Any parent can tell you one of the first words any child learns to say is “no!”

This is often seen as a negative thing — a child showing human flaws from the beginning by being willful and rebellious. They assert their sense of themselves in this world by saying, “No!” I can refuse and it feels good for some reason.

However, there is a proper time and place for “no,” and more grownups need to find their voice and declare it.

I was at an office supply store the other day, looking to refill the ink in my color printer. This printer is one of those irritating models that won’t let you continue to print in black-and-white if you’ve run out of yellow. Why? It’s just a scam to force you into buying yellow ink, which you hardly ever need.

Still, I wanted my printer to operate, so I went to the store and found, under a big red sign saying “ink refills,” a whole row of packages. I found the one I needed and gasped. I literally sucked in air for feeling I’d had the wind knocked out of me, and I’m sure anyone standing nearby was alarmed as the blood drained out of my face. I probably looked like one of those kids from “Twilight.” It would cost me more than $50!

I’m sorry, I wanted ink, not melted gold.

At this point, I began to question whether or not I really NEEDED ink. There’s a difference, you know, between needing and wanting, between a necessity and a convenience. Most of my printing goals, when you get right down to it, could be met by email and the Internet. When it comes to sending personal notes, well, it’s nicer to use a pen and cards anyway.

So I said, “No. I’m not buying it. I’m going paperless in my house.”

And I’m a writer.

I’ve since learned that you can go online and get ink somewhere else much cheaper, though I’m not even going to bother with that. So it got me thinking. Who is buying all of this $50 ink? Why would anyone agree to such an unreasonable price?

And it’s not just ink.

At the store the other day, I reached for a bag of chips in a popular brand. $4.49, it said on the bag. I don’t think so. I can kill myself far more cheaply, thanks. I don’t care if I have to make them myself. Oil, potatoes and salt, not too complicated, though you would never know that from tasting how bad the generic brands somehow manage to be.

Now, I’m not going to go picket some store or try to argue that society owes me cheap ink or cheap chips.

However, capitalism, like democracy, only works when people participate in it actively and intelligently rather than merely accepting whatever is thrown at them. If everyone said “no” to paying lunatic prices for common conveniences, prices would be driven down.

Until that happens, my printer can sit there and collect dust.