Nursing Student Series : When to splurge or save on supplies & books

Hi everyone! I hope everyone had a great holiday and new years. Welcome to the year 2017! I can’t even believe that it’s 2017 (who can?) Time seems to be going at warp speed. When I look back at 2016, I have to say that it was a roller coaster ride (since when was life not such?) but at the same time it wasn’t as crazy as other years when life was busier and in so many ways more intense for various reasons.

As you all know, 2017 it a very different year for me, because I’ll be starting the year off not as a public health professional but as a full time nursing student! I’m preparing myself for quite the intensive accelerated year that is going to happen soon. Before that, I wanted to do a blog post on when to splurge and save on supplies and books for nursing school.

Now, having done the college and grad school thing in the past, I went into buying such with the mindset that I didn’t need to have all things that I was suppose to get brand new (does that make sense — not all supplies and books I buy have to be brand spanking new). The reality is that there are things that you are going to splurge on. Yet, there are also entities which you can save. It’s important to know when to do what based on your own finances and capabilities.

Personally, it’s extremely tempting for me to want to get brand new this and that or to think that I’ll use this or that later on, so I must buy the most expensive item, thinking that higher price tag equates to better quality. This may be true for certain things, which you ought to splurge on. However, I’m going to list out what you ought to save. In addition, below are some additional supplies to think about when purchasing supplies, not things you ought to go out and buy. My best advice is, buy what you need based on the list you were given. Then, add on what you think you’ll need.


1. Stethoscope : I was fortunate in enough that my school will actually be purchasing my stethoscope for me so I don’t have to choose this. However, I’d spend some time looking for a decent one. You should be spending anywhere around $80 to $200 for one. While I personally won’t choose the most expensive, I’d choose one that multiple healthcare professionals have reviewed. For instance, a Littman Classic III had been on my wish list of supplies to get for nursing school. Do you absolutely need the cardiology series? For now I would say no, but it definitely was something I thought about. Don’t buy a cheapie one for the stethoscope, definitely invest in this. Not only is this good for school, but post nursing school as well.

Example: Littman Classic III Stethoscope

2. Pen Light : Yes, these are fairly cheap. You’ll spend on average about $5 tops? Mine was about$15, and I chose this because it had better reviews than the cheaper option. Is this an absolute splurge? No, you don’t have to. However, I’m not going to utilize a pen that breaks in 2 months if I can help it. Besides an extra $10 is not too bad for me. I have heard however that pen lights can be expensive. I haven’t found any that are quite expensive, but I have heard of some lights costing an estimated $40 and for me, the bug eyed emolji came to my mind when I heard that. If I find that, I’ll provide a link below.

Example: Opoway Pen Light

3. CERTAIN books : Like how I capitalized that? Everyone knows that when you go to college, grad school, or professional school, text books are going to cost a fortune. The multitude of textbook formats these days are truly insane. However, whether you choose an e-book, hard copied text book, paperback, used, rental, or brand spanking new, the fact of the matter is that books are expensive. Now, we had a chance to talk to students who came before us, and they mentioned certain books they bought and those that they didn’t. Such nuggets of information are greatly appreciated because this can save you a good few hundred bucks per semester. Another way to also determine when to splurge on a book or not (i.e. Purchase a book), is know what books would be considered important for you. I already know that Med Surg is probably a book I’d buy. Students have also bought this book. There — you buy that book. There are books that you may not have to spend that much money on. Whether it’s a field you may not go into or perhaps a field you’re not interested in, then you have the opportunity to buy used or even rent. I chose to rent a majority of my books because I know myself — I will be highlighting these guys like crazy, and when I mean crazy..the whole page is highlighted. There’s no point in me purchasing these books when it’s not going to be useful. PLUS, some people may argue that they will use these books while studying for the NCLEX. Please…having taken a certification test in the past, you are NOT going to be using these notes, you are literally purchasing study materials that will help you focus on how to pass the NCLEX, not going back to textbooks. IF anything, your notes are worth more than these books. So spurge on certain books, save on others.

