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One of the biggest ways you will waste your money in college is by buying supplies you’ll never use. Before you ship your kids off to college, or head to Bed Bath and Beyond to stock up, you might want to rethink your strategy.
I graduated from the university of my dreams a little over a year ago. Wow, has it really been that long?! I made the decision to move two and a half hours from the place I call home to attend college at East Carolina University. I lived in a dorm room for one and a half years of my college career. Looking back now, I realize how much money we wasted on supplies that have since made their way into dozens of boxes to Goodwill.
I had little contact with my roommate prior to move in, so all I knew was that she was bringing a TV and a PlayStation with her. My sister graduated college four years ahead of me, so thought we had a pretty good idea of what to expect when we were on the lookout for college dorm supplies.
If I could go back in time and not buy 90% of the things we purchased, I would. Thousands of dollars went to waste on school supplies, dorm room chairs, shower caddies, bedspreads, and so much more. I think I only have a small handful of the things we bought from my dorm days. Whether you’re shopping for your kids, or you’re doing it on your own, here is what you actually need to survive your first year in a college dorm.
Buy something to clean the floors with
My first dorm had carpet, and it never occurred to either of us to buy a vacuum for the place. Well, after awhile the floor started to accumulate a mixture of food crumbs, trash, and god knows what else. If you have carpeted floors, BUY A VACUUM. Your floors will get filthy, and you will wish you had one once you’ve lived in your dorm for a few months.
If you have hardwood or tile floors, I suggest buying a Swiffer mop to clean your floors. When hardwood floors get dirty, you will start to see it on your feet. This is from experience. Save yourself the hassle, and purchase one now.
Bring your own shower supplies
In both of my dorms, we had to share a bathroom with anywhere from 8-20+ girls. Unless you live in a suite-style dorm, you can expect to share a bathroom. Shower shoes are a MUST! You can pick up a pair of sandals from Old Navy for $1 during the summer time, which work great. You will also need your own toiletries and towels. I recommend getting a shower caddy to hold all of your toiletries in to keep your stuff organized.
Most college dorm rooms require twin xl bedsheets. Not only is bedding pricey, but you will never be able to use that size after your dorm days! Rather than waste $20-$100 on bedding you’ll only need for a year or two, ask around and see if you can borrow someone’s twin xl bedding from their college days. If you can’t, wait for back-to-college bedding to go on clearance, and buy them a year ahead. Most college beds are not comfortable, so you’ll want to purchase a mattress pad and egg crate foam topper to help. Be sure to buy pillows and pillowcases as well, your dorm room will not have one for you.
Bring your own laundry detergent and basket/bag
College was the first time I ever did my own laundry. My mother’s philosophy was that I’d have the rest of my life to do my own laundry. She didn’t let me do any, or even teach me how, until I was about to leave for college. Skip the fabric softer and the dryer sheets, you don’t need them. Look for a great deal on laundry detergent, and send your college student with a stock of detergent. You’ll also need a bag or laundry basket to hold your dirty clothes, and transport your clean clothes. Both of my dorms required a long walk down three flights of stairs to retrieve your laundry, so I made sure I had a basket that could handle the long haul.
Wait to purchase decorations and organizational tools until you get there
Don’t buy ANY decorations until you get there. First, you have to lug up all your decorations you brought up the stairs and try and find a place for them in the middle of all your stuff. Second, until you know what your dorm room looks like, you won’t know where you want to put things. It’s best to wait until you get there, and can plan. Just a few weeks after college starts, all dorm decorations and organization bins will go on sale. If possible, wait until then to buy your decorations and you will save BIG.
Buy a bookbag, or reuse one from high school
When I started college, I was under the impression that I wouldn’t need a bookbag. I was wrong! The first time I had to lug all of my things to class, I wished I had one. It helped keep all of my school things organized, and made it easy to carry everything I needed to and from class. If you’re able to, you can just reuse your backpack from high school and save a few bucks.
Buy a lanyard or key ring
My dorm had a set of keys for the room, and an entirely different set to unlock the building. To make sure you are never locked out of your building or lose your keys, purchase a lanyard or a key ring. I purchased an ID wallet as well to keep my student ID and keys in the same place. You needed your ID to print at the library, go to Student Health, and to eat on campus. Plus, there was also a pouch to keep cash or anything else I’d need, such as my license.
Don’t forget school supplies
This one seems like a no-brainer, but you actually do need school supplies for college. Courses will give a syllabus with the required materials, but you will also need the basics such as pens, paper, etc. Check out my post on how to save money on back to school items here.
While you might need more items along the way, this list will get you started right. Purchasing a ton of things in advance is a horrible idea. You will end up broke, and with a bunch of clutter you don’t need. The next time you catch yourself looking at a long list of things you need for college, stop and think if you really NEED it. The best rule of thumb for anything you’re not sure of is to hold off and pick it up later.