Things to Consider Before Buying Stationery
I will be the first person to admit that I own way too much stationery. Many of you who are into this hobby can probably relate. People all have “that one thing” they like to spend money on, and ours just happens to be stationery and related goods*!
Now that I’ve amassed my own collection, I’ve started to think about buying more intentionally. There’s an endless amount of stationery out there and tons of brands I still haven’t purchased from, or even heard of. At the same time, I have to be realistic - I can’t keep buying and buying forever. Over time, I’ve developed a sense of what I like to use as well as key things to consider before clicking that checkout button. I’m sharing my own tips and questions I like to ask myself prior to making a purchase, in hopes that it may help some of you enjoy this hobby in a more economical way**!
Washi Tape / Stamps
If there’s a huge variety of anything in the stationery world, I’d point to washi tape and stamps. I personally find this category to be a slippery slope - I think to myself, “oh, this washi tape is only $5 and it’s cute!” and before I know it, I'm picking and choosing other designs I don’t necessarily need. I’ve purchased and destashed quite a few of them as a result, and found out what stuck in my collection along the way.
With my journaling style, I tend to use a lot of patterned washi tape. I sometimes make use of the ones with artwork on them, but they usually serve as makeshift stickers more than anything else. I like layering washi tape a lot, which means many I own are neutral toned. Overall, I try to buy versatile designs that go with a wide variety of occasions.
As for stamps, I very much prefer wooden stamps to plastic or clear ones. I realize the clear stamps are much easier to bring with you on the go and allow you to actually see the layering of each stamp as you go, but for one reason or another I’ve stubbornly stuck with wooden stamps to this day - possibly because of the tactility factor.
I assume the same approach to wooden stamps as with washi tapes. I stick to designs I can use over and over again, with the exception of certain themes I really like (see: coffee). There isn’t much text on them, either. I stack them in a small wooden box on top of my desk so that I can see them when I’m journaling.
Notebooks / Journals
I think we’re drawn to notebooks naturally as stationery lovers. I mean, the basis of using stationery requires paper and a writing instrument. There’s a reason so many of us are particular about the types of papers we use! Combine that with the numerous sizes and brands, and our options are endless. I have my own stack of unused notebooks at my disposal and have committed to not buying any more until I use up what I have in my stash.
A good rule of thumb I find myself asking whenever I’m tempted to purchase another new notebook is - do I have a specific purpose I’ll be using this notebook for? Of course, sometimes I make excuses (“oh, I’ll use it for daily journaling! I’ll fill it up in no time!” even though I don’t journal every single day, for example). But taking a moment to pause and reflect on the “why” of the purchase is often enough to deter me from letting yet another beautiful notebook gather dust in my collection.
The universal understanding and lure of limited edition items are spelled out quite clearly: once they’re gone, they’re gone. Stationery brands, just like any other brand on the market, also release items for a limited time or limit the items themselves to specific locations around the globe. With everything being online and everyone being connected, however, these items can still be purchased from time to time through a third party at a higher price.
I’m going to be honest, sometimes the limited edition designs win me over - the prime examples being the Traveler’s Company Korea edition items as well as the To & Fro collaboration TN. What I try to keep in mind, though, is that I’m buying them to use them.
I filled up the Korea edition refill during a trip to - where else? - South Korea this April. The regular size brown To & Fro TN is in my regular rotation and serves as a creative art and memory-keeping journal. I’ve found that this particular leather, while very soft and pliable, gets scratched and marked up quite easily. I’m enjoying the process of seeing it age naturally with time.
Occasionally, I’ll see a beautiful limited edition collection post on social media and have a moment of envy. But the feeling passes rather quickly and is replaced with an appreciation of what I already have and use on a regular basis.
Notebook / Journal Covers
Here’s something else that brings me a lot of joy: notebook covers. If a notebook is housed in a cover I really like, I pick it up and write in it more often. I prefer simple and clean designs when it comes to notebook covers, mostly in the natural or brown colorway - I have tried deviating from it, but I always seem to come back to them.
I developed these preferences partly because I need my notebook covers to suit multiple environments. They need to look professional enough for regular use at work, and durable enough for me to put into my bag without worry. I also like to see them age well by picking up marks and scratches naturally and seeing them buff out over time. I’m aware that aging “well” means different things for different people - for instance, some of you don’t enjoy the weathered look of a notebook cover as much as me. These are all factors to consider before buying a notebook cover.
Following are a few ways that may help to reevaluate your stationery purchases that personally worked very well for me.
In an attempt to save up for my 2020 planner purchases, I kept a stationery no-spend at the back of my planner with the Midori monthly sticker. The only regular spending I have each month in terms of stationery purchases goes to The Stationery Selection box, so I wanted to curb buying anything else since I knew what I had in mind for 2020 wasn’t cheap.
If the idea of a no-spend doesn’t resonate with you, another suggestion I have is to track your spending in your planner. That way, you are able to see how frequently and how much you spend on stationery, and decide for yourself if you want to cut back (or cut yourself some slack)!
Keeping a limited storage space for my stationery purchases is also effective in making me pause before I hit that add to cart button. For wooden stamps, I try my hardest to keep them in that small wooden box atop my desk - although a few have spilled out onto the side. For washi tape, they must all fit in the wooden drawer underneath that stamp box. I have mostly succeeded in keeping them that way, minus a few rolls that are too tall to fit.
For all of my other supplies, I fit them into a single Raskog cart. If it ever gets to a point where I’m unable to fit everything into the cart, then I’ll know for sure it’s time for a proper decluttering.
At the end of the day, I want to make sure that my own spending habit doesn’t get out of control. I work hard at my day job to be able to fund this hobby and want to spend my money wisely and purposefully whenever possible. I hope some of the things you read in this post gave you better insight into what I consider before making a stationery purchase!
*I don’t know if various pouches and notebook covers count as stationery, but I wanted to include them in this post as a whole.
**Disclaimer: Ultimately, do what makes you happy. This is a judgment-free zone - how each person spends their money is their business and nobody else’s. The tips and advice shared in this post are what I keep in mind, so that my money is “well spent” according to my own personal rules.