4. Uniform : Buy what you must and save on other uniforms. My school requires that our scrub tops and jackets have the school logo on them while the bottoms, so long as it meets criteria, don’t have to be bought in house. When I heard that, I knew exactly what I was going to do and it was buy the tops and jacket with the school, buy pants elsewhere. While the tops were not too expensive, when you buy a few, the $$ start adding up. This is why if you can, spend where you must, save elsewhere.

5. NCLEX Study book: You may not need this towards the latter end of your program. However, buy this now, because you can actually start early with trying to understand how to take the NCLEX and I’ve heard that for professors in nursing schools, that the way tests can be formatted is that they are very similar to the NCLEX questions. This is actually really good because if your class or program does this, they are essentially prepping you and your brain to think like a nurse and for the NCLEX. There are many books out there, but I’ve heard good things about Kaplan and Saunders. I personally love the Secrets Guide books. I’ve used this for my Certified Health Education Specialist certification, for my nursing entrance exams and have passed every single exam in one try with this, so as much as I love traditional books, just want to give a shout out to those at Secrets, because those study materials rock (thumbs up emojis all the way).

6. Laptop/Tablet/Combo of both: I only recommend this if the one you current have right now is on its last leg. If it’s blue screened (PC) on you or if it lags to load Safari (Mac) or if your tablet fails to update apps, then take advantage of student discounts to splurge on a decent computer. My actual program requires us to have a laptop instead of a tablet (which is sad because I love my ipad), thankfully I have an older laptop that I could use to take my tests, so I’m not buying one. However, if I had to buy one, I’d use my student discounts to its fullest capacity. Yet, I would not be buying the cheapest computer on the market. I may not be a tech genius like many in Silicon Valley, but unfortunately, I wasn’t in line to buy the cheapest laptop during Black Friday. I actually look pretty closely at computers before I buy. I may not buy a $2000 laptop, but I think it’s worthy to splurge on a good laptop rather than one that may falter on you in the middle of the program.


1. Books: See above, no additional explanation needed.

2. Smaller supplies: Bandage scissors and forceps are used in school settings and if anything hospitals will supply these when you are out in the field. Do you need the top of the line bandage scissors and forceps? I think not. If there is a donation bin, at the school where students from classes before are choosing to give away what they’ve used previously, by all means take advantage of this because I find that such materials are still in tip top shape. Plus, if you’re in an accelerated program as myself, then most likely such equipment isn’t used as much as other students in other programs may be doing so. Find out from your school if such exists.

3. Other uniforms: As I mentioned above, my scrub bottoms don’t have to be purchased via school. I would stress the importance of trying to meet criteria that the school has asked. If the school mentions that you must buy a certain brand, try sticking to that. When I found out mine had to be of certain color and brand, I stuck to it. It’s less headache if you know this ahead of time and stick to that but look for better prices out in the market rather than go out and buy something that doesn’t match. Trust me, you’d rather be ready on that first day you have your uniform rather than get sent home all because you cut corners on the uniform.

4. Regular school supplies (i.e. Notebooks, pens, etc): It’s just school. If you need to replenish certain supplies, by all means. However, you don’t need that fancy notebook  and pen that can turn what you’ve written into a PDF. You don’t need fancy pens. Look for sales when you can and buy what you need. Need I say more about buying clicks pens? 😉

5. Shoes: Spend on shoes that are useful for 12 hour clinical shifts. HOWEVER, I want to stress that you don’t have to buy that $100 pair of danksos. My requirements are that I have to wear white shoes. I am not willing to spend $100 on white Danskos. So instead, I started shopping for sales on shoes that were white. The one great advice I got was to try to get shoes without mesh tops (due to bodily fluids…those feel awesome between your toes right? Says our nursing director. Good call…good call). Essentially if you look around, you’ll find a pair. I spend under $40 on a known brand shoe, that I know can last me 12 hours at the outlet store. I’m personally not a white shoe fan, so essentially, I really don’t think I’d be keeping these once they’re worn down. It’s just a personal preference. Spend on shoes that you think you’ll need (and when I mean think, I mean, really think about your feet, what you’ve bought, what your feet feel like after walking 10 hours a day, etc). Don’t just THINK you need good quality shoes and splurge. If you can even get a $50-70 shoe…not bad. I personally wasn’t going to spend that much on shoes.

