Saving for Holiday’s, Free School Supplies, Dalai Lama Failure

The holiday times are expensive. Traveling, gifts, birthdays, special occasions etc… Before every holiday season I try to build up my spending account to at least a few hundred dollars, but this time I am trying something different.

I have opened up a 2nd spending account for big expenses such as Christmas gifts, big purchases and vacations. I will set an automatic, weekly transfer of money into this account like I do with all my other ancillary accounts.

I hate the idea of allocating more money towards spending during the holiday season, so I will start preparing now.


I decided to go uber-cheap school shopping after an Entrepreneur Society meeting. Basically whenever I need to stock up on pens, pencils or notebooks, I simply go into some of the very large auditorium classrooms around campus and pick up the good pencils and pens that people leave behind. I walked through two adjacent auditoriums at about 9:00pm before they were cleaned, and picked up the following supplies:

Why buy when it’s free?


The Dalai Lama speech was this past Tuesday. I wanted to take a picture with the Dalai Lama, but it didn’t quite happen. I had some appointments with professors right before the speech at 4:00pm, so I didn’t have the proper preparation time required. My attempt to gain press access was also not granted (and it turns out would have been useless). The speech filled the whole Erwin Events Center:

The security was not nearly tight as they claimed it would be, so I didn’t have many problems snapping a few pictures.

The speech wasn’t anything amazing, but he did have a sense of humor. Here is a funny picture of the Dalai Lama wearing his red visor to better see the audience!

I didn’t get a picture with him, so Operation Lama failed. Oh well.
Just as in business: You win some, you lose some.

Blog posted on: September 22, 2005

18 comments on “Saving for Holiday’s, Free School Supplies, Dalai Lama Failure

  1. Dave

    Nice idea with the 2nd spending account. I’ve been prepping myself up mentally for a number of big expenses I have coming up including the holidays.

    About the pens…school supplies aren’t that expensive, why not just buy? Doesn’t look like you wasted much time gathering up your supplies, but sometimes your time is more valuable than money and you should just buy. Stressing out over cheap stuff will drive you crazy. Save that for the big ticket items. Anyways, I know you didn’t stress or spend much time on the supplies, but its something maybe you could apply to other purchases….hope that makes sense!

    Dave’s Journal to Financial Freedom

  2. Anonymous

    Nev, you are such a shmuck.

    Lets see…can we think of any reasons why we should not spend .29 on a new pen, instead of picking up used pens? Oh, wait, I can think of one…I put my pen in my mouth….here’s another…I have seen people use the bathroom and then not wash their hands.

    Good grief, Nev….you are such an idiot sometimes.

  3. Karrie


    It’s sad you have to deal with people like the above anonymous. All they do is criticize. A new pen or mechanical pencil doesn’t always only cost $.29, and it also seems anonymous is a germaphobe.

    If you took his advice, you would never touch another door knob, book from a library or computer keyboard.

    It’s funny how people who post negative comments are almost always anonymous.
    Keep up the great work Nev!

  4. Anonymous

    Anonymous has a good point about diseases that you might pick up by taking others leftovers (pens, or whatever they are). I’d hope Nev is smart enough to a) never put pens he finds in his mouth, if he even has that bad habit, and b) disinfect anything he finds. Rubbing alcohol is quite cheap.

    If he doesn’t, then he really is pretty dumb, and deserves whatever medical expenses he accumulates

  5. anitasyv

    Hi Neville -

    Free school supplies never hurt, esp. when you’re saving for the holidays and making $2 on lottery tix!

    I was introduced to your fabulous blog by the famed NYTimes article. I’m writing an essay of my own on entrepreneurship and curiosity for an essay contest (3-4 hours for $500, odds of winning unknown), and wanted to know: how do you think these two traits are related?

  6. Anonymous

    personally, i take it even a step further. upon entering a restaurant, so i don’t have to order an apetizer, i look to see if there are any tables that haven’t yet been cleared off.

    if there are any plates that still have food on them, i dig in. you’d be surprised how many people leave food on their plates. once i even scored someone’s nearly full glass of wine! that’s $6.50 i saved on a glass of nice wine.

  7. Anonymous

    I thought you were being sarcastic about “uber-cheap school shopping” until I actually saw the picture.

    Come on! Some of those people simply forget those, they did not left it. What you are supposed to do take them to the “Lost & Found”.

    Maybe, you die from a disease you picked from one of those so, people don’t actually think that this is frugal! (just kidding: don’t die, you entertain a lot of poeple)

  8. Neville

    Some clarification:

    I was already walking by the two classrooms and I decided to swing by to pick up some pens (I use my tablet all the time and therefore do not keep many pens/pencils).

    The last time I heard of someone contracting a disease from a pencil or pen was never, so I will be just fine.

    Also, in one hour those rooms would have been cleaned and everything left behind goes into the trash. Pens/Pencils do not make it into the lost and found.

    Many people have curiosities about different business ideas. An entrepreneur will more likely ACTUALLY perform experiments.

    Some people think because I sold bottled water as an experiment, I am actually trying to make money from it. It was an EXPERIMENT to fullfil a CURIOSITY. The lottery experiment was also simply an experiment. Goodluck on your paper!

  9. Em

    I’ve noticed a number of negative comments driven by envy. What a shame. Whoever posted those comments, I guarantee, read quite a bit of Nev’s blog, then sat at home and desperately tried to come up with a good online business idea (because Nev made it sound so easy), then, upset by complete lack of ideas, posted a negative comment.

    Max Y.

  10. Matt Breckon

    Nev, I’ve finally got around to putting a link to your site from my blog.

    I’ve got another tip for “scrounging” – have a look around for those business lunches that often happen on campus or at conferences.

    Make sure you come back when they are clearing away and ask what will happen to the food. I’ve managed to get some really good food this way. (Of course you might need to make sure it hasn’t been sat in the sun for several hours!).

    Good luck on your quest Nev.

  11. jim

    A lot of you haters need to relax, he snagged some pens that would’ve been tossed out anyway. He’d be lauded by environmentalists for not letting perfectly good pens enter our landfills. When I was in school, I tried to score all the free stuff I could, you’re in freaking college and you’re poor.

    At the end of the year, when the rich kids moved out and didn’t want their stuff, I’d swing by the dorms and salvage perfectly good things like detergent, refridgerators, etc. Don’t hate because you shelled out $20 for a pack of pens you’ll use once and forget. And when I talk smack at least I sign my name.

  12. Jonathan@MyMoneyBlog

    I think the pens are awesome. I don’t know about using someone else’s organizer though, I’d end up doing someone else’s homework or something ;)

    Operation Llama… hilarious!

  13. Rebecca Carter

    Hey Nev, it’s been a while! Check out Basically it’s a group that exists in tons of cities across the world to help keep stuff out of landfills. What this means: when people want to get rid of stuff that they don’t want anymore, they post it, and choose who to give it to. People offer up furniture, clothes, household items. Also, if you’ve got something that is still good but you don’t want it anymore, you can get the pleasure of giving it directly to someone that needs it.

    I’m a bit nervous about posting this on your site. I’d just like to note to your readers that the purpose of FreeCycle is not profit, but to help out others.

  14. anitasyv

    Freecycle is excellent – I’ve only used it to get rid of stuff upon moving that I didn’t want to just throw away. They also have curb alerts when someone spots a great couch or desk that a freecycle-ignorant person has parked on the curb. Good for furniture, paint, household goods – maybe not as handy for office supplies. But you never know till you try!

    Nev, can I quote you for my essay?


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