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When it comes to starting college, the list of things to do and to buy can be a mile long—and can get pretty pricey. Lucky for you, we’ve rounded up the top dorm room essentials under $30…and a few really good items over $30 that I think you’ll like. Helping college students save money is one of our favorite things. From dorm room items trending on TikTok to life-saving bedroom storage hacks, we’re going to make sure you’re ready for the next chapter of your life.
TIP: Consider shopping for your college essentials at Target. When you verify your Target Circle account with your college, you’ll get a 20% off Circle offer.
Want to really save? We have a whole college student guide to couponing! It’s not scary, I promise. If you’re heading off to college in a few weeks, here are the essentials you need.
Download the KCL app for more money-saving tips, deals, and coupons.
Consider Target for bedroom dorm room essentials since they regularly offer sheet sales.
1. Bed Shelf or Bed Caddy
Dorms don’t have a lot of room for nightstands, but we know you still want an arms reach for your phone and water. Investing in a bed shelf will make your life so easy!
2. Twin XL Bedding and Sheets
When you get to our dorm, you’ll have a bed, but no bedding or sheets. Don’t forget to bring a twin xl bedding set and/or sheets. You’ll be sleeping in this bed every night so get something cozy and in the color/pattern you like.
3. Black Out Curtains
Dorms don’t come with efficient blinds to keep the sun out. The best solution is getting black out curtains. You can purchase no-drill curtain rods to hang them up too! Don’t forget to measure how long of a panel you’ll need and if you’ll need multiple panels for the width.
4. Full-length mirror
You gotta make sure you look good before class! Or at least make sure you match. Grab a full length mirror—preferably one that hangs over your door for sake of space.
5. Mattress topper and/or Mattress Pad
The mattresses inside the dorms are the softest. If you’re wanting to sleep on clouds, grab a mattress topper. Keep an eye out for deals at Kohl’s on high-quality mattress toppers. And to protect the bed, don’t forget a mattress pad.
6. Sound Machine
Dorms aren’t always the quietest place to sleep. If you need to drown out the sound, try out a sound machine. I love sleeping to white noise but occasionally I like the ocean sounds. If you’re like me, grab one that has multiple sound options.
7. Air purifier
You’ll want a small air purifier to kill any lingering germs or odd smells that are in your dorm. If you have allergies, especially to dust, mold, or pollen, an air purifier can help reduce the irritants. Depending on the size of your dorm room, I’d recommend a desk air purifier rather than one that stays on the floor. Consider splurging a little over the $30 threshold for a nice, long-lasting air purifier.
Target and Walmart typically have the best sales on bathroom dorm room essentials.
8. Shower Caddy
If you’re living in a dorm that has a shared bathroom/shower facility, you’re going to want a shower caddy. It makes taking your personal shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc. much easier than just scooping it up in your arms. There are many different kinds from plastic to mesh, but I think plastic is the best for water drainage and cleaning.
9. Plastic Shower Shoes
If you’re using the shared shower, you really are going to want shower shoes. I know it’s different than back home but trust me, you don’t want some Shrek-looking growth on your feet because you didn’t want to wear shower shoes. Seriously… just get them.
10. First Aid Kit
Whether you create your own from scratch or buy a pre-filled kit, you’re going to want a first aid kit inside your dorm. It’s a lot easier to give yourself medicine or a bandage at 2 a.m. using your kit than getting the Resident Assistant or Residence Hall Director.
11. Towel Set
Dorms don’t come with towels, so make sure you bring your own towels and washcloths. If you don’t want to do laundry as often, bring a few sets.
12. Waterproof Speaker
Jam out while you take a shower!
Amazon and Walmart offer the best deals on dorm room storage and electronic cord needs.
13. Long Phone Cord
The outlets are never in a convenient location. Having a long phone cord—preferably around 10 feet—will allow you to keep your phone charged and in reach at all times.
14. Extension Cord + Power Strip
Like the outlet issue mentioned above, you’re going to need more outlet plugs. Depending on how many items you’ll need to keep plugged in at a given time will determine how beefy of an extension cord and power strip you’ll need. I personally love the power strip towers!
