Turn in your 'supply police' badge

While monitoring pens, paper clips and other supplies seems like a full-time job, it shouldn't. If you'd rather spend your workday doing more than dispensing "sticky" pads and policing paper procurements, use these tactics to control the supply monster:

Create a single supply area. When supplies are spread throughout the office, you're likely to buy more items than needed. Lydia Abram of Alexandria, Va., trimmed her office's spending by creating one well-organized supply area. "Now, everything has a specific place, and we know exactly how much we have of each item," she said. "Our office supply representatives even noticed and called to ask, 'Why aren't you buying as much with us?'"

Choose a secure location. Don't stock your department's supplies in an area that the entire office accesses, such as the copy room.

Put everything in its place. Use a specific location for each supply item, so you know exactly what supplies are on hand.

Make everyone a monitor. While you should scan the shelves regularly to check what needs to be re-ordered, make all employees part of your warning system. Ask staff members to notify you when they take the last item or open the last box of something. Post a reminder in the supply area.

Stock reserves. Keep a small supply of essential items, such as toner cartridges, in a locked location so at least one is always available.

Create artificial shortfalls to find out what people really need. The next time you run out of an item, let it stay out of stock for a while to determine the real demand for it.