Whoever coined the term “every penny counts” was surely a student, and most likely uttered these words in September, at the start of a new school term. Once a year, after spending a considerable sum on tuition, books, and first and last months’ rent, I find myself cursing all additional costs (even the nominal ones) as I imagine what life will be like in December. Binders for new classes, writing implements, ink cartridges, groceries, perhaps a much needed piece of furniture: it is all spending that really adds up, and usually culminates in a whole lot of pasta-eating by mid-November. Going to university is expensive, and living frugally during your scholastic career is an unavoidable reality for most students. For this reason, when I discovered U of T’s Swap Shop last week, I was a little bewildered. After enduring so many years of being broke and in school, I was impressed to find a place like this, where students are provided with necessities, but aren’t made to pay thousands of dollars for them.
The Swap Shop is a university-run facility which collects used furniture and office supplies from various campus departments, and subsequently offers them to U of T students. It’s a rather impressive spot, packed full of bins of old books, desks, filing cabinets, chairs, computer monitors, keyboards, phones, kitchen supplies, and even a rack of secondhand clothing. Although the university’s departments get first dibs on any of the furniture in the Swap Shop, as a student you also have the opportunity to acquire furniture for free by filling in a personal claim form. If no department has shown interest in the item for two weeks, it’s yours. You’ve then got a week to figure out how to transport it home.
Along with large items like bookshelves and desks, the Swap Shop offers a massive pile of free binders to those who want them. To my delight, as-many-as-you-can-carry books are also available for one dollar. After becoming sufficiently sidetracked from the task at hand (finding out information to write this post) and fishing through giant black bins brimming with books, I walked happily away with a small literary bounty; amongst which was Breslove’s Latin Composition, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, and, for the sake of sheer curiosity, The Golden Age of B.S. by Fred C. Dobbs.
The Swap Shop solves a logistical issue for the university: as departments renovate and upgrade, a plethora of surplus equipment exists that might otherwise easily end up rotting in a dump site. The Swap Shop therefore offers a great way to reuse things rather than just buying brand new ones, and further offers advice on how to reduce the amount of individual waste you produce.
The Swap Shop is open only on Wednesdays from 12 to 2, a bustling two hour period in which people come in and go out at high speed. It’s located north of College on Spadina Crescent, the front door (down a half-set of stairs) the first on the north side of Russell St., in the South Borden building. You can also visit the Swap Shop here, where you’ll find extra information and a campus map marking the facility.