A Factory Working, College Grad Getting Out of Debt

Dorm Room Essentials 101

My brother is moving to Purdue this weekend.  He’ll be a freshman and is trying out for the All-American Marching Band. (Hail to Ol’ Purdue!)

Considering that I have experience on moving into a dorm, I’ve been happy to help my little brother the past couple of months in guiding him through the sea of dorm room checklists.  The goal is obviously to be as frugal as possible but still get a few things he wants.  Hey, I’m not going to tell my techie brother that he doesn’t need a laptop.  That would be silly.

However, we are reusing a few things from my time in the dorm.  That awesome little refrigerator that I bought for my dorm room?  Although that thing was a serious lifesaver when the house refrigerator broke down last summer, it’s going with him.  Bam, that’s easily $120 that he just saved that he will not have to worry about now.  He asked for a flat screen television for Christmas so that he would save room in the dorm.  And there was another potential $350 saved even though we got it for just $150, but you know how prices get jacked on electronics including televisions, mini fridges, and air conditioners during this time.

My brother plays it smart, but even he had questions about the dorm room check lists out there.  I was happy to relate to him my experience in the dorm life and what I ended up finding I didn’t need and what I did…

First of all, let’s talk about provided furniture.  There will be a desk, chair, bed, mattress, and a built in dresser in the closet at the dorm my brother will be staying.  When I was at the same college (not dorm, but university), each hallway had a utility closet that included a vacuum cleaner, a mop, and a broom for cleaning supplies.  At the desk you can check out an iron for the ironing board in the laundry room.  So we can already count all of that out of the list and ignore the dorm check lists out there that tell you need this, and you need that just to spend money.

Now that we have that taken care of, let’s get down to business.

So here’s a breakdown:


  • Laptop
  • USB Drive (consider an 8-16GB depending on what’s the best deal during school sales).
  • 3-5 Surge Protectors with overload protection (these will be used for other electronics too).
  • 25ft Ethernet Cable
  • Computer bag designed to hold not only your laptop/tablet but also your school supplies and books.

Buyer’s Tip: Although you really don’t need a laptop (there are computer labs), it’s actually really nice to be able to work without a leash.  A laptop or tablet accomplishes that.  You may notice that a printer is not on this list, nor is a wireless router.  These are preference items.  You will have a printing quota each semester. Use it, you already paid for it. I don’t know if there is a campus that doesn’t have wireless on campus anymore.  However, not all of them have it in the dorm rooms.  Halls and study areas, sure, but not the dorms.  That’s why you need the ethernet cable.

School Supplies-

  • 10 college ruled notebooks.
  • 2 filler college ruled filler paper.
  • 8 folders (figure 4 classes per semester).
  • 2 (1 inch) binders (you may need more depending on what your professors demand).
  • Stapler/Staples (consider having one for your dorm, one small portable for your backpack).
  • 3 hole punch
  • Scissors
  • Note cards (for COM courses or even just study notes).
  • Scotch tape
  • Post it Notes
  • 12 of each Black, Blue, Red pens (these will help color code your notes).
  • 12 Mechanical Pencils (consider buying extra lead)
  • Highlighters
  • Ruler
  • Rubber bands (these can also be used for easy chip clips).
  • Calculator
  • Academic Planner (keep track of your assignments, meetings, etc…)

Buyer’s Tip: Take advantage of those back to school sales!

Snack Time-

  • Mini refrigerator (check school limitations).
  • Microwave
  • Coffee Pot (if you’re a coffee drinker, otherwise, don’t bother).
  • Eating utensils (they sell packs of 4 of forks, knives, and spoons).
  • Plates & bowls (preferably unbreakable).
  • A couple of cups (hint: you’ll probably get a bunch of these during the first couple of weeks as freebies).
  • Dish Liquid
  • 2 Dish towels
  • Sponge
  • Paper Towels
  • 6 pack of water
  • Travel mug (for water/coffee to campus).
  • Small trash can (you really only need one per dorm mate by your desk.  You’ll be spending a lot of time there.)
  • Trash bags

Buyer’s Tip: Consider going to dollar stores for all the little things.  You’ll save money.

Dorm Tip:  Buy in bulk on ramen in a cup, mac & cheese in a cup, fruit cups, yogurt, etc… Stuff that you can eat on the go or when the dining halls are closed.  Sometimes the dining halls have “On-the-Go” areas where you use your extra meal swipes to get such goodies including poptarts and snack cakes.  Try to avoid the convenience store areas because you’ll be paying major money for microwaveable meals and pints of ice cream.  When your parents come into town, or your dorm mate’s parents come in town, consider asking to run to the local Walmart or supermarket to stock up when you’re running low.

Dorm Electronics-

  • Television
  • DVD/Blu-ray set up
  • Portable Music Player
  • Extra cable (in case no cable is provided or needs to be extended).
  • Extension cords.
  • Cell phone
  • Camera
  • Extra batteries
  • Fan (especially if you don’t have air conditioning).
  • Chargers for your electronics.

Dorm Tip: You really don’t need any of this, however if you already have it on hand, your roommate is willing to bring it, let them.  This can add some fun time and escape from the craziness of coursework. DO check with your roommate however before you bring the television, dvd/blu-ray set up… You don’t have to bring everything remember, they can take care of some of the cost too.

