Monday, August 15, 2011

School Supplies

School supplies are my weakness. I swear I can spend an hour in the tiny basement floor of the UO bookstore trying out pens, feeling the weight of various notebooks, arguing with myself over a new pair of scissors when I've got three at home. I'm very picky when it comes to what I use to take notes, and having so many choices makes it a bit difficult to settle on the absolute cheapest stuff. If you're an art or architecture student...I can't really help you, but I do have some tips for the average note taking student.

1. See what you can get at home. If you're a freshman, the same kind of people who give socks for Christmas likely gave you some school supplies for graduation. Use them; they're free. Ask your folks if you can take some pencils from the junk drawer. My parents were teachers, so we had a box full of half empty single subject notebooks in the basement. If you've got things left over from high school--rulers, scissors, glue stick, post-its, spare lead for mechanical pencils, your graphing calculator--take them with you, and you won't have to buy new ones.

2. Troll Week of Welcome: Clubs and companies love to get their names on something you'll carry around all the time. At Oregon State, Campus Crusade gave away weekly planners for free. You'll probably be able to find soem pens and highlighters at a booth too. If you don't like the logo on the front of your free notebook, you can always cover it up with someone else's free sticker, or close to free craft stuff from MECCA.

3. Only buy what you are going to carry around in your backpack. If you restrict yourself to things you'll use every day, you'll save a lot of money that you'd be tempted to spend on a colorful assortment of post-it notes. Believe me: post-it notes have a way of multiplying; you will never need to buy them. The absolute basics can be cut down to three things: notebook, writing implements, and a planner. If you didn't manage to snag a free planner from some club, UO sells slim weekly ones for $5 that work really well, and you can cover the school seal with one of those free stickers. You might also check the Dollar Tree. Otherwise, shop around in the rest of the bookstore, Staples, Office Depot, Office Max, and Willamette Stationers, though the last one might be a bit expensive for the skint student, and office supply stores may not have a great selection of academic planners. Choose the best price, not just the best in the store. PS: You'll probably also need some printer paper. Keep an eye out for buy one, get one free sales, and you'll probably have paper until you graduate.

4. Shop during the regular back to school sales. By the time college students head out, the K-12s have had their pick, and prices have gone back to normal. Watch the newspaper for good deals. My dad would buy tons of single subject notebooks for his students, and he would get 10 for $1 at BiMart or Fred Meyer. When my church put together packs of school supplies for students in our community, I found paper, portfolios, and rulers for pennies with coupons at Office Max. Packets of pens or pencils can be found at similar prices if you know where to look. While you're at it, get a memo pad to keep track of your spending for the year.

5. Don't pay for cool: This is college. No one cares if you've got a rad Trapper Keeper. You shouldn't pay more than $1 for even the best single subject composition book (if that's your thing). If the neon pencils are cheaper than regular, by all means, get them, but don't splurge on a notebook with Garfield on the front just because it's ironic.
6. Refill your ink. New printer cartridges come about half full. There are plenty of Rapid Refill places around Eugene that will top up your ink.

My choices
Like I said, I'm very particular about what I use for school, but luckily for my wallet, they aren't all that extravagent. I use a 5 subject notebook, preferably with pocket dividers. Even as an English major with lots of ideas and dates to write down, the one notebook lasted all year. I put my syllabi in th pockets on the first day of class so I don't loose them. Being eco-skint, I look out for 100% recycled paper when I can find it. This year's is coming from Office Max. I use mechanical pencils so I don't have to worry about sharpening, and if I manage not to lose them (I've got a used pencil case this time around), then I can easily refill them with my choice of lead. I keep a couple of #2 pencils that I stole from the junk drawer in case I need them for a test. I found a small weekly planner while I was in England for 99p (about $1.50) and I may decorate it with something from MECCA. With careful unbinding, my notebook can be transfigured into "Hogwarts: A History" and my planner into "Advanced Potions" for pennies.

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