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Setting Up A Dorm Room Could Cost $5,000! How to Save When Packing for College

By Stewart McClure, Regional President

Save Money Dorm RoomCongratulations! Your child has been accepted to the college of his or her choice. Now you can breathe a sigh of relief and focus on the next task: buying all of the items your son or daughter will need for the college dorm room. And while you’re getting ready to face the major expense of a college education, you might be surprised at how much you could spend on that room.

According to the National Retail Federation, parents spend an average of $907 on everything from mini-fridges to wall decals.1 But you could also spend upwards of $5,000.2 It’s easy to rack up thousands of dollars with such purchases as bedding ($278 for a Nautica Crew Twin/Extra Long Comforter, duvet cover, ComfortTech Cyprus Blanket with Thinsulate), desk supplies ($70 for a high back mesh chair, $22 for 12-inch table fan, $64 for Able Planet Traveler’s Choice foldable noise-canceling headphones), appliances ($35 for Mr. Coffee 12-cup programmable coffeemaker, $100 for Kenmore 2.4 cu. ft. compact refrigerator, $89 for Magic Chef 0.9 cu. ft. countertop microwave, $155 for dorm cooking bundle from dormsmart.com), and more. See the Real Costs of Setting Up a Dorm Room for more details.

So where do you draw the line? Here are our suggestions of where you can save, followed by our short list of what to pack.

6 Tips on How to Save on Dorm Supplies

Tip #1: Buy used. For the more expensive items, buy used or ask for hand-me-downs from friends or family members whose kids recently graduated from college.

Tip #2: Share expenses.
Encourage your child to talk to his/her roommate. Divide the responsibilities of bringing major appliances; for example, one brings the mini-fridge and the other brings the TV.

Tip #3: Use regular bedding. Dorm room beds require extra-long sheets which often are more expensive than traditional ones. However, you only need to buy an extra-long fitted sheet. And any twin comforter will work.

Tip #4: Shop discounters. Visit websites like overstock.com or discount stores like TJ Maxx and Marshalls, which are known for their budget-friendly prices.

Tip #5: Use free pickup services. If your school is far from home, take advantage of free pickup services. Big box stores like Bed Bath & Beyond will compile your order at the location closest to your school so you don’t have to have your items shipped from home.

Tip #6: Stick to the list. Make a list of everything you need before you go shopping. Don’t be tempted by the novelty items displayed at the store. If it’s not on your list, skip it—or at least wait a couple of days to make sure you really want or need it.

Finally, check what the college will provide. For example, if the college offers free printing on campus, you can leave the printer at the store.

The Short Packing List
We’ve narrowed it down to the basics. But if you’re a detail person and prefer a more extensive list, check out some of these links.

The Necessities:
  • Bedding: Most dorm room beds require extra-long twin bedding. You can find these sizes at more major retailers, in addition to online at sites like Residence Hall Linens (www.rhl.org). Pack a comforter and/or blanket, mattress pad, two sets of sheets and pillows, and a soft throw for lounging.
  • Shower gear: Bring a shower bag or caddy, shower shoes such as flip flops, bath towels, hand towels, washcloths, and personal toiletries.
  • Laundry supplies: This includes detergent, a hamper, hangers, sewing kit, iron and ironing board.
  • Cleaning products: Basic cleaning supplies, including a bucket, sponge, disinfectant, and old rags. If your room includes a bathroom, remember the toilet brush and cleaner.
  • Computer equipment: This will likely include a laptop, surge protector, USB storage device, printer, ink and paper, and a computer bag.
  • School supplies: Notebooks, pens and pencils, stapler, scissors, paper clips, tape, index cards, ruler, etc.
  • Clothes: Include everyday clothes, workout clothes, pajamas/sweats, a swimsuit, a dress up option, and jackets, coats and raingear for colder or inclement weather.
  • Alarm clock: This necessity helps get students up and out the door.

The Niceties:
  • Appliances: These include everything from a mini-fridge to a coffee maker to a television and microwave. Check on your college’s policy on what is allowed, including the sizes. Also check on other options, such as whether there is an appliance available in the common area or whether your college rents it.
  • Desk lamps: Your dorm room may not have adequate light for studying. A desk lamp can help you to focus.
  • Extra storage: Under bed boxes, hanging storage, bed risers, and other options are available. Check for space because dorm rooms rarely accommodate additional furniture.
  • Bicycle: Make sure to register your bicycle with your college, and bring a lock to keep it safe.
  • Room décor: This includes rugs, wall hangings and other ways to personalize your space.

More extensive checklists may be found online at:

Bed Bath & Beyond Checklist
DormSmart Checklist
Real Simple Checklist

For related blogs on managing costs associated with college, see How to Save for College and How Students Can Manage Money at College. Lakeland Bank offers more useful tips on managing your money on its Lakeland Bank Simply Speaking Blog and YouTube Channel as well as Facebook.



1 http://www.bloomberg.com/consumer-spending/2012-08-10/the-real-cost-of-setting-up-a-dorm-room.html

2 ibid


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