Online, specific school supply bargain shopping
May 11, 2016 4:37 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for a relatively cheap, reliable bulk online source for three items for the next school year: sturdy, reusable luggage tags (or ideas for a better solution), plastic sheet protectors and 1" 3-ring binders.

So, the consumable items that I use in my classroom year after year are:

1) relatively cheap but sturdy luggage tags to label instrument cases. I'd be happy to have these preprinted with the school name/address and space for kid's information, or print that information and insert myself.

2) 1" simple 3-ring binders that won't completely fall apart when used by a middle schooler. Sometimes I can find these for a buck each at Target or Walmart at the beginning of the school year, but it is not guaranteed and I'd like a more reliable source.

3) sheet protectors (50 at a time) to fit inside these binders. Right now I can get the Avery ones at Costco for about $.05/each, but if there's a magic place I can do better I'd be happy to hear about it.

I'd probably be buying in quantities of 100-250 binders and luggage tags (and I guess 5000-12,500 sheet protectors at once), but for the right price could stock up for a couple years at once.

Shipping to Alaska, so an option for USPS shipping or free shipping (that includes the non-contiguous states) is ideal. Places that only have an option for UPS/Fed-Ex Air are likely not workable.
posted by charmedimsure to Shopping (2 answers total)
I don't have any specific recommendations, but take a look at promotional printers' keychains for the luggage tag solution.
posted by sarajane at 5:08 PM on May 11, 2016

Office supplies retailer here.

1) If the tags don't need to be large, there are a variety of plastic key tags with label windows that are quite durable. If the information on the tag does not need to be changed (or changed often), you might also consider luggage tag laminating pouches to run through your hot laminator. These will take a card roughly the size of a business card and seal it in a fairly stiff plastic pouch. A plastic loop is included to attach the tag to the item. Fairly tough and inexpensive.

2) Cheap binders are cheap for a reason, they are meant more for storage than ready reference. Avery, for instance, has three basic grades of ring binders. Economy, for light use and storage; Reference, for more frequent use and sheet additions, with a stronger ring mechanism; and Heavy Duty for frequent sheet additions, daily use, and features reinforced hinges and self-centering rings. If you are having to replace damaged binders or sheets throughout the year, you may find it is more economical to pay slightly more for a more durable binder, rather than provide a cheap binder two or three times, and possibly replace torn or missing pages lost due to ring failure.

3) Check your friendly local independent stationer / office supplies retailer. Most carry a "house brand" for common office supplies (including sheet protectors) which is often cheaper and just as good as the national brand like Avery. Sometimes they are available in a slightly lighter (but still acceptable) weight, like 2.5mil instead of 3mil, or they may be packaged 100 or 200 instead of 50 to a box, which can help keep costs down too.

I see that you're looking for online sources, but also ask your local independent dealer about volume purchases. Most retailers can get some degree of volume discount. Sometimes ridiculously so. We do this all the time; if you know what stock numbers you want and are willing to buy in case quantities so all I have to do is order it in and hand it over, I'm willing to go surprisingly thin on margin. It gets my volume up, and it's basically free money for minimal effort. For large purchases, if you can pay by cash or check, I'll go down even a bit more since I don't have to eat credit card fees or hassle with collecting on an invoice. Independent dealers are generally much more willing to flex like this than large chains.

Summers are slow, and indys are hungry. If you're willing to wiggle a little and accept some substitutions so they can leverage the brands and items that they buy best, I think you'd be surprised what an independent dealer can do for you.

(I'd love to do business with you, but I'm in NW Washington and the freight would be a killer.)
posted by xedrik at 11:13 PM on May 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

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