Vital Dorm Items & Where to Buy Them

  • Linens – Check sales and use apps like Honey
  • Under bed storage bins (IKEA carries them for $6.00)
  • Desk or bedside lamp (good to find at yard sales or check Amazon)
  • Space saving clothes hangers (WalMart carries 10-packs for under $12)
  • Laptop ( or have the best deals)
  • Surge protector power cord (Amazon or WalMart)
  • Basic school supplies: paper, pens, folders, notebooks (Check office supply stores first)
  • Basic household goods like toilet paper, laundry detergent, and personal hygiene products can be purchased on sale or using coupons like normal household shopping.
  • Mini Fridge (WalMart or Best Buy)
  • Microwave (WalMart or Amazon)

It’s almost time for the new school year to start and while this can be an exciting time for new college students, many families experience sticker shock for far more than tuition. Without proper planning and research, the cost of outfitting a dorm room can catapult quick.

According to the National Retail Federation, The average family spends $900 per year to furnish dorm rooms. This number has increased substantially over the past decade and continues to trend upward. So, what to do if you’re on a budget and don’t want to add any more unnecessary financial burdens to your college expenses? Use this time as a teaching experience so your student learns the importance of wise budgeting and frugal living.

The first step is to plan well. You don’t want to purchase unnecessary items, so start with a visit to the dorm, or if that isn’t possible, call the school’s residential department and ask for a map of the dimensions of the dorm room, everything included and plan accordingly.

Your space dimensions should include wall and floor area, bed size and any built-in shelving or desk space. Once this is determined, it will be much easier to plan and buy items according to actual need. Most dorms are quite small and there is no room for excess.

Students should also coordinate with roommate(s) to avoid multiples. One way to save money may be to have one student provide a mini-fridge and the other a microwave that can be shared. You won’t need multiple gaming consoles, coffee makers, and appliances. Have a conversation about shared items and divide some of those purchases up in advance.

Needs vs Wants

Things you will absolutely need include linens like towels and bedding. Shop around for these items. Many assume big box stores have the best prices, but not always. Right now, Macy’s features twin reversible comforters for $19.99. This isn’t the store most associate with discount items, so be sure to do your homework and shop around.

If you don’t have Amazon Prime, it may be a good idea for your student to sign up. Registered college students with proof of ID can participate in this program for $49 per year – half off the regular program price. This allows items to be shipped directly to the college free and can save time, effort and money. Amazon offers really good deals on a vast array of products. Use the Honey app to find the best prices. This free app will tell you if the item you have selected is the best price. You can also add items to a drop list and receive a notification when the price drops.

Facebook marketplace is another valuable place to look for gently used items. Not everything has to be purchased new. I found a small microwave for my son for $15 and it works fine. A brand-new microwave was $59 at our local WalMart.

Shop rummage sales, yard sales and flea markets during the summer months and you may be surprised at the deals you find. You can also post “wanted” signs for certain items on local community bulletin boards and even on many Facebook groups.

In addition to shopping smart, consider areas where you can make do with what you have. For example, use the alarm on your smartphone instead of purchasing an alarm clock.

You should also consider buying from other college students. Graduating students often don’t need or want the hassle of moving large items when they leave and will donate or sell them for rock bottom prices. Look for campus bulletin boards or student forums and put a request out for things you need. You may be surprised at how little money you actually need to spend to outfit your dorm room. It is certainly possible to come in way below the average amount with a bit of due diligence.

About Christin Sander

Christin is a simple living, frugal, DIY enthusiast who loves showing others how to live their best by embracing simplicity. She works full time as a freelance writer and artist.


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