Yeahhhh, I'm gonna need you to help me buy some office supplies, OK?
May 23, 2018 3:56 PM   Subscribe

We will have leftover office supply funds for this fiscal year (which ends 5/31) to the tune of $500-$4000 total and have exhausted our ideas on spending it. What are some items (no more than $250 per) that our office should own, that we haven't thought of yet? Looking for 1) generic purchases that every office should have, and 2) killer items that revolutionized your workplace and now you don't know how you ever functioned without. Lots of snowflake details about us inside.

Preferred categories of items:

-- must be evergreen (no expiration dates, no custom logo work, etc.)
-- must be a physical item (no subscriptions or contracted work etc.)
-- Item(s) must be received by 5/31, no exceptions. Amazon Prime strongly preferred.
-- anything that will support keeping our tiny kitchen clean and organized
-- generic, high quality gifts for high level visitors
-- generic, non-gendered ~$25 or less fun thank-you gifts for student employees (age 20-26)
-- anything organizational/storage/efficiency related
-- generic office supplies

Details about us:

- Team of 10 full time staff total
- 5-8 student employees at a time
- We have a tiny galley kitchen area (sink, coffee maker, electric kettle, microwave, coffee & tea supplies). Our office does not (and will not) provide food for employees
- All staff members travel (domestic and international trips) frequently
- We have a large amount of documentation and travel gear and not a lot of room to store it
- We video-conference frequently
- We receive high level visitors frequently (think Consulate General/President of a college)
posted by seemoorglass to Shopping (53 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
How wide-ranging is office supplies, does furniture count? New chairs for the entire staff if so. Footstools for those with short legs. Any and every other possible ergonomic aide you can think of, plus spares to put in the cupboard for future employees.
posted by penguin pie at 4:03 PM on May 23, 2018 [3 favorites]

If tech counts, I'm not sure how I ever survived without a second monitor.
posted by gatorae at 4:05 PM on May 23, 2018 [9 favorites]

Many boxes of the the biggest binder clips you can get
Dry erase boards on rolling stands
Dry erase markers
Paper cutters
Wall tacking (it’s like sticky play dough for hanging posters to walls)
Removable Velcro wall hangers
Cardboard shipping tubes
Packing tape and a good packing tape gun
Laser pointers
A complete ifixit tool set
Band aids upon band aids
boxes of fine point sharpie markers
posted by nikaspark at 4:08 PM on May 23, 2018

Upgrade your electric kettle to a Zojirushi.
stock up on non-extravagant mechanical pencils and leads that don't suck.
posted by Dr. Twist at 4:09 PM on May 23, 2018 [6 favorites]

the thing that went over best at my old job was new, high end, extremely fancy desk chairs for everyone plus individual office ergonomics consultations with someone who helped us not have terrible posture and shitty desk setups anymore.
posted by poffin boffin at 4:11 PM on May 23, 2018 [9 favorites]

webcam covers
posted by smuna at 4:13 PM on May 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Footstools. A sodastream. Better webcams. Professional USB mics. Really good headphones for those video calls.
posted by msamye at 4:16 PM on May 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Wireless mice for all!
posted by Riverine at 4:21 PM on May 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Power squids!
posted by thelonius at 4:27 PM on May 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

If staff travel includes laptops, TSA approved backpacks makes check in a bit easier.
Stand up desks
Ball chairs
Packing cube systems
High level visitor gifts: Yeti tumblers
Student gifts: Wireless earbuds / headphones, LED lighted anything
posted by IpsoFacto at 4:28 PM on May 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

Boxes of these pens.
posted by cholly at 4:33 PM on May 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

You may have already done this, but can you ask each employee for specific individual office supply requests? A few times a year, my bosses will order in bulk and give everybody the same supplies (randomly) without asking, and I would SO MUCH rather them save their money when what I really want is Bic Flair pens, and not another set of dry erase markers or sticky notes.

That said, can you ever have too many sticky notes?

Nice padfolios for everybody? Or Moleskines, or bullet journals.

OH printer ink.

Depending on the kind of work you do, a personal laminator and laminating pouches can be useful.

Plasticware for the kitchen. Disposable coffee cups. Backstock of sponges and dish soap and paper towels.

Nice, matching plastic bins for storing office supplies and gifts. I like Sterilite clip boxes.
posted by raspberrE at 4:36 PM on May 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

As a tech worker, I consider the following invaluable:

Graph Paper. I generally have two-three pads at my desk at all times, so I don't run out.
Erasers - I erase a lot of notes, and I don't understand places that will provide pencils, and not erasers. Go for a box of those Pink Pearl ones, if you want something fun and retro.
Earbud headphones - this would make for a great gift. They don't have to be fancy.
USB sticks.
Water bottles.
Portable coffee cups.

