The cost of college continues to rise, leaving many students with little money left over to spend on necessities for their dorm rooms. Enter dollar stores, where shoppers can stock up on dorm essentials on the cheap. Here are 25 items on college packing lists that are available at Dollar General and Dollar Tree at bargain prices.
25 Dorm Room Essentials to Buy at the Dollar Store
A versatile cleaning spray is such a useful product to keep in a dorm room that fellow residents may want to borrow it, so buy it on the cheap. Dollar Tree sells many off-brand options in large sizes (20 to 25 ounces) for $1 each, and Dollar General offers the same or similar brands and sizes, many at prices under $3. Bonus tip: Buy one spray bottle and then replenish it using 64-ounce refill bottles from Dollar Tree.
Not having a simple manual can opener can be frustrating for students who get hungry between meals, so arrive at the dorm prepared. Most dollar stores stock generic can openers for $1 to $3. Dollar General also offers a deluxe TrueLiving can opener for $4.50.
Most dorm closets don't come with hangers, so bring plenty. Ten notched, plastic hangers at Dollar General sell for $1.25. Colorful, non-slip hangers at Dollar Tree cost $1 for eight.
In addition to studying, tailgating might be on a college student's agenda, so a cooler can be useful to have around. Trueliving's camo cooler is easy to store, holds up to 30 cans, and costs $10 at Dollar General. Dollar Tree offers insulated polyester cooler bags for $1 apiece.
Dorm rooms may not have kitchens for gourmet cooking, but many students bring microwaves and choose to store non-perishables, such as ramen and macaroni and cheese, for times when cafeteria fare seems wanting. With no sink for washing dishes, such feasts call for an ample supply of plasticware. Dollar General sells a 45-pack of Hefty Everyday Soak Proof plates for $2; 30 12-ounce foam bowls for 75 cents; and 48 heavy-duty forks for $1. Red party cups cost $3.50 for a pack of 50.
It's smart to keep a mini first-aid kit in a dorm room, and assembling your own is the best value. Dollar stores, in general, are excellent spots to find low prices on the necessary items: bandages, sterile tape, adhesive tape, cotton swabs, pain relievers, thermometers, anti-itch and anti-bacterial creams, and hydrogen peroxide (consider pouring from a bigger, value bottle into a cheap mini container as needed). Dollar stores tend to carry store brands that serve the same purpose as name brands. A $1 plastic storage box with lid from Dollar Tree could be perfect for storing these items.
In many dorms, it's common for residents to hang dry erase boards on the outside of doors so they can receive and leave messages. At Dollar Tree, 8.5-by-11-inch boards with a marker cost just $1.
Dryer sheets prevent static, soften fabric, and make clean laundry smell pleasant. Dollar General sells a store brand at $2.95 for 120 sheets, as well as the Gain brand at $3.95 for 105 dryer sheets and the Bounce brand at $4.50 for 105 sheets.
Many dorm rooms don't come with air conditioning and can get stuffy, so a fan can be vital to keeping the space cool and fresh. A classic 6-inch, three-blade oscillating table fan costs $10 at Dollar General.
College students usually use "shower shoes" in dorms when sharing bathroom space with other residents. Dollar Tree stocks women’s flip-flops for $1 a pair.
Bottles of hand sanitizer can be handy to have around a dorm room. An 8-ounce bottle of store-brand sanitizer costs just $1.50 at Dollar General. At Dollar Tree, pick up a 10-ounce pump bottle or buy a three-pack of scented travel-size bottles. Both are $1.
A narrow desk lamp that doesn't take up a lot of space is the best bet for a cramped dorm room. Dollar General offers 14-inch-high lamps with small, 4-inch bases in a variety of colors for $7 each, with basic lampshades sold separately for $5 each. For a more personalized look, decorate Dollar General's tan or white shades with decorative craft tape from Dollar Tree or find a snazzy one elsewhere, as the lamps utilize standard 1.5-inch shades.
College laundry woes are legendary, but try to save on detergent, at least. Dollar General features an assortment of name-brand detergents at competitive prices (comparable to Walmart, in this case). A 16-count package of Tide Pods in spring meadow scent sells for $4.95, while a 40-ounce bottle of liquid Tide Original costs $5.50.
Wall posters are a hallmark of dorm rooms everywhere, featuring favorite bands, art, photography, and more. Adhesive strips won't damage the posters or the dormitory wall. An eight-count pack of 3M Command poster strips costs $2.05 at Dollar General.
Paper, pens, pencils, notebooks, folders, rulers, tape, scissors — all are available as dollar deals at most dollar stores. The items might not be top quality, but the price can't be beat.
Shampoos and conditioners are often cheaper at Dollar Tree than at Walmart. Shoppers at the dollar store won't find the fancy stuff — brands include White Rain and VO5 — priced at $1 each. But bargain hunters might choose to sacrifice on these products to save for other expenses. Dollar General sells higher-end brands, such as Herbal Essences, Garnier Fructis, and Tresemmé at higher but competitive prices.
Hiking around campus all day can leave a person smelling a little ripe, but folks who know how to sniff out a bargain know that deodorant is cheap at the dollar stores. Dollar General has 2.6-ounce sticks of Arm & Hammer Ultra Max for $2.25, as well as other well-known brands like Degree and Dove.
Simple slippers come in handy when padding around on dormitory floors, and they're cheap at dollar stores. Pick up a pair of quilted cloth slip-ons at Dollar General for $6. Men’s moccasin-style slippers are $10.
There's no such thing as too many socks, especially for college students who might not do laundry as often as they (or parents) do at home. Both dollar stores sell value packs (typically five to 10 pairs) in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes for prices that bring the cost down to less than $1 a pair.
One way to maximize the tiny space of a dorm room: Store belongings in plastic containers. Dollar Tree sells trendy designs that cost a buck apiece. At Dollar General, space-saving vacuum bags are $4.35 each. These are extra-large bags that can be vacuum sealed to fit in tight spots, such as under the bed. Generic plastic kitchen containers for food storage are also a steal at dollar stores.
Late-night study sessions and just visiting with friends are both made better with snacks, and dollar stores are smart places to get them. Dollar Tree has four-packs of Nature Valley granola bars for a buck, and Dollar General sells 20-bag packs of Frito-Lay chips for $6.95.
Let’s just suppose that the laundry doesn’t get washed for a few days — or weeks. A dorm room can get mighty funky smelling, especially if the temperatures are high. A few Stick Ups from Dollar Tree will clear the air a month at a time for just a $1.
Whenever it is time to do the laundry, it will be easier with a proper bag for carrying the dirty clothes. A drawstring bag from Dollar Tree's Essentials brand will fit the bill for only $1 per bag. They also have a white mesh bag with a drawstring for only a buck.
Dollar stores are worth a look for cheap headphones to go with your smartphone or tablet. For example, Dollar Tree has E-Circuit brand over-the-ear sport earphones for $1, and Dollar General has Ear Buddy earphones for $4.85. In fact, there are many small electronic gadgets readily available at the dollar store. Other items to look for include device stands and cases, covers and skins, reading lights, and flashlights.
Cheapism.com participates in affiliate marketing programs, which means we may earn a commission if you choose to purchase a product through a link on our site. This helps support our work and does not influence editorial content.