One of the ubiquitous duties of administrative assistants everywhere is ordering office supplies. In the current economic climate saving money on those supplies is more important than ever. You’d be amazed at the amount of waste you can cut just through better control of office supplies. You can attack this project of saving money from several different angles.
Often when you start a new job, you already have an approved office supply vendor. But unless you are in a very large company, you may still have leeway in who you use to buy office supplies. Call several different companies and talk to a sales rep, and don’t forget your local vendors. If your company buys supplies directly at a store, look into the options of setting up an account with an on-line service like Staples, OfficeMax, or Office Depot. Because they aren’t supporting the cost of a store, they can often give you prices much lower than you’d get in a store, and much lower even than their prices listed on their website. You often get a significant discount if you have an account with them. Don’t forget to factor shipping costs into your decision to go with a particular vendor.
Once you are set up with the company that will give you the best deal, look at what you’re actually buying. I was working for a small non-profit that was paying almost $10 for a box of 12 pens. I switched to a less expensive pen for which we paid less than $2 a box. Did people complain? They sure as heck did. But I referred them to the Finance Director who explained the realities of the budget to them. I think it went something like, “You can have raises or pens.”
Look at everything you buy. If you’re buying name brand, look for a generic version. If you’re already on generic, look for a lower frills version.
You know who they are. Every time you fill the office supply cabinet, they come and take half the supplies to hide away in their office. If you look in their desk, they have dozens of pens, sticky pads, and folders, all absolutely unused. These folks can cost you a fortune in office supplies by forcing you to buy more than is actually needed. Write up a nice memo from your boss to be distributed asking folks nicely not to hoard office supplies. Then start raiding their desks when they’re not looking (with your boss’s permission, of course). One person’s desk I cleaned out literally had about $200 worth of unused office supplies hidden away.
The first few office supply orders you make are going to take you considerably longer than usual as you look at various options and costs. It’s possible, depending on your level of authority, that you’ll need to put together a proposal and present it to your boss about changing companies or brands. But taking that time will pay off very well in the end. Depending on the size of your company and the amount of waste, you could end up saving $100’s or even $1,000’s every year in office supplies alone.
What are your tips for saving money on office supplies? Leave a comment and let us know. If you’re reading this in your e-mail or in a feed reader, you’ll need to click through to the website to leave a comment.