This might be a little above your budget, but I drink coffee every day, and I swear by these Klean Kanteen bottles. I have 4 of them, and I have yet to either kill one, nor have one leak in a backpack.
posted by spinifex23 at 4:38 PM on May 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have this Jabra speaker phone thing that I really like for google hangout meetings. It's much better than using my phone. Also they are in our meeting rooms and have replaced whatever thing we were using before.
posted by vunder at 4:41 PM on May 23, 2018

Depends on your staff and environment, but stacked workplace lockers have been great in our office to let people store personal things without needing to take them home, or for storing expensive work things for teams that aren't in the office all the time. They take up little space and have a range of prices depending on size and whether you want electronic locks.
posted by homesickness at 4:47 PM on May 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

We never ever have enough dongles for our laptops. Especially since usb-c added more chaos to the mix. Dongles are expensive and frequently misplaced, forgotten, etc. Buy a bunch of usb-c hubs and usb-c-to-usb-a and usb-to-hdmi and whatever else you can think of for whatever tech you use.

And since you video-conference often.. extra good quality headsets for when what you have invariably stops working 5 minutes before a critical meeting.
posted by cgg at 4:52 PM on May 23, 2018 [5 favorites]

Electric three-hole punch and stapler. We had ones that would do 40 sheets at a time, and I don't know how I would have gotten along without them. Folding machine and postage machine if you do a lot of mailings.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:55 PM on May 23, 2018 [3 favorites]

If you don't have whiteboards in your office, whiteboard sheets might be nifty. I prefer Wizard Wall because they are re-usable and repositionable, and work via static and not adhesive, but there are a few different brands. (Sadly, Post-it discontinued theirs.) It's available via Amazon and direct from the company.

Good Brother-branded label makers and tape. (Dymo has slightly better/easier-to-peel label maker tape, but I feel like Brother has better label makers. I'm on year 17 of one of mine. Either way, Brother and Dymo are better than any other brands; so sayeth the professional organizer.)

For travel or just schlepping essentials to the conference room, Grid-it! (in myriad sizes) from Cocoon Innovations for keeping all your supplies, cables, pens, and whatnots in place and relatively flat. You can get almost all the sizes from Amazon.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 5:08 PM on May 23, 2018

Lots of good suggestions above.

Our small office kitchen has a toaster oven similar to this Cuisinart and it is great. Gets just as much use as the microwave. You might consider it if you can squeeze it in somewhere.
posted by gudrun at 5:20 PM on May 23, 2018

It’s over $250, but the Owl videoconference camera is really nice. It’s absokutely what I would buy with end-of-year supply budget.
posted by leahwrenn at 5:30 PM on May 23, 2018

-Coordinated, professional-looking sets of luggage tags and handle covers for the travel gear.
-Heck, new travel bags/luggage if needed.
-Wite-out if you are allowed to use that on your kind of forms.
-Higher capacity shredder if you are actually able to shred stuff but no one has bothered in years because it's a pain with the cheap shredder.
-Honestly, the college kids want money. If you can use these funds for low-denomination gift cards, that's the right choice, probably.
-Nice blank or generic thank you cards for when hand-written notes are good for impressing the assistant to the chief of staff of the consular general. Similarly stamps (instead of using the postage machine).
-Some of those inexpensive tabletop standing desks if anyone in your office is interested in that but doesn't have one yet.
-Power strips, extension cords, possibly portable power packs if you do the kind of travel where that would be helpful.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 5:54 PM on May 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

This is totally picayune, but upgrade your staplers. I got myself a PaperPro inPOWER+ 28 Premium Desktop Stapler for my office and it just works. It requires minimal force and it's only ever jammed when I've misloaded it. You probably need better high-volume staplers, also. In my office experience, someone bought these once in the 1970s and no one ever thinks about them again--except to curse as they repeatedly jam up.
posted by praemunire at 6:13 PM on May 23, 2018 [6 favorites]

-A toaster oven is very useful.
-You could get fancy and get a panini press.
-Do you have a water cooler? What about one with a hot water spout for people making soup, tea, oatmeal, etc.?
-Mugs, plates, dishes, etc. that people use
-Stock up on garbage bags
-My previous office supplied giant balls to sit on because it was better for some people's backs, apparently.
-Standing desks or desk add-ons that can turn a desk into a standing desk would be useful.
-Extra computer monitors so people can either hook them up to their laptops or use a dual-monitor setup. I always use dual monitors - lot easier to be productive.
-Headphones or headsets
-Dry-erase paint so you can paint walls with it and let people write in conference rooms for brainstorming sessions
-Decorations to celebrate people's birthdays or the holidays
posted by AppleTurnover at 6:27 PM on May 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

Levenger note pads and journals are nice when you have staff that like to make handwritten notes on paper...and then you scan them to preserve them as a record of the conversation or meeting. The paper holds up really well and is a couple steps above what comes as a generic 10 pack.

A super easy to use scanner improved my work life considerably.

A standing desk converter
A padded floor cushion for standing on when using a standing desk.

Full-spectrum lamp with replacement bulbs

Flip-chart sized post-its for collaboration notes

Markers that smell neutral or even pleasant

Festive napkins for celebrations
posted by childofTethys at 6:38 PM on May 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Quit messing with staples, and especially paper clips. Get clam clippers and a lot of the clips.
posted by ctmf at 6:40 PM on May 23, 2018

Wireless headsets for everyone's office phones; I've got this Jabra model and it's great.

For all those convertible standing desks recommended above, or if you have anyone who stands regularly, the Topo mat by Ergodriven is fantastic...comfortable and fun.
posted by Preserver at 7:00 PM on May 23, 2018

do you already have a great networked scanner so that scanning jobs can be easily emailed or saved to the requesting employee's drive?

is your coffee experience awesome? I worked at a place that had a machine that did not only coffee but also cocoa, mochas etc; and it had a flavor dropper dispenser on the side so you could flavor your drink with amaretto or hazelnut or whatever and it felt LUXE AS HELL.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:06 PM on May 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

Maybe not cool, but consider some emergency preparedness supplies for in the office. There are a million sites with suggestions supporting various levels of paranoia, but at a minimum some good quality flashlights, dust masks, good (not the bare minimum OSHA approved) first aid kits, some packaged blankets, non expiring foods (not for everyday consumption, but in case weather/circumstances make not leaving safer), etc. All available on Amazon Prime I'm sure.
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 7:48 PM on May 23, 2018 [7 favorites]

Seconding the gift cards for students if they're an allowable expense. I can't think of anything our students appreciated more.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:53 PM on May 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

Do you need a projector? A display board and table cover for conferences?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:54 PM on May 23, 2018

I see the above suggestion for second monitors. Your accounting team wants third ones.

Toner toner toner!

Scanner rollers and cleaning kits. Before you need them.
posted by armeowda at 8:29 PM on May 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

Fancy wireless keyboards and mice? I love my Magic Mouse SO MUCH.
posted by mollymayhem at 8:36 PM on May 23, 2018

Electric stapler. The best.
posted by snorkmaiden at 8:47 PM on May 23, 2018

At my last workplace, we got standing desk converters. Basically tabletop adjustable risers. I think I had the VariDesk. Here’s one roundup.
posted by amanda at 9:26 PM on May 23, 2018

Some of the things being mentioned here, esp furniture, are well over the $250 per item limit from OP.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 9:28 PM on May 23, 2018

Stapleless staplers
posted by hgws at 9:30 PM on May 23, 2018

Nthing footstools (and other ergonomic aides like monitor risers and document holders). Also nthing usb hubs/dongles.

Batteries and power packs. There are never enough batteries for all the wireless mice, labelmakers (nthing a labelmaker), etc. and they always die at the worst possible moment.

Planners and calendars for next year -- Amazon has both 2018 - 2019 academic and 2019 full-year calendars and planners in stock. And they always have the big undated dry-erase wall planners.

Good dry-erase board erasers, so people will actually use them and the boards will last longer.

Does everyone have a decent pair of scissors at their desk? Scissors. Staple removers -- the push kind (you may go stapleless, but people who send you stuff will not).

3M Command Strips/Hooks for hanging things up in the kitchen and elsewhere.

A freestanding coatrack for visitors' outerwear, if you don't have one already.

Every size of binder clip.
posted by camyram at 10:04 PM on May 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Rollermouse! Changed my life.
posted by exceptinsects at 10:35 PM on May 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Does everyone have a decent pair of scissors at their desk? Scissors. Staple removers -- the push kind (you may go stapleless, but people who send you stuff will not).

A freestanding coatrack for visitors' outerwear, if you don't have one already.

Repeated on account of good ideas, emphasis mine.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:41 PM on May 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

Getting keyboard trays with adjustable height and tilt for keyboard and its attached mouse pad with adjustable height and tilt goes a long way to spending a lot of money. They're $250 per unit. The trays make each desk ergonomically correct (as does the foot stools mentioned by penguin pie and camyram).
posted by dlwr300 at 5:21 AM on May 24, 2018

Response by poster: Holy moly. Thanks all! I am excited to dig into these options. A couple clarifications:

- there’s a “no gift cards ever” policy (in fact our purchasing cards disallow any transaction with a gift card to process) re gifts for the students :( it is a super bummer but set in stone.
- most furniture (chairs, tables, etc) is out. It has something to do with risk mgmt policy, fire code, etc. (However all of these suggestions I’ll keep on file for next year, when we have more time/money to work with our purchasing office on ergonomics upgrades.)
- we are currently at max counter space capacity with our kitchen appliances (but may swap out our current appliances for some of the suggestions above!)
- to share one suggestion I have on my end: these revolutionized the desk/kitchen cupboard/counter space aspect of our office storage problem: shelf risers

I’ll have one of my students compile these suggestions into some sort of shareable spreadsheet or amazon list. I’ll add a comment here with a link to it later this week, in case it’s helpful for anyone else!
posted by seemoorglass at 5:23 AM on May 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

You mentioned no food for employees. Does that include beverages? Our office purchased a Keurig and bulk boxes of diff. indiv. cups. I don't use it, but coworker think it's fantastic, and many have their own reusable cup thingies.

- Comfy relaxing chair? (We recently convinced managers to allow a quiet/nap room for CSRs in our customer service dept - we're currently shopping for a comfortable upright-but-able-to-recline chair.)
- Individual desk fans
- Good desk lights
- Very sharp new scissors
- n'thing Ergonomic chairs/stools
- Hot/cold packs to leave in freezer
- A really good first aid kit
- AED defibrillator
- Change out ceiling lights/light bulbs for higher efficiency bulbs
- Updated computer SW
- Kitchenette equipment/organizers (IKEA has good ideas for hardware/storage in gnomeish kitchens)
- N'thing big white boards and a pile of dry-erase markers and spray eraser stuff

What a nice problem to have :)
posted by mcbeth at 6:14 AM on May 24, 2018

Another vote for the standing desk converters or accompanying floor mats. That's what I'd ask for if anyone asked me.
posted by Constance Mirabella at 7:01 AM on May 24, 2018

Could you get a green screen for your video conference, so you can conference from the beach, or from space?
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:17 AM on May 24, 2018

Stocks of tampons/sanitary towels in the loo
posted by runincircles at 7:32 AM on May 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

You mentioned no food for employees. Does that include beverages? Our office purchased a Keurig and bulk boxes of diff. indiv. cups. I don't use it, but coworker think it's fantastic, and many have their own reusable cup thingies.

One office where I worked had a good Keurig machine, but you had to bring in your own K-cups or reusable cup and grounds. That might be a way to go if you can buy appliances but not food.

Seconding software mentioned above. Latest version of Creative Suite for everybody.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:05 AM on May 24, 2018

Seconding a sodastream + cartridges, or even fancier the cooling waterfontain type dispensers that connect directly to a water main and also offer sparkling options/hot water. That way you can get rid of the kettle on the counter in the kitchen.

Otherwise, i don't know how common these are where you are, but here we have boiling-water on tap appliances like Qooker, which is again great to speed up the water boiling process and clear the counter.

And if relevant to your industry, memberships to online learning resources like or Skillshare.
posted by PardonMyFrench at 8:26 AM on May 24, 2018

If your office has a lot of travel gear that needs to be organised, a fancy label printer is great to label and keep track of everything (Dymo)
posted by PardonMyFrench at 8:37 AM on May 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm sitting in my office thinking about things I have purchased myself: Brother label maker, rechargeable batteries/charger, laminator/laminating sheets, hand sanitizer, over the door hooks for everyone with an office door with a nice wooden hanger to go with it, fresh dry erase markers, door stops, SOUND MACHINES/WHITE NOISE GENERATORS.
posted by heathergirl at 10:52 AM on May 24, 2018

This is a small thing, but non-terrible Kleenex. My work provides really awful, rough one-ply off-brand tissues and everyone hates them. Every once in a while our admin assistant manages to sneak in an order of actual Kleenex and everyone gets really excited and squirrels away as many boxes of it as they can.
posted by skycrashesdown at 11:49 AM on May 24, 2018 [5 favorites]

I once delivered training in an office that had every adapter imaginable to connect to their projector zip tied to the cable.
VGA, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort, Lighting, mini-versions, micro-versions. If your computer, phone or tablet could ouput video it could probably connect to their projector. As a visitor this was incredible and not the norm.
posted by samhyland at 1:26 PM on May 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

Things a person hates getting caught without: phone chargers, umbrellas, ibuprofen, tampons, dental floss.

Maybe some plants.
posted by the_blizz at 5:39 PM on May 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

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