Dorm Room Essentials: What’s Worth Buying and What Should You Skip?

dorm room essentials
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The end of summer means it’s time to go back to school, and for many of you, it means heading to college.

As an incoming college freshman, you’ll feel tempted to bring or buy everything you see in the “dorm survival” section of the store.

Let this recent college grad be the first to say: Don’t.

Many students show up on campus with tons of stuff they never use, and some have overlooked crucial dorm necessities. I spoke with several college students and recent grads for their suggestions on what to buy for your dorm room and what to skip.

Dorm Must-Haves

You’re definitely going to be happy you bought these items. Just make sure to compare prices before you buy to get the best deal.

Look for back-to-school promos, discounts and promos using sites like RetailMeNot, or try one of these browser extensions to automatically find the best price. To earn a little money back on your purchase, buy through one of these cash-back websites.

1. Minifridge

Whether you’re looking to store leftovers from the dining hall, cook your own quick meals in a dorm kitchen or just keep a few cold soft drinks, a minifridge can come in handy.

On nights you’re up late finishing a paper or studying, you’ll be glad to reach into your fridge for a late-night snack or beverage.

Check with your university to see if they offer any special deals on minifridges. Some colleges rent fridges or give significant discounts when you purchase them at the campus store. If that’s not an option, try Craigslist, Target, Wal-Mart and Bed, Bath and Beyond.

2. Flip-Flops

Promise me you won’t be the freshman who goes barefoot in a communal bathroom. Yuck!

Bring a pair of flip-flops. You’ll be grateful when you’re braving the shower shared with 20 or 30 other freshmen.

3. Fan

Nothing is worse than burning up in a dorm room!

Unfortunately, many freshmen are stuck in outdated dorms without air conditioning, and in some places, it’s too humid to open the windows. You’ll definitely be happy to have a personal fan blowing cool(ish) air toward you.

4. Mattress Pad

Every college is different, but one thing I heard across the board was that dorm room mattresses are often uncomfortable!

For your own sanity (and the sake of your neck and back), get yourself a mattress pad. Ask an friend or family member if they still have theirs, or compare prices at Wal-Mart, eBay, Target, Amazon or Kmart.

5. Extra-Long Sheets

When I moved to college, I downsized from my comfy queen-size bed to an extra-long twin bed and had to buy new sheets.

Check with your housing department before you arrive on campus to find out what size your dorm room bed will be, then look for deals on this unusual sheet size.

Unnecessary Dorm Items

While some of these items are fun to have, they’re not crucial. Save your cash and skip these purchases:

1. Microwave

As a freshman, you’ll likely eat most of your meals in the dining hall. Plus, many dorms have microwaves in communal lounges or kitchens, and some schools prohibit students from having microwaves in their rooms.

2. Decorations

While decorating can be fun, it doesn’t have to break the bank! Instead of springing for framed posters or Christmas lights, try DIY decor.

“I keep my room decorations pretty simple. I make collages of artwork or magazine clippings,” says Julia, a rising senior at Williams College. “Handmade decorations are the best!”

3. Printer

While a laptop is almost essential, a personal printer? Not so much.

Many college campuses offer free printing in the library, and some dorms have printing labs in their basements. Check with your residence advisor to see what amenities are offered in your hall.

4. TV

Unless you’re getting a hand-me-down from an older sibling or bringing one from home, don’t buy a brand-new TV for your dorm room. While it’s nice to have a bigger screen to watch when others are around, Netflix on your laptop is just fine and it beats wasting money on something you may hardly use.

“It was cool to have [a TV] for whenever there was some show I wanted to catch, but you don’t need one,” says Agnes, a recent graduate of the University of Maryland. “You mostly never have time to watch it and you could always catch things online the next day.”

Freshman year is fun, but it shouldn’t break the bank. With the right preparation, the transition into your new dorm will be easy and budget-friendly. Best of luck, Class of 2019!

Your Turn: What do you think of these dorm essentials? What did you love having, and what did you wish you hadn’t bought?

Disclosure: We have a serious Taco Bell addiction around here. The affiliate links in this post help us order off the dollar menu. Thanks for your support!

Maryann Akinboyewa is a social media strategist and writer.