15. Removable Strips & Hooks
The schools don’t want you to mark up the walls. Plus, many of them are thick concrete that is hard to hammer into. Don’t go to college without a few packs of removable strips and hooks—they’ll come in handy when you want to hang items up or organize your room.
- Command Variety Kit, $18.84 (
reg. $22.99)on Amazon
Includes 6 small picture hanging strips, 4 large picture hanging strips, 3 medium utility hooks, 2 large utility hooks, 3 small utility hooks, 6 small wire hooks, and 20 strips
- Command Large Utility Hooks 7 ct, $10.99 on Amazon
- Command Small Clear Wire Hooks 10 ct, $10.99 on Amazon
16. Desk Organizer
Tight quarters mean high organization! You’re going to want a simple desk organizer for all of your papers, writing instruments, and maybe a fun plant.
- Metal Mesh Office Desk Organizer, $19.99 on Amazon
- Pen + Gear Desk Organization 5 Piece Set, $9.73 on Walmart
- Pen + Gear Metal Mesh Desktop Organizer, 8 Compartments, $8.97 (
reg. $11.30) on Walmart
- Desk Lamp with Charging Outlet and Lazy Susan Storage Base, $15.77 (
reg. $29.99) on Amazon
- Marie Kondo Clarity Desk Organizer, $12.99 (
reg. $16.99) on The Container Store
17. Hanger Expanders
Your closet space is not what you had back home. Hanger Expanders will allow you to fit double the hangers, meaning you don’t have to leave any of your favorite outfits behind.
18. Laundry hamper
In case no one has broken the news to you… you’ll have to do laundry in college. If you didn’t know already, the dirty clothes go into the laundry hamper. You don’t need anything fancy. If space is a concern, I’d get a collapsible or foldable hamper.
19. Storage Ottoman
Space is a major factor in a dorm. Get creative with how you store your items. I love storage ottomans because they give you a dual purpose, plus come in fun colors or patterns.
- Room Essentials Storage Ottoman, $16.50 (
reg. $22) on Target
- Simply Essential Folding Storage Ottoman, $20 on Bed Bath & Beyond
- Storage Ottoman Cube, $18.99 (
reg. $25.99) on Amazon
Consider these other college essentials, like a vacuum on Amazon that’s 13.7% off.
Door rooms can mean limited space, so having a smaller-sized handheld vacuum makes cleaning up a breeze. Look for a handheld vacuum that includes attachments to reach every nook and cranny.
- BLACK+DECKER dustbuster QuickClean Cordless Handheld Vacuum, $29.98 on Amazon
- Dirt Devil Simpli-Stik Vacuum Cleaner, $28.37 (
reg. $29.99) on Amazon
- Bissell 3-in-1 Lightweight Corded Stick Vacuum, $24.92 (
reg. $28.88) on Walmart
- Moosoo Corded Stick Vacuum, Lightweight Stick Vacuum Cleaner, $32.99 on Walmart
Trying to study or sleep in a hot room is so much harder. Even if your dorm room has air conditioning, it helps to have a fan.
22. Mini Fridge
Having your own fridge is kinda a necessity when you’re living with other people. There are many higher-priced mini fridges out there, but if you’re looking to stay under $35 and don’t need a lot of room, here are the best ones out there.
23. Vanity Mirror
Do you know how hard it is to get ready with a bunch of people crammed into the bathroom? Do yourself a favor and get a vanity mirror for your personal space. Even better, get one with lights!
24. Filter Water Pitcher
Having fresh water on hand is nice when you’re away from home. Get a filter water pitcher for your dorm. If you only have a mini fridge, be sure to get one that will fit that. Don’t forget the extra filters too.
25. Collapsible Wagon
Depending on where your dorm room is on campus, you could be pretty far from the mail center. Especially if you don’t have a car! Consider getting a collapsible wagon to help tote groceries, laundry, or mail. When you’re not using it, it will be easy to store too.
Shop these dorm room essentials that are not necessary, but still great to have.
These items are just for fun and to make your dorm room feel like a home away from home: