How to Get Dorm Room Essentials on a Budget

One of the most exciting parts of college is decorating your dorm room. Whether you have a single, double, or triple room, you can still make your space uniquely you – even while on a budget. While there are many dorm room essentials you’ll need, there are always inexpensive options and tricks that can help bring out your personal style.

Here are our top ways to shop for your dorm room while on a budget.

Make a realistic shopping list

Before you start putting together a shopping list, confirm the room dimensions, bed size, and included furnishings. This will help you avoid purchasing any unnecessary items or incorrect sizes. See our handy shopping checklist below and evaluate what you already have, what you don’t actually need, and what you can potentially share with your roommate.

  • Bath & bedding: A comforter, throw blanket, sheets, pillows, pillowcases, mattress pad (you’ll thank us later for this one), bath towels, washcloths, shower shoes, shower caddy, bathrobe, shower cap, heating pad.
  • Health & beauty: Shampoo, conditioner, hair styling products, deodorant, hairdryer, brush, body & face lotion, sunscreen, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, q-tips, portable makeup holder, your preferred makeup essentials, nail clippers, loofah, razor, shaving cream, first aid kit, pain relievers, cold & flu medications, sanitary products.
  • Laundry & clothing: Laundry basket, detergent, softener, bleach, dryer sheets, lint brush, iron or steamer, ironing board, luggage.
  • Storage: Clothing hangers, shoe rack, storage for under your bed, desk organizer, hanging closet organizer, cube organizers, trash can.
  • Decor: Sticky wall mounts and adhesive hooks, rugs, floor lamp, desk lamp, step ladder, bed riser, fan, additional seating, bulletin board, picture frames.
  • School supplies: Backpack, laptop protective case, calendar, pens, notebooks, sticky notes, highlighters, stapler, extension cord, markers, computer mouse, whiteout, tape, scissors, index cards.
  • Electronics & appliances: Computer or laptop, TV, speakers, gaming system, tablet, HDMI cord, coffee maker, microwave.

Keep in mind that not all of these items are necessary for your dorm room and many of these you may already have. For your more common dorm room essentials, check larger department stores or online retailers like Amazon. This way you can compare prices and find bigger savings.

Find secondhand items

Thrifting isn’t just great for finding one-of-a-kind clothing items, you can snag some cool furniture, art, and decor, too. It’s also a great way to shop sustainably while being easier on your wallet. Stores like Goodwill and The Salvation Army resell donated furniture while also reinvesting in their own communities through job training programs and more. You can find thrift stores near you through The Thrift Shopper’s directory.

Source online marketplaces

You can spend hours looking through Poshmark or Facebook Marketplace for home goods, clothing, and unique finds. Some sites even let you negotiate a better price, especially if you’re bundling multiple items. Make sure to check with your college, since many universities also have an online marketplace just for students.

Share items with your roommate

You probably don’t need two TVs or Keurig machines in one small space. Before you dive into shopping, touch base with your roommate on what they plan on bringing and what you can share. Dorm rooms are limited in space, so having duplicates of everything is unnecessary.

Get crafty with DIY decor

Did you know you can download digital versions of famous art for non-commercial use? That means you can download, print, and frame your favorite artwork from museums like The Metropolitan Museum of Art for your dorm room. If you want to get a bit creative, you can also upcycle old magazines to make wall art or use string to make a geometric photo display. With time and inspiration, you can make your own decorations that will help you feel at home in your new space.

No matter what your budget is, making your dorm room your home-away-from-home is still within reach. Enjoy this milestone in your life, but don’t forget to stay safe and be responsible for how you spend your money as well. If you’re looking for more college-friendly financial tips, check out our blog, What We Wish We Knew About Money in College.

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