6. Planners/Stickers/Bullet Journals galore: Let’s be realistic. As a digital planner person who does use a monthly planner, I myself invested in a Moleskin weekly planner for the year 2017. Why — if I already have a monthly planner and use a digital planner, you may ask? We’ve been told about the numerous deadlines one has every single week. In an accelerated course, busy schedules for me means a need for a decent planner where I can write things down each week. I’m exploring the utilization of a weekly planner, and honestly, the Moleskin weekly planner is the most I’ve spent on a planner EVER. I like spending about $10 for a planner. However, the need for these $30 planners that are out there, while beautiful and craft-spiring (Yes, I made that up, it’s inspiring to see planners personalized, memorialized and scrapebooked in such a way that I’m even tempted to do it myself). HOWEVER, with deadlines, clinicals, tests, and life, doing such should be a secondary thing where it’s either personal time to relax or simply to refocus. Crafting for people can take hours. With time management a must, don’t spurge on cool pinterest/instagram picturesque planning tools. Stick to what you need, buy what you want to personalize the year (I just bought stickers, don’t worry, a planner series is in the works), but don’t splurge on expensive planners, calligraphy pens, stickers, bullet journals when you may not have the time to even do such. I mean, even for me, personalizing my moleskin book seems to be a challenge — which is why, I’m recreating a Challenge series on personalizing my planner. That’s right, you heard it hear first.

So, there you have it guys, some of the splurges to spend on and where to save. Below are a few supply items to think about prior to the start of school. They’re not the most conventional items that people talk about…but I think it’s something to consider when for your program.

1. Vitamin C – Weird right? Why Vitamin C as a first choice? When you are stressed out, in clinicals, studying into the wee hours of the morning, and doing hands on care, taking vitamin C is useful simply as a preventative measure to protect your immune system from the cold or flu.

2. Post Its : I am a post it fan, even with stickers, I still will use post its to my hearts desire. If you’re a post it fan like me, then stock up, because you will use this a lot.

3. Cheap markers: No need for felt tip markers, I find that $ store markers work just fine.

4. Files/Binders/Crates/Folders: I am not a binder type of person; to hole punch, file, and put on a shelf is not useful to me. Rather, I like a simple crate, plastic hanging files, binder clips, and put it away with the most back being the earliest date and front most current date. If you’re like me who likes filing rather than bindering, definitely worth getting. A crate is about $3, and hanging files is about $5-10 depending on what you’re looking to get. You can get standard hanging folders as well for this.

5. Apps: There are some apps that are helpful for nursing school as well as note taking/studying. If you’re in need of things like discipline rather than go on social media, there are plenty of apps out there that you can get. If you want things on the go, nursing apps are also available. My personal advice would be to invest in Quizlet; it’s free, however, with a purchase of Quizlet, you have access to more materials and better capability to make better flash cards with sound bites and pictures.

5. Whiteboard and Pens: Mapping things out is one thing (paper or digital), but when it comes to memorizing and practice, rather than use paper, use a white board. I have a portable one that I like to carry around when I took biochem. I used this when I was in public health as an employee for brainstorming. I find having this around while studying is useful to jog memories or simply as an opportunity to practice what you’ve learned to ensure that you understand what you are studying.


So there you have it guys! Sorry for the super long blog post. I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays with friends & family and a safe new year. Happy New Year to all, and here’s to 2017.




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