Starting college can be an incredibly overwhelming and expensive experience. But it doesn’t have to be! With the right tools and knowledge, you can begin this new chapter of life with excitement and ease. Today, I hope to help with this by giving you 17 great tips to save money on dorm essentials. These hacks will help you decrease the overwhelming initial cost of college and give you one less thing to worry about. Let’s dive in!
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Top 5 Dorm Essentials
Before we begin, let’s take a quick glance at the top five things you CANNOT forget to bring to college with you. Be sure these are at the top of your list of dorm essentials.
- Laptop: A laptop will be perhaps your most used tool in college. You will use it every. single. day. I personally use a MacBook Pro. It is on the pricer side but is guaranteed to last your entire college experience. Another great option is this great laptop. It is much cheaper but won’t last as long. Your call!
- Bedding Set: Wanna sleep comfortably? Yeah I thought so… be sure not to forget a bedding set! Solid colors are always a safe option.
- Shower Caddy: This is another no-brainer and must have. Don’t forget a good shower kit to bring with you!
- Student Planner: Your student planner will hold your entire life during college. So be sure to get a great one! I can’t recommend this one enough!
- Important Documents and Medications: Finally, don’t forget to bring your ID, required documents, medications, and other important personal items.
Check out the the full college packing list, as well as everything you need to know about packing for college HERE.
1. Make a List Before You Go
Before you begin shopping for dorm essentials, be sure to create a detailed, yet realistic list. Don’t worry, I’ve done all the heavy lifting for you! My FREE college packing list (grab it below or HERE) has everything you might need for your college experience. Be sure to cross off everything you don’t think you will want or need so you don’t waste any of your hard-earned cash!
2. Set a Budget Before You Shop
Next, be sure to set a budget. This will ensure you know you can truly afford what you’re about to buy. This will also help you make important decisions, and help you answer the question “do I REALLY need this?”
Related: Budgeting 101 – Everything You Need to Know About Creating a Foolproof Budget (Freebie Included!)
3. Shop Your Home First
Next, before you begin shopping, look around your house to see what else you can cross off your shopping list. This is the best way to find free items! Be sure to check your attic, storage, and every cupboard. Who knows, you might be able to find some things you didn’t even know you had!
4. Check Your Local Thrift Stores
Once you’re ready to begin shopping, start at your local thrift stores. You can often find some great hidden gems here! These are great places to find books, decorations, art, supplies, and more.
5. Check Local Garage Sales
Similarly, check out your community yard and garage sales. You can also check out nearby garage sales once you get to campus. I actually found my first printer at a garage sale for $5! Lasted me three whole years!
6. Check the Dollar Store
Another great place to check is the Dollar Store. This is a great place to find cheap items that are perfect for dorm life, such as dishes, kitchen utensils, garbage bags, school supplies, and other useful items that you might only need for the first year. This is also a great way to purchase items that you won’t mind getting broken or ruined while living in a dorm.
7. Shop Daily Deals on Amazon
Next, you won’t believe the amazing deals you will find on Amazon’s Daily Deals. I’m serious, some of them are WAY better than the regular back-to-school sales at the store. When I’m shopping for something, I ALWAYS check the Daily Deals first.
8. Shop the Sales!
Now that you have shopped all the major thrifty areas, it’s time to check out the great back to school sales! Check out your favorite store to see what sales they are offering during their back-to-school events.
9. Shop Early!
To ensure you don’t miss out on any great sales, be sure to shop for your dorm essentials early. Most stores will begin offering great deals in July and August, so be sure to check in from time to time to get the best deal possible.
10. Use Coupons
Next, before you purchase anything in the store, check their website and catalog to see if you can find any great coupons to use.
11. Use an Undated Printable Planner
You often have to purchase a new planner every year. Skip this hassle and extra expense by using an undated printable planner! It allows you to print as many pages as you need and fill in the dates as the years move forward. The Olden Chapters Printable Student Planner is the perfect college planner. It truly has everything you might need. Check it out today!
12. Splurge on Essentials
Skip the non-essentials and splurge a little on your necessities. Remember: quality over quantity. This will save you money in the long run, as you won’t be spending more later on to replace it.
Necessities worth splurging on:
- Backpack: This backpack has lasted me through high school and college, and I am still using it in graduate school! I have also brought it with me on hiking trips. It has lasted forever and when it finally does give out, I’ll probably purchase the same one. Can’t recommend it enough.
- Laptop: Because you’ll be using your laptop everyday, it is a good idea to invest in a good one from day one (if you can). Still try to find the best deal you can, but definitely err on the quality side.
- Tablet: I’ve been noticing more and more students on campus using tables in class. Many have both a laptop and a tablet, while some prefer one or the other. The benefit of having a tablet in class is having the ability to pull up lecture slides and other notes.
- Printer: Most campuses will have printing stations but you’ll be required to pay. It is so convenient to have a good printer in your dorm or apartment. Especially if you need to print something in the early hours of the morning. But be sure to check with current students before you buy! Your campus might offer free or 24-hour printing.
- Binders: Finally, a good quality binder will take you far. I recommend the Better Binder by Staples. I am still using my first binders, they last forever and are not that large of an extra expense.
13. Compare Prices
Next, before you purchase any big-ticket dorm essentials, be sure to look around and compare prices with other stores. This might make your shopping take a little longer but you’ll be assured that you are getting the best deal possible.
14. Talk With Current Students
You can often speak with other students on campus before you arrive. Be sure to ask them what is really needed and what you can leave behind for your specific campus. For example, my campus has mini-fridges and microwaves in every dorm room, so that was something I was able to cross of my list early. You can also ask them about printing options, computer access, bicycle racks, library amenities, and gym facilities (do you need to bring a swim suit?).
15. Split the Shopping List with Your New Roommate
Connect with your roommate to see if you can split the shopping list in some way. Perhaps they were just gifted a great TV and you could bring the DVD player. Other items you can easily split include decorations, dishes, printers, bathroom cleaners, a garbage can, and plants.
16. Confirm Dorm Dimensions
Ask your admissions officer or student life representative for the size, dimensions, and layout of your dorm room and new bed. This way, you will know for sure you get the correct items and don’t waste money on anything that won’t fit. As a starting point, most dorm beds are twin extra-long, but not always.
17. Get Crafty
Finally, get a little crafty! If you are strapped for cash but are really wanting some fun decorations, try getting creative and make a DIY project out of it! You might be surprised what you can create over the summer.
Looking for some more great college-prep material? Check out these awesome related blog posts:
- The Ultimate College Packing List: Everything You Actually Need to Take With You To College
- The College Freshman Year Survival Guide
- 20 Essential Things You Must Do The Summer Before College
- How to Prepare for a Successful Semester
That’s a wrap! I hope you were able to pull some useful tips and tricks to help you have some serious cash while dorm shopping. I have used a ton of these tips myself and know you’ll have some great success. Have fun and happy shopping!