Everything You Need To Pack For College

Everything You Need to Pack for College – Dorm Essentials on a Budget!



College is insanely expensive, but getting your dorm room set up should not be.

For budget-minded college students, we have crafted this complete list of dorm room essentials!

Here are some budget-savvy ways to make your dorm room look great, maximize its limited space, and create a setting that empowers college success.

Things to buy for your dorm room

College dorm rooms are small and typically equipped with an uncomfortable bed, a desk, chair, and a small closet. It’s up to you to transform this raw area into your home away from home!

But don’t worry. We got you covered.

To set up your dorm room on a budget, the key is to purchase multi-functional and space-saving items that will last throughout your entire school career. Here’s a list of essentials you should have in your dorm:

Storage bins: Storage bins are essential for college dorms. Not only do they help you keep your clothes organized, but they can also be used to store items such as school supplies and other small essentials. Look for storage bins with handles – it’ll make lugging them around much easier!

Our Pick

Amazon Basics Collapsible Fabric Storage Cubes with Oval Grommets – 6-Pack, Light Grey H

Hanging storage: Hanging storage is a great way to store items like towels, hats, and scarves. You can also use it to store school supplies or other items you don’t want cluttering up your room.

Our Pick

StorageWorks 6-Shelf Hanging Closet Organizer, Hanging Shelves for Closet, Fabric, Mixing of Brown and Gray, 12″ D x 12″ W x 47 ¾” H

Bulletin/dry erase board: A bulletin or dry erase board is great for staying organized. You can make lists, plan out your days/weeks, and even post pictures of friends and family.

Full-length mirror: A full-length mirror is also essential for doing outfit checks before leaving the dorm room

Desk organizer: To stay organized and productive, a desk organizer is essential. Invest in something that has compartments for pens, pencils, paperclips, etc

Rug: Rugs can help make a dorm room feel more homey. Look for something that’s durable and easy to clean – it’ll get a lot of wear and tear!

Bedding: You’ll want to pick out bedding that’s affordable, yet comfortable and stylish. For more details, read this article.

Laptop/tablet stand: A laptop or tablet stand is great for watching movies, studying, and working on projects in bed.

Our Pick

ALASHI Laptop Stand for Desk, Aluminum Computer Riser, Ergonomic Notebook Holder, Detachable Metal Laptops Elevator, PC Cooling Mount Support 10 to 15.6 Inches Notebook

Under bed storage: Make the most of your space by using under bed storage. Look for bins or cubes that will fit underneath your bed. They’ll help keep your dorm room organized and clutter-free. They also can be used to move your dorm room essentials back home during the summer break.

Our Pick

Onlyeasy Foldable Underbed Bags – 2 Pack Blankets Clothes Comforters Storage Bag Breathable Zippered Organizer for Bedroom with Clear Window and 4 Handles, 39.4×19.7×5.9 in, Linen-like Grey, MXDUBBP2

Bedside caddy: Bedside caddies are great for holding things like books, laptops, phones, and chargers. They are much cheaper than a bedside table and will help you make the most of your dorm room.

Our Pick

Surblue Bedside Caddy Hanging Bed Organizer Storage Bag Pocket for Bunk and Hospital Beds, College Dorm Rooms Baby Bed Rails, Camp 4 Pockets and 2 Hooks (Small, Gray)

Dorm kitchen

Having a workable kitchen in college is essential for saving money and preparing healthy meals. One of the key ways to save money is to purchase kitchen essentials that are affordable and versatile. If you have roommates, split up the cost of these items to keep each person’s spending costs low.

Here are some kitchen essentials on a budget for college dorms:

Mini fridge: A mini fridge is essential for storing food and drinks in your dorm room. Look for one with a freezer compartment – it’ll come in handy for frozen meals and snacks.

Our Pick

Midea WHS-65LB1 Compact Single Reversible Door Refrigerator, 1.6 Cubic Feet(0.045 Cubic Meter), Black

Microwave: A microwave is a must for heating up food and drinks in a pinch.

Our Pick

BLACK+DECKER EM720CB7 Digital Microwave Oven with Turntable Push-Button Door, Child Safety Lock, 700W, Stainless Steel, 0.7 Cu.ft

Coffee maker: Investing in a coffee maker or single-serve brewer is a great way to save money on expensive coffee drinks. The one we suggest gives you the option of using K-cups or ground coffee.

Our Pick

Famiworths Single Serve Coffee Maker for K Cup and Ground Coffee, 6 to 14 Oz Brew Sizes, Fits Travel Mug, Mini One Cup with Self-cleaning Function, Black

Coffee grinder: Investing in a coffee grinder will help you get the freshest cup of joe every morning!

Our Pick

Kaffe Coffee Grinder Electric – Spice Grinder w/Cleaning Brush, Easy On/Off – Perfect for Espresso, Herbs, Spices, Nuts, Grain – 3.5oz / 14 Cup. Stainless Steel

Toaster oven: A toaster oven is a great way to make quick meals without having to use the communal kitchen.

Nutribullet: If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to make smoothies and shakes, a Nutribullet is the way to go. It is expensive to but smoothies when you are out, but making them yourself in your dorm can be very cheap with a Nutribullet.

