filtering easy. A quick search revealed a seller that has a listing for 250 for $24.95, just about 10 cents a cartridge!
The next step is to meet the qualifications and return the maximum number of cartridges per visit. I am currently enrolled in the Staples program because I use a printer and am able to meet the qualifying $30 ink purchase every 180 days. It is optimal to visit the store once per month to recycle your cartridges, spend your rewards, and meet the spending qualifications if needed. The rewards have a short expiration around two months, so it is possible to save up a couple, but be careful so you do not end up letting them expire. I feel like a kid in a candy store with my credit because I know I have to spend or give it up. I start off thinking of getting candy or something cool, but I usually end up with pretty useful stuff like toilet paper or shipping supplies to pack the items I sell on eBay.
At the low end if you choose Office Depot’s program you will spend $12 on ink cartridges, $120 in qualifying purchases, and receive $240 in rewards per year. Gain: $108 + $120 in purchases
At Staples you will spend $12/$24 on ink cartridges, $60 on ink for qualifying purchases, and receive $240/$480 in rewards per year based on Base/Plus or Premier member. Gain: $168/$408 + $60 in ink
If you combine the programs you could bring over $500 annually – about a Hamilton a week.