The Ultimate Guide to Saving Money when Dorm Shopping

It’s about that time to go dorm shopping! It’s exciting! It’s creative! It’s… expensive.

I remember back when I went dorm shopping; I went way over budget buying overpriced items at Bed Bath & Beyond in the name of trying to make my dorm room feel more like home. I fell for all of the gimmicks and marketing even though I considered myself a fairly smart shopper. In the end, I was left with so many items that I didn’t even need or use during my time in the dorm.

I wish that someone had told me these tips, because it could have saved me hundreds of dollars.

If you’re moving into a dorm this fall (or if you know someone who is), read these tips so that you can save money on your dorm shopping and still end up with a cozy living space.


1. Decide what you really need.

Do your research on your dorm room before you buy anything. The amenities available, dimensions of the room, furniture given, and banned objects are all important to know before you buy anything.

Is your bathroom attached to your room or down the hall? This will determine whether you need to buy items like shower curtains and bathmats.

What furniture is already given to you? Some dorms have nightstands while others don’t, some have couches while others don’t. Knowing what kind of furniture is already given to you will help you plan what additional items you need to bring.

What are the dimensions of the room and furniture? Most college dorm room dimensions are available on the website. It can be pretty stressful and frustrating to buy lots of decorations, seating, and storage options only to realize on move-in day that not everything will fit. Know these dimensions and bring a measuring tape with you when you go shopping.

What amenities are given to you? Some dorms will have common areas with things like microwaves and TVs. If you don’t mind taking the walk down the hall, this could save you some money on the bigger electronics.

What items are banned? Things like hotplates and candles are typically banned from university dorms. Find the list of banned items from your dorm before doing any shopping so that you do not waste your money on something that can’t be used.

These are just some general questions to get you started. Doing your research before hand will make shopping so much more enjoyable since you will not spend all your time second-guessing yourself.


2. Make a list and stick with it.

Once you figure out the general requirements of your dorm, it’s time to make your list.

Make a list of everything you need to bring that you already own, and a list of everything that you need to buy. This is also the time to break down your budget. Give different categories (such as bedding, bathroom, décor) a set budget so that you don’t accidentally blow your entire budget on one category.

Bring your list shopping with you and do not deviate from it. The fastest way to go over budget and end up with too many things is to get distracted from your list.

3. Coordinate with your roommates.

Typically, universities will give out roommate assignments before move-in day. Get in touch with your roommate(s) and coordinate with them on common items such as microwaves, seating, TVs, etc. There will be no room in the dorm for doubles of these items, and it will save everyone money.

4. Shop around.

The very first place you should always go is the thrift store. Thrift stores are great places to find things such as silverware, plates, furniture, and décor. With patience (and maybe even some DIY skills), you can knock a lot off your list and save a lot of money.

After that, shop around at big box stores for the best deals. Target, Big Lots, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Walmart typically have deals going on for dorm shopping season. Compare prices either online or in-store to see which place has the best deals.


5. Take advantage of Student Prime.

Don’t forget about online shopping!

Amazon Prime has a deal for students called Student Prime. If you sign up for Student Prime with a .edu email address, it will give you six months of Prime completely free, and then give you a discounted version of Amazon Prime for four years after the six-month trial.

Some of the best deals may be online, so take advantage of the free Prime!

6. You don’t need everything right away.

The biggest trap that I fell into was thinking that I needed absolutely everything on my list the day that I moved in. It created undue stress and half of the things that I was convinced I needed, I didn’t even use at all during my time living in the dorm.

Take another look at your list and see if there’s anything that you can live without for a week or two. Things like towels and bedding are necessary on move-in day, but you might find that you didn’t really need the desk lamp because your room has enough light, or that the closet organizer is totally unnecessary and just creates clutter.

Find the things on your list that you can live without. If after a week you realize that you really do need it, order it online and it’ll be at the campus post office in just a few days. In the age of online shopping, nothing is too far away, so don’t feel like you need every single item on your list by move-in day.



Moving into a college dorm for the first time is so exciting and fun; there’s no need to make it stressful and expensive. These tips are things that I wish someone had told me when I went dorm shopping because it would have saved me a lot of time, money, and stress.

Do you know someone shopping for their dorm room? Share this blog post with them!

Rachel Morris