Our Pick

Magic Bullet Blender, Small, Silver, 11-Piece Set

Rice cooker: A rice cooker is great for cooking up batches of grains and veggies in no time.

Water filter: Investing in a water filter will help ensure you get clean, great-tasting water.

Our Pick

Brita Water Filter Pitcher for Tap and Drinking Water with 1 Standard Filter, Lasts 2 Months, 6-Cup Capacity, BPA Free, White

Reusable water bottle: A reusable water bottle is essential for staying hydrated while on the go.

Cooking utensils & silverware: You’ll need basic cooking utensils and silverware for preparing meals in the dorm kitchen.

Dishes, plates, bowls & cups: Pick up some basic dishes, plates, bowls, and cups. They will come in handy for both cooking and eating.

Mugs: Mugs are essential for enjoying hot beverages in your dorm.

Cutting board: A cutting board is essential for prepping meals and snacks.

Food storage bins/bags: Investing in some food storage bins or bags will help you store leftovers and other food items.

Electronics & technology

Technology is a must-have for college life. Investing in the right gadgets will help make your studies more efficient and fun. To stay on budget, try to purchase devices that can do multiple tasks, take advantage of sales and student discounts, and look for used items. Here are some tech essentials on a budget for college dorm rooms:

Laptop/tablet: Laptops and tablets are a must for college. Look for one that’s lightweight and has plenty of storage. To save money, take advantage of student discounts and the sales that take place around back to school.

  • Apple Education Pricing: Apple has a sale each year during back-to-school shopping season, which can be combined with the already discounted Apple Education program. Current and newly accepted college students and their parents can save on a new Mac or iPad with Apple Education Pricing. The offer is subject to availability. To learn more about the Apple Education Pricing program, read here.
  • Dell Student Discounts: College students can score an impressive 10% discount on select Dell computers and accessories when shopping at dell.com’s exclusive Dell University page!To receive the coupon code with the discount, sign up here using a valid academic email address that has your school’s domain. Dell’s student discount is a great way to save money on your purchases. Unless otherwise stated in the promotion details, this exclusive deal stands alone and cannot be combined with any other programs.

Printer: Before you buy a printer, make sure that you don’t have access to a printer at your college. If you do need one, look for a printer that’s affordable and has all the features you’ll need. For budget, efficiency, and convenience, look for a multi-function printer that can copy, scan, and print.

Desk lamp: A desk lamp is necessary for studying and completing projects. Look for one with adjustable brightness settings so you can control the light intensity in your dorm room.

Our Pick

cozoo USB Bedside Table Desk Lamp with 3 USB Charging Ports and 2 Outlets Power Strip, Black Charger Base with White Fabric Shade, LED Light for Bedroom/Dorm/College

Book light: A book light is great for late-night studying and reading.

Fan: Most dorms don’t have air conditioning, so investing in a fan is a great way to keep cool.

Power strip with surge protector and USB ports: A surge protector with USB ports is great for powering up computers and charging phones and other devices.

Extension cords: Extension cords are essential for powering up devices in hard-to-reach places.

Noise-cancelling headphones: Most dorm rooms can get loud. So having a good set of noise-cancelling headphones are a must-have for studying and blocking out distracting noises.

Our Pick

ZIHNIC Active Noise Cancelling Headphones, 40H Playtime Wireless Bluetooth Headset with Deep Bass Hi-Fi Stereo Sound, Comfortable Earpads for Travel/Home/Office (Black)

Dorm bedding

Our dorm room essentials list would not be complete without including what you need to buy in terms of bedding. Dorm beds are notoriously uncomfortable. But there is no need to buy your own mattress; with a few comfy and affordable bedding accessories, you can make your bed as comfortable as possible.

Bedsheets/comforters/pillowcases: For budget options, look for twin XL bedding sets that come with sheets, a comforter, and pillowcases.

Mattress topper: Investing in a mattress topper is a great way to make your dorm bed more comfortable. Look for one with cooling gel or memory foam for maximum comfort. For a little less money you can buy a mattress pad, but that will not give you as much comfort.

Our Pick

Linenspa 2 Inch Memory Foam Mattress Topper, Gel Infused Twin XL Mattress Topper, CertiPUR-US Certified

Pillows: Pillows are essential for getting a good sleep. Look for ones with cooling features to keep you cool and comfortable all night. For budget options, look for down alternative pillows.

Our Pick

JOLLYVOGUE Bed Pillows Standard Size Set of 2, Cooling and Supportive Full Pillow 2 Pack for Side and Back Sleepers

Blankets: Blankets are a must-have for cold nights and cozy days.

Our Pick

NEWCOSPLAY Super Soft Throw Blanket Premium Silky Flannel Fleece Leaves Pattern Lightweight Blanket All Season Use (Dusty Pink, Twin(60″x80″))

Sleeping mask: Investing in a sleeping mask is a great way to block out light and create an inviting sleep environment.

Ear plugs: Ear plugs are essential for blocking out noise and helping you get a good night’s sleep.


At many college, you will find communal showers, which will require you to purchase a few bathroom things that you likely don’t already own.

