Dorm Shopping

Here’s to all the countless hours on Pinterest, the endless Google searches, and window shopping- Drumroll, please!


There are so many checklists and “Dorm Essentials” out there that shopping for your dorm can be a bit overwhelming. Well, do not fear! I drew upon numerous sources and my own experiences to make a list of tips that will hopefully help you through this process.

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“What to Bring List” ≠ School Supply List

  • I think this is the single most important thing to remember as you go dorm shopping. A lot of the checklists online contain 50+ items. Please do not feel obligated to check everything off this list. You’ll find yourself with a whole bunch of stuff that may or may not get used and your wallet may be significantly lighter. Just focus on the necessities then get everything else later.

Check to see what your college provides

  • Most colleges provide a twin xl bed frame and mattress, desk, chair, trashcan, mirror, dresser and a wardrobe. Check your college’s housing website to make sure that you don’t overbuy because it’ll take up space and trust me, there will be nowhere to store it.

Virtual Room Renderings

  • Some colleges (like mine) have virtual room renderings on the housing website so students can see the layouts of the different dorms. Look this up so you know what’s provided and how much space you’ll actually have. It’s also a good idea to talk to current students there (either on the class facebook page or if you did a admitted students program at the college) to see what they thought was important to bring.

Check Rules/Regulations

  • On the same note, check with your university what you can or cannot bring. Some colleges allow appliances like microwaves, toasters, and coffee makers while others see them as fire hazards.
  • Your college may also have rules regarding hanging things on the wall. Some do not allow tape (mine doesn’t), but command hooks, sticky tack, washi tape, and thumb tacks may work.

Talk to your roommate

  • Before you get to campus, discuss with your roommate who should bring what to avoid duplicates.

Sign up for e-mails

  • Sign up for e-mails from stores to receive coupons and notifications for sales or college events. Bed, Bath, & Beyond has a 20% off your next purchase when you sign-up, and The Container Store has a 20% off a single item during their College Savings Weekend. BEWARE, though. These stores during dorm season can be overpriced and crowded, so do some price comparing to see if you get a better deal at another store or with the 20% off.

Download Shopping Apps

  • Shopular is my go-to coupon app for whenever I go shopping. It has coupons for 200+ stores including American Eagle, Home Depot, CVS, Walgreens, Bath & Body Works, Sports Authority, Walmart, Rite Aid, Office Depot/Max, you name it.

Price Comparison

  • To make sure that you’re saving as much as you can, I recommend using price comparison tools. Price Grabber and Google Shopping let you compare prices from different retail sites. My friends have also recommended the Red Laser app on your phone, but I haven’t used it yet. However, if it’s easier to get all your supplies at one place, go for it!

Set a Budget and Stick to it!

  • Setting a budget will help you avoid excess spending on your dorm room and it will force you to focus on the essentials.

Don’t bother buying those bed risers

  • Don’t bother buying those bed risers that everyone is saying is so “essential”. Most beds can be elevated to different levels. I would put these off until you’ve seen your dorm bed and verify if you need the extra lift or not.

Rent/Borrow Items

The Dollar Store

  • I would come here first to see what you can buy before heading over to Target or Walmart. They sell shower caddies, luffas, sewing kits, adhesive hooks, notebooks, office supplies, disinfectant wipes, and much more for only $1!

Go Thrifting!

  • Go to a nearby Goodwill, Arc, or a local second-hand store to find cute picture frames or anything else you may need at a cheap price!

Discount Stores

  • Stores like Ross, T.J. Maxx, HomeGoods, and Marshalls have great deals on dorm supplies. You can find clothes, bedding, kitchen utensils, picture frames, etc. for less. I got my under-the-bed shoe organizer, over-the-door hooks, felt hangers, and decorative pillows for way less than your usual stores. They also have great wall decorations for less than $8. If you don’t want to spend $$ on wall decorations, check out my DIY Dorm Décor.

Be a smart shopper

  • If you’re second guessing yourself on an item, don’t get it. Chances are you won’t use it.

Ship to Store

  • Are you flying or driving to your dorm? To save space and not pay for baggage, check to see if stores do a “Ship to Store” type deal where you can pick up your order at a store near campus. Target, Bed, Bath, & Beyond, Walmart, the Container Store, and others provide this service. IMPORTANT: Check with each store to see how long the holding period is. You don’t want to ship to store and find that it’s been put back.

Do NOT Procrastinate

  • I learned this the hard way. I started looking for dorm supplies way back in March (I know, early right? Senioritis was bad, I spent all my time looking at dorms on Pinterest instead of doing homework). I found a comforter that I really liked for a great price, but I decided to wait until it got closer to move-in day. Unfortunately, it sold out and I had to find another one.

Look Early

  • Start looking around stores to get an idea for prices and items that you’d like to take with you. If possible, you can find items on sale in September your senior year.

And Lastly…

Have fun and try not to stress out!

Dorm shopping can be overwhelming but I hope these tips help ease the process! If you have any more suggestions comment below and please subscribe, thanks!

Other helpful links and tips:

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