Bedtime –

  • Alarm clock (I used the one I already had, and then my phone).
  • Pillow/Pillowcase
  • Fitted Sheets & Down Comforter (I really didn’t need the regular sheets, nor does my brother, so saved money there).
  • Mattress Pad (believe me.. you WILL want one of these, even the $20 ones will make your stay on those hard knock mattresses more comfortable).

If you’re someone who finds that you get cold in the winter time and need two blankets, bring one from home, don’t worry about getting a second one yourself. I found that I was burning up in the winter and really only needed my comforter to handle things as the heaters in my dorm really produce.  Also, if you fear things like bed bugs then perhaps consider a cover, but in reality, it shouldn’t be much of a problem unless you’re in a location that already has a bed bug caution.

Buyer’s Tip: You are going to have a twin mattress unless you bring your own futon (which you really don’t need to do). Consider adding a little fun to your room by buying a comforter set cheap at Walmart or Target.  They usually run between $20-40 a piece.  You’ll have everything: fitted and regular sheets, two pillowcases and a down comforter.  Being the geek that I am, I bought a Batman set.


  • Hamper (something easy to carry, especially if you’re on the top floor and the only way to the laundry room is the stairs).
  • Laundry soap (preferably in a bulk container so that it will last you the whole college year).
  • Dryer sheets OR Downy softener
  • Hangers approximately 24-36 unless you have more clothes (you can buy a pack of 12 at Walmart for a couple of bucks).
  • Lint Roller
  • Tide pens (buy a three pack, throw one in your laundry supply basket, one in your backpack, and one on your desk for emergencies).

Dorm Tip: I recommend doing your laundry late at night or reaaaallly early in the morning.  I preferred the late night option.  I could leave my laundry alone and not worry about it being a) removed before finished or b) stolen.  If you do your laundry at a busy time, you will have to babysit it.  Otherwise you will find out quickly that you have some real jerks as dorm mates.

Possible Raindrop: Consider starting a laundry service.  Charge your dorm mates for doing their laundry for them.  Have them pay up front.  Make sure that you know your costs before you do this though, it does cost money to run the washers and dryers, and a lot of the time it’s not by swiping your ID cards.  This will allow you a peaceful laundry room when you’re in search of a quiet place to study, AND you’ll make some extra cash for your extracurriculars.

Safety & Security-

  • First Aid Kit (include extra a pack of extra band-aids and some neosporin to help heal those inevitable paper cuts).
  • Ibuprofen & Mucinex will be your best friends.
  • Prescriptions (if you have any).
  • Sunscreen & Aloe Vera
  • Anti-bacterial hand sanitizer
  • Flashlight & mini tool kit
  • Laptop & Bicycle Locks
  • Umbrella & Rain Poncho
  • Consider a safety whistle or alarm

Dorm tip: If you’re bringing a bike to campus, you WILL want a bike lock.  Also, you need cannot feel safe with the lock just looped through the front tire.  Loop it through/around the frame of the bike as well.  Statistically there are about 40-60 bikes stolen a year on each campus.  Mine nearly was if it weren’t for my knowledge of how to lock a bike properly (they had tried to take the front wheel off to get around the lock, when that failed, they decided it was best to bend the frame in an attempt to continue to steal it….) Ha.

Shower & Cleanliness-

  • Waterproof caddy for your supplies
  • Shampoo/Conditioner
  • Body Wash & Loofa
  • Flip Flops (to avoid nastiness that happens on weekends, eww….)
  • 3 Towels (learn to air dry)
  • Razors & Shaving Cream
  • Toothbrush/Holder & Toothpaste
  • Mouthwash & Dental Floss
  • Deodorant
  • Q-tips
  • Manicure Kit & Tweezers
  • Shower Robe
  • Hair brush
  • Hair Products (hairspray, mousse, etc…)
  • Make up

Buyer’s Tip: When searching for towels, consider beach towels.  These will either be heavily discounted or on clearance for the summer season is ending and school is beginning.  They’re also MUCH cheaper (usually $5-10) in comparison to a towel that is in comparable size (and they come in fun prints if you’re into geekery).  Also, consider getting a lot of these little things in the traveler’s sample aisle at Walmart or Target.  You can get a pack of Q-Tips for $1 as well as the dental floss, loofa, toothbrush holder, etc…


  • Desk organizer (can be a couple of funky coffee mugs to add some personality).
  • Make up storage case
  • Over the door hooks (for coats, robes, towels)
  • Bed risers (to increase your under the bed storage space).

Dorm Tip: Consider buying a lockable storage trunks for all of your valuables.  A lock will also be necessary, but you will not have to worry about your electronics, money, identification, health insurance, other important documents, etc…

Everything Else-

  • Health Insurance
  • Accident/Theft Insurance Card
  • Identification Cards
  • Immunization Records
  • Emergency Contact Card
  • Debit card
  • Coat, Gloves, Scarf
  • Jacket
  • Your clothes…

Most of these items are necessary.  Of course, if you don’t want the electronics, you can always use the provided computer rooms (just be ready to fight for them, because quite a few will be thinking the same thing).  If you think I’ve missed anything, let me know.  I tried to keep it to a bare minimum however, as this is one of the best ways of going broke and/or into debt before you even reach the college campus by purchasing unnecessary items.


Count those Raindrops!





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s