Bathrobe: A bathrobe is great for keeping warm after taking a shower. Look for one made from plush materials that is lightweight and comfortable.

Shower shoes: Investing in a pair of shower shoes is a great way to keep your feet protected from germs and bacteria in communal showers. For budget, look for cheap flip flops that still have good traction.

Shower caddy: Another dorm room essential is the shower caddy. The shower caddy is essential for keeping your bathroom items organized and easily transportable.

Our Pick

Attmu Mesh Shower Caddy Portable for College Dorm Room Essentials with 8 Pockets, Large Capacity Hanging Shower Caddy Dorm Basket, Quick Dry Shower Tote Bag for Bathroom

Towels: Look for towels that are soft, absorbent, and quick-drying. For budget, look for towels made from microfiber or cotton.

Our Pick

American Soft Linen 6 Piece Towel Set, 2 Bath Towels 2 Hand Towels 2 Washcloths, 100% Turkish Cotton Towels for Bathroom, White Towel Sets

Blowdryer & hair straightener: Investing in a blowdryer and hair straightener is great for getting ready. Look for ones with multiple heat settings so you can style your hair while controlling the speed and heat temperatures.

Cleaning & laundry

There are a few items you will need for keeping your dorm room clean and sanitary. This includes a small vacuum, cleaning supplies, and laundry accessories. Fortunately, these items don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Here is what you need:

Laundry bag or laundry basket: Investing in a laundry bag or basket is essential for keeping your dirty clothes organized. You will also need a way to get your laundry to and from the laundry room. That is why we suggest one that is light and portable.

Iron & ironing board: Investing in an iron and ironing board is great for keeping your clothes wrinkle-free.

Our Pick

BEAUTURAL Steam Iron for Clothes with Precision Thermostat Dial, Ceramic Coated Soleplate, 3-Way Auto-Off, Self-Cleaning, Anti-Calcium, Anti-Drip

Our Pick

STORAGE MANIAC Tabletop Ironing Board with Folding Legs

Garment steamer: A garment steamer is great for quickly removing wrinkles from clothing.

Hand vacuum: Investing in a hand vacuum is great for quickly cleaning up small messes on the floor.

Our Pick

BLACK+DECKER Handheld Vacuum 2Ah, Power White (HNV220BCZ10FF)

Cleaning supplies: Don’t forget to pick up some cleaning supplies to keep your room clean and sanitary.


To save money on toiletries, bring what you already have. And when you do have to buy more, look for affordable options and stock up when they’re on sale.

Also, the big box stores like Costco are great places to buy these items in bulk. Students who are at least 18 years old can join Costco as a new Gold Star Member and get a $30 Costco Shop Card that they can use on dorm room essentials. Learn more here.

Here are the toiletries that you need for your dorm:

  • Shampoo & conditioner
  • Hair products
  • Hair brush
  • Deodorant
  • Lotion and moisturizer
  • Makeup & remover
  • Q-tips & cotton balls
  • Razors & shaving cream
  • Hand soap & soap bars
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Nail clipper & tweezer
  • Mouthwash & floss
  • Vaseline
  • Tissues
  • toilet paper
  • Sunscreen


To some extent your medical needs will depend on your particular health conditions and allergies. However, here are some basic medical items that everyone should have in their dorm:

  • Allergy medication
  • Cold & flu medication
  • First-aid kit
  • Insect repellent 
  • Over-the-counter pain medication
  • Prescription medicine & refill information
  • Retainer
  • Supplements & vitamins


The trick with clothing is to make sure you have enough of the essentials and none of the excess. It’s easy to overpack, but keep in mind you’re living in a dorm with limited storage. Here’s what to bring for your dorm:

  • Sleepwear
  • Socks & underwear
  • Semi-formal attire
  • Jeans & leggings
  • T-shirts & tank tops
  • Sweaters & hoodies
  • Sneakers & running shoes
  • Workout clothes
  • Everyday purse & backpack
  • Slippers
  • Jackets, hats, gloves & scarves
  • Rain & snow boots
  • Formal attire & shoes

School supplies

Don’t forget to bring all the school supplies you need for your classes. You likely have many of these, but to the extent you need to purchase any of them, look for the back-to-school sales. Many stores like Staples, Target, and Walmart have awesome sales on the school supplies during the summer to get you through the door.

Here are some items to consider:

  • Pens, pencils, & highlighters 
  • Notebooks
  • Looseleaf & printer paper
  • Binders & dividers
  • Planner
  • Post-its & index cards
  • Paper clips & scissors
  • Stapler & staples
  • Tape & glue
  • Textbooks


You will need to bring a few important documents with you to your dorm, including:

  • Car registration & insurance information + driver’s license
  • Copy of birth certificate
  • Copy of social security card
  • Emergency contact list
  • Enrollment & financial aid documents
  • Health & dental insurance documents 
  • Passport — only if you need it
  • Student ID


In conclusion you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get all of your dorm room essentials.

With the right planning and research, you can fully outfit your college dorm room and still keep within budget. Make sure to create a checklist of all the items you need, so that you don’t forget anything when moving in.

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