Guide To Dorm Shopping: 13 Things That Are A Waste Of Money

Guide To Dorm Shopping: Things To Not Buy For College

Tis the season for lengthy dorm packing lists and shopping guides that detail every unnecessary thing you don’t need for dorm life. Bonus points if it specifies the exact isle in Target to find the item in. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE shopping at Target, but I don’t love spending extra money on items I’ll end up not needing for college because I faithfully trusted those annoying shopping lists universities swear by. In case you couldn’t already tell, that’s exactly what happened to me when I was preparing for my freshman year of college.

I know it can be hard to really figure out exactly what you need, but you’re probably better off putting questionable items on hold until you can get the expert advice of an RA on campus, or until you actually move in and see for yourself what items work for you. But if you’re as excited about dorm shopping as I am, you probably can’t wait to pull into the store parking lot and shop everything college. To help you make things a little easier, I’ve created a list of items that you absolutely, positively do not need to buy for life in the dorms because they’re simply a waste of money.

1. A printer.

Not only would you have to purchase a printer, but you’d also have to continuously buy paper and ink (super expensive!) and that’s definitely not something you’d want to be bothered with. Honestly, using the printers in your school’s library isn’t that bad. Yes, there are long lines of people printing out textbooks (ppst! Check out my money-saving tips for buying textbooks!) but at least you won’t have to cough up $40+ every time you run out of ink. Plus, there are definitely printers all over campus, so you won’t have to keep your fingers crossed the line in the library runs smoothly so you can make your 8a.m.

2. A floor lamp.

I promise you, your dorm living room and bedroom will have ceiling lights — you don’t need a floor lamp. Plus, I know octopus lamps (the admittedly aesthetic floor lamps with several shades and bulbs) aren’t allowed at most colleges because they’re considered a fire hazard. A floor lamp won’t really do anything for you, except help you get on your RA’s nerves.

Related: 13 Things Not Allowed In Dorm Rooms + What To Bring Instead

3. Bed risers.

I made the mistake of buying bed risers, and when I got on campus, I saw that the bed frames were adjustable, so I didn’t even need them! A lot of colleges have beds that can be raised without risers, so check with your university first. Bonus tip: if you made the mistake of purchasing bed risers before moving in like I did, RETURN THEM ASAP so you can get your money back!

4. A bedside caddy.

Chances are, your desk will be close enough to your bed that you can just lean over and grab whatever you need — no caddy needed. And if it isn’t, you can probably just rearrange things to be more comfortable.

5. Board games.

You honestly probably won’t even have time to play board games in college! And if you do have some time to kill, you’d probably prefer to go to a campus event, party, or the gym. If you really want to play board games with friends, you can borrow some from your RA’s office. They usually have a wide variety to choose from, and you won’t have to worry about storing it when you’re done.

6. Any over-the-door organizer of any kind.

I know of so many over-the-door shoe organizers that everyone and their mother says you need, but honestly, you probably wouldn’t even need that many shoes in college. Plus, you can literally just store your shoes under your bed and save the space behind your door for a mirror or something. Don’t get me started with those collapsable hanging shoe organizers that “save space” by hanging from your closet. They actually take up more space than necessary.

7. An ironing board and iron.

How many shirts do you think will really need ironing during your college career? Maybe you’ll have a few business casual campus events, but I don’t think an iron and ironing board are justified even then. You likely won’t even have time to whip them out if you’re running late for an 8a.m. interview, and some colleges don’t allow irons that don’t come equipped with an automatic shut-off. Keep your professional clothing pieces wrinkle-free by not folding them into a corner of your drawer. If you want to put your mind at ease, though, I packed a cute, mini steamer my freshman year, and have had it since. It’s compact enough to be stored anywhere, and all I have to do is add water, turn it on, and steam my shirt — super easy to use, and it didn’t cost much at all!

8. Extra storage containers.

Okay, a couple of storage containers for things like extra towels, utensils, and personal items is understandable. And I know everyone has different necessities, but if you’re lining your closet shelves with lots of huge containers of stuff while you also have under the bed storage, there’s a possibility that you’re packing too much stuff. Before I started college, I looked at a zillion dorm room tours on YouTube to get an idea of how I should store things in my room. This gave me an idea of how many containers I’ll actually need, so I avoided buying too many.

Related: The College Girl’s Ultimate Packing List


9. Hair tool organizer.

I adore my Nume Magic Wand, 19mm curling wand, and straightener, but I really don’t think they need an organizer all for themselves. I just keep them in a drawer along with other hair care items, and it works really well. And if you don’t use straighteners, curling wands, or hair dryers, then you probably wouldn’t consider a hair tool organizer anyway!

10. A bath rug.

Most colleges provide bath rugs. Or rather, the residential hall staff supplies bathrooms with rugs. I would check with the residence hall first so you don’t waste money, and if they don’t provide rugs in suite-style bathrooms, then you can start considering if you want to bring one or not (they are helpful in avoiding slips after a shower).

11. Light bulbs.

Spare light bulbs are great if you’re moving into an apartment, but for dorm room life they’re totally unnecessary. If a light in your room goes out, file a work order or tell your RA and you can have someone come by and fix it for you. Be sure to familiarize yourself with dorm room maintenance policies so you know what to do if you ever need anything fixed.

12. Curtains.

I know, I know, the curtains in your residence hall are plain, dingy, and not your aesthetic at all, but unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do about it. Most colleges forbid students from changing the curtains because the ones provided are fireproof. This is understandable as a fire safety concern, but if you want, there are other ways to make your dorm room feel cozy and less bland — just check out my guide to dorm decor!

13. A safe.

WHY. EVEN. What could an 18-year-old college student possibly have that requires extra guarding in a safe? I know we all have some important items that we want to keep extra safe (passport, credit cards, emergency money, etc.) but you really don’t need to invest in a safe right now. Opt for a small lockbox instead. It’s big enough to store important documents and things, and small enough to fit comfortably in a corner of your drawer.

What items would you recommend not buying for college?