Don’t Make These Mistakes When Shopping For A Dorm Room

It costs a lot to send a child to college. After paying for tuition, fees, room, board, and books, one year at an in-state university can cost as much as a car. And that’s before you start shopping for their dorm room.

If you’re like us, you don’t have money to waste on things your student doesn’t need or probably won’t use.

Have you ever noticed that most shopping guides for “essentials” for a college dorm are made by stores? You know, the businesses that try to sell you things.

If this is your first time setting up a dorm room, it’s easy to get caught up in these curated guides and think that your student needs everything on the list.

After sending five kids to college (and another one this year! ), we’ve learned a lot. We’re going to give you some tips to help you shop smart, figure out which things are probably a waste of money, and find the one thing that is definitely worth the money.

Before You Go to the Store

Find out where your child will be living before you go shopping. Check out the floor plan of the dorm and any furniture and appliances that the school will give you.

With the furniture in the rooms, many dorms have a lot of storage space. And the drawer and shelf units that dorm shopping guides suggest might not fit in smaller rooms.

We’ve also found that it’s helpful to look on YouTube for tours of the actual dorm. These tours show you how the rooms can be set up and what storage items other students have found useful.

Car trunk packed with things

It’s also a good idea to check out the bathroom situation ahead of time. Will there be a bathroom in the hall, or will it be shared like a suite? Your child will need a good shower caddy to carry toiletries back and forth between the bathroom and the hallway. In bathrooms that look like suites, you might need shower curtains, bath mats, toilet brushes, and plungers. Make sure to buy these things at the same time as your roommates to avoid having duplicates.

All of our kids loved having a fridge and microwave in their rooms. Find out if the school already has these things before you rent or buy them. You’ll also need to check any size, amp, and wattage requirements. The cost of bigger purchases like these can be split between roommates.

Before you swipe your card, you should think about these 7 things.

Decor: Help your child think of things that are both pretty and useful that they can use to make this new place their own. Instead of spending money on useless novelty items, you should fill their small space with things that will help them keep track of their busy lives.

Do any of your child’s clothes get ironed or washed by hand at home? If not, they probably won’t use an iron, ironing board, or drying rack at school.

Dorm with family

It’s not necessary to spend money on plates, cups, utensils, pots and pans, or other kitchen items. There’s no good place to wash them, and if they sit around for too long, they can attract bugs.

Storage: Don’t buy too many drawers or shelves before your child moves in. They need to be in the space first to figure out what kind of storage they need and what they can fit. Don’t forget that your student doesn’t have to bring all of their clothes and shoes (All of our kids have said they wore much less than they brought).

Cleaning supplies: You don’t need to give your child a lot of cleaning supplies because they probably won’t use them as much as you’d like. When you move in, bring a handheld vacuum and a container of disinfecting wipes, which will probably last the whole year. Check to see if the dorm has vacuums that they can use to clean their rooms before buying one.

School supplies: Don’t let your child buy any school supplies until they go to their first class to see what the teacher recommends. Even textbooks can change, so save your money and wait until classes start to buy them.

Electronics: Students should talk to their roommates before buying larger electronics for their dorm rooms, except for their own laptops. Most likely, there won’t be room for more than one TV, so talking about it ahead of time could save families money and trouble in the long run. In the same way, students don’t need their own printers because colleges have them all over campus. However, depending on their major and how they like to study, your child may find that having their own printer is more efficient and saves them money.

Worth the Money Every Time!

Almost always, it’s a good idea to spend money on good bedding. Most mattresses in dorm rooms aren’t very comfortable, so buying a foam topper or a soft mattress pad can help your student sleep better.

Don’t buy everything in those guides before your kid moves into college. Remember that you can always go to the store after you’ve unpacked to get anything else you might need.

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