College Supplies; More For Less

by Carrie Lynn

Horizon Reporter

College these days is notorious for being too expensive.  We all wish that somehow life could be free, just for one quarter.  Unfortunately that will never happen, but there are many ways of saving money while purchasing school necessities.  Art classes, math classes, and specific assigned projects tend to be the heaviest in required materials but sometimes purchasing is not even needed.

            Whatcom Community College strives to make essential school equipment available to its students in places such as the Whatcom library, located in Heiner Center, and at the Whatcom bookstore, located in Syre Student Center.  The library offers students free access to supplies such as a copy machine, stapler, tape, glue, three hole punch, paper cutter, crayons, colored pencils and calculators.

            Librarian Linda Compton-Smith, was eager to provide resources for students in the library.  An impressive example of the library’s help is that when there are no more calculators available to rent for the full quarter, the library offers “emergency backups” for two-hour use.  “The staff never wants to send a student away empty handed,” Compton-Smith said.  All of these generous provisions are supplied by Student Services. 

            For art students, Whatcom’s bookstore sells almost all of the required art supplies.  While some complain about the store’s apparent high prices, their shelves offer art tools that match prices in local stores, and in some cases are even lower. 

            However, some students do opt to shop at other locations.  Mike Rodriguez, for example, an art student at Whatcom, reported that he buys his studio tack at the Dakota Art Store in downtown Bellingham.  “Some things are significant enough to do it that way,” Rodriguez said. 

            Michael’s Arts & Crafts is another favorable option due to the volume of coupons available online and within their ads.  Other local sources offering good prices and essential art supplies are: Living Colour, Whatcom Student Co-op Bookstore, Paper Zone and the Dollar Store.  When shopping for quantities of acrylic paints and mediums, the Whatcom art department recommended these online sites: Cheap Joe’s at, Dick Blick at, and Pearl Paint at

            Art materials can also be found in even more frugal ways than searching for the lowest retail prices.  As many skiers may know, there are annual ski swaps for used equipment – a genius way to go to save money.  Similarly, art tools can be found at garage sales or in the common recycling behind stores (a.k.a. dumpster diving). 

            Pamela Richardson, a Whatcom art instructor, said that garage sales are a great way to go.    “For a lot of people it’s a hobby they thought they were going to do, but never ended up doing,” Richardson said.  Naturally they are selling many necessary supplies for art students at low prices. 

            Craigslist is also a fast way to find materials since some people check Craigslist as obsessively as they check Facebook.  Current Whatcom art student Gareth Bolt said he put a wanted ad on Craigslist one morning for a canvas and received three responses that same night.    “If you are a one-shot student you just find the other one-shot student and save that way,” Bolt said.  By finding another elective student and sharing the supplies and cost, it becomes a more affordable bill.  Many of the needed supplies last much longer than one class. 

            Of course it seems easier and more efficient to buy supplies on campus where you are already attending class.  But if saving money is a higher priority for you than convenience,  sometimes other local, online, or creative alternatives pose as a pocket-friendlier resource for supplies.

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