Save Money When Buying Essential Office Supplies

Back to school supplies
Image by Catherine MacBride/Moment/Getty Images

Compared to office furniture and equipment, office supplies may seem like a minor expense. The major difference is that major purchases such as furniture and equipment tend to be a one time buy, whereas, office supplies are used every day, and they must be replenished on a regular basis. If you do not manage and control your office supply expenditures, these expenses can obliterate any well-structured budget.

Fortunately, there are many things that you can do to control how much you spend on office supplies so that you can stay within the budget.  And buying in bulk, especially if you have the storage space is always a smart way to go.

Many of the once brick and mortar only office supply chains such as Staples /Office Depot and Office Max now offer the ability to purchase online and often with free shipping.

Here are some strategies to consider that can help you save money on office supplies:

Necessary Supplies

Take a look at the office supplies that you are ordering each time. Ask yourself if there are any "nice to have" versus "must have" office supplies.  Consider the quality of the items that you are purchasing. Do you need to buy brand name supplies or can you use the generic store brand? Can you use a non-branded and less expensive packing tape? Saving a few dollars on the most frequently purchased office supplies will add up over time.

Compare Prices, Shop Online

Do your homework and compare prices on the items that you most frequently buy. You don't have to physically visit each store if they have a website that lists the items that they sell. All of your office supply purchasing can be done online. Be careful when comparing online prices by factoring in shipping costs.

Some online retailers offer free shipping if you order a minimum amount of supplies.

Negotiate a Purchase Contract

If your company purchases a significant amount of office supplies every month, you can negotiate a purchase contract with your supplier. 

The key to negotiating a contract in your favor is first to identify the supplies you buy most often (in terms of dollars spent). Concentrate your negotiations on these items, and if you have to give in on any items, then you will know which ones are the less frequently purchased.

Bulk Ordering

Most office supplies can be purchased in bulk.  For example, instead of buying paper in 500 sheet packs, consider buying a case of 5,000 sheets. However, there are two tradeoffs: (1) you will have to tie up some money in order to buy the larger quantities and (2) you will have to store the bulk items that you buy.

Consider the following:

  • Low prices on small volume or inexpensive items like pens, pencils, and paper are not a good indicator of overall prices. Stores that under cut their prices on these items will often charge more on other items to make up the profit that they sacrificed.
  • Consider warehouse clubs such as Costco or Sam’s Club for bulk purchases. These bulk retailers also have websites that can be used to order office supplies online.
  • Set up an account with your supplier. Larger supply companies can provide you with a statement of what you have ordered over the past month or year. Frequently, franchises will offer this type of discount to their franchisees because of the volume that the franchise as a whole affords individual franchisees a better price.
  • Sign up for an Office Supply Retailer’s Rewards program.  Large retailers such as Staples offer great benefits to their Rewards customers.

The following is a recommended list of essential office supplies:

Pens & Pencils

  • Ball point pens (blue, black, red, etc.)
  • Permanent markers
  • Highlighters
  • Erasable board markers (and erasers)
  • No. 2 pencils

Paper

  • Tablets of lined paper
  • 8.5" x 11" (letter size) photocopy/computer paper
  • 8.5" x 14" (legal size) photocopy/computer paper
  • Envelopes (legal and letter sized)
  • Post-It® Notes

Paper Clips, Staplers and Tape

  • Small paper clips
  • Large paper clips
  • Binder clips
  • Staples
  • Office tape
  • Packing tape

File Folders

  • Letter size (8.5" x 11")
  • Legal size (8.5" x 14")

Other Items:

  • Printer Cartridges or refills
  • Scissors
  • White Out (or correction tape)
  • Staplers
  • Rubber bands
  • Calendars and planners
  • Postage stamps or postage meter (depending on the volume of mail)

Here are some links for online office supply retailers:

ULINE

STAPLES

Office Max