Ballin’ on a Budget

Amping up school supplies without shelling out the big bucks

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Rebecca Mennecke

More stories from Rebecca Mennecke

September 16, 2019

Photo by Savannah Reeves


Since I was a kid, I’ve had a thing for school supplies. New pens, papers, pretty folders and notebooks were about the only thing that got me excited for a new school year. Every Christmas, fancy notebooks would be at the top of my list. However, the notebooks get crinkled up look dumpy by the middle of the academic year. So what does one do with these grungy old notebooks?

Nicer-looking notebooks and planners are more expensive than necessary. It’s $20 for a planner I’m only going to use every other week, $8 for a hard-cover notebook that won’t get all wrinkled in my crammed-full backpack. I don’t have the money for that. There’s the option of buying cheap notebooks, but then there’s that chance they get all messed up again.

I have the perfect solution: decorate those out-of-shape notebooks.

It’s simple, really. The only things absolutely, positively necessary to have are a notebook, one sheet of 12 by 12 scrapbooking paper and some form of tape or glue. Everything else can be scrounged up around campus!

My advice for buying scrapbooking paper is never buy it unless there’s a great 60% off coupon or it’s on sale. JoAnn Fabrics usually has some fairly good deals to keep an eye out for, but Hobby Lobby is a great one-stop shop for literally any paper one could possibly think of having. My personal favorite is the glitter paper, which they have in every color imaginable.

The first step of this do-it-yourself adventure is to cover a notebook with scrapbooking paper. Glue or tape will suffice, but I’m a little bit picky about how I like to tape up my notebooks, so I use a Tombow Mono Permanent Adhesive tape runner. These are really slick in the scrapbooking world, as they get in the little odd nooks and crannies.

Once the cover of your notebook is complete, the rest is up to the artist’s discretion. I usually like to just leave mine with a simple cover, but some might like a more collage-like work of art or some artistic additions. Magazines and newspapers are a great way to start in order to create a masterpiece.

The Flipside, The Spectator, Volume One and NOTA are always lying around campus, free to use. So, after students are finished reading the hard work from the writers, they can begin cutting things out, like the pictures and graphics.

Cut out pictures and text and organize it on a notebook in a way that looks pleasing. I always like to get inspiration from Tumblr or Pinterest — or even a simple Google search. The inspiration for notebook-decorating is not hard to find. Some people who are more artistic than I am may enjoy using watercolor paints to spice up the front of a notebook. It’s always worth a try!

If the notebook doesn’t turn out quite right, just tear off the cover and start again. It’s foolproof, really.

All I can say is, happy crafting!

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  • Here are just some of the many things that can be used to create a beautiful cover for a notebook. Here I have an old notebook from my roommate, some print media from around campus, some stickers from my personal collection, a pair of scissors, and my Tombow tape runner.

  • A notebook and a piece of scrapbook paper are the two most essential items needed for this project.

  • Tape the piece of scrapbooking paper to the cover of the notebook like so.

  • Fold over the edges of the scrapbooking and tape it to the back of the cover of the notebook. Then, fold the edges. This is the same way that I wrap my Christmas presents!

  • Then, fold over the last piece of the scrapbooking paper over the notebook.

  • Voila! You have a covered notebook! The notebook can be either left the way it is, or add some more decorations.

  • I decided to create a little “name” section to my notebook, and I added the initials of my roommate, Hannah Sedlacek. Don’t be afraid to have fun with colors and patterns!

  • Here are some of the prints that I picked up (for free!) around campus.

  • I cut out random pieces of the newspapers and magazines and scattered it around my notebook. Here is the final product of this messy effort!

  • Maybe you’re looking for something a little less all-over-the-place, so I decided to decorate another notebook. (Also, do you notice the little dinosaurs on this paper? Seriously, check out crafting stores. They have every type of scrapbooking paper imaginable!)

  • Tape the scrapbooking paper to the front of the notebook, just like explained before.

  • I cut out a map of the Eau Claire city busses from an Eau Claire magazine and then added some newsprint from The Spectator onto the back of it. Do you notice the articles from our very own Copy Editor and Op/Ed Editor? Check them out in last week’s print!

  • Then, I glued this to the front of the last edition of Flipside! Cover art can sometimes be the best place to find artwork.

  • I added some stickers to the front of my cover art and voila! All done.

  • And here’s the final product! Happy crafting!

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Mennecke can be contacted at [email protected]

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