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25 Dorm Room Essentials to Buy at the Dollar Store

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African-American parents helping daughter move
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Dollar Store Buys for the Dorm

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.


Prices and availability are subject to change. Items at Dollar General may be priced higher than one dollar. 


Related: What to Buy in August

All-Purpose Cleaner
Dollar Tree

All-Purpose Cleaner

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 for $1 each, and Dollar General offers the same or similar brands and sizes, many at prices under $4. 


Related: 20 DIY Green Cleaning Products

Can Opener
Dollar Tree

Can Opener

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 TrueLiving can opener for $1.75.


Related: 14 Kitchen Tools That Are Cheaper at the Hardware Store

Clothing Hangers
Dollar Tree

Clothes Hangers

Most dorm closets don't come with hangers, so bring plenty. Seven notched, plastic hangers at Dollar General sell for $1. Non-slip hangers at Dollar Tree cost $1 for two.

Cooler
Dollar Tree

Cooler

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 $12 at Dollar General. 

Disposable Plates and Utensils
Dollar General

Disposable Plates and Utensils

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 $1; and 140 heavy-duty forks for $3. Red party cups cost $3 for a pack of 50.



DIY First-Aid Kit
Dollar General

DIY First-Aid Kit

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.


Related: 12 First Aid Facts that are Actually Lies

Dry-Erase Board
Dollar Tree

Dry-Erase Board

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.

Gain Original Dryer Sheets
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Dryer Sheets

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.

Desk Fan
Dollar General
Back-to-School Corsets, VA
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Flip-Flops

College students usually use "shower shoes" in dorms when sharing bathroom space with other residents. Dollar Tree stocks men's women's flip-flops for $1 a pair.

Hand Sanitizer
Dollar General

Hand Sanitizer

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 8-ounce pump bottle or buy a two-pack of scented travel-size bottles. Both are $1.

Lamp
Dollar General

Lamp

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 a tan or white shade with decorative craft tape from Dollar Tree or find a snazzy shade elsewhere, as the lamps use standard 1.5-inch shades.

Laundry Detergent
Dollar General

Laundry Detergent

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 69-ounce bottle of liquid Tide in "fresh coral blast" scent costs $8.95.


Related: How to Go as Long as Possible Before Doing Laundry

Wastebasket
Dollar Tree

Wastebasket

No need to spend more than $1 for a place to toss trash. Dollar Tree offers a range of options from wire baskets to brightly colored swing-top bins. They may be too small for practical home use, but they're just the right size for a cramped dorm room.

Poster Hanging Strips
Dollar General

Poster Hanging Strips

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 at Dollar General.

School and Office Supplies
Dollar General

School/Office Supplies

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.

Garnier Fructis Shampoo
Jeffrey B. Banke/shutterstock

Shampoo and Conditioner

Shampoos and conditioners are often cheaper at Dollar Tree than at Walmart. Shoppers at the dollar store won't find the fancy stuff priced at $1 — brands include White Rain and VO5. 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.

Deodorant
Dollar Tree

Deodorant

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 store. 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. Just be sure to check the expiration date.

Dollar Tree slippers
Dollar Tree

Slippers

Simple slippers come in handy when padding around on dormitory floors, and they're cheap at dollar stores. Pick up a pair of ladies slip-ons at Dollar Tree for $1.


Related: Best Cheap Running Shoes

Socks
ruzanna/istockphoto

Socks

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.

Storage Containers
Dollar Tree

Storage Containers

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 $5 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.

Frito-Lay Classic Mix variety pack snack pack
Dollar General

Snacks

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 18-bag packs of Frito-Lay chips for around $7.95.


Related: The Best Snacks at Trader Joe's

Room Fresheners
Dollar Tree

Air Fresheners

Let’s just suppose the laundry doesn’t get washed for a few ... weeks. A dorm room can start smelling mighty funky, especially if the temperatures are high. A few Air Wick Stick Ups from Dollar Tree will clear the air a month at a time for just a $1 per 2-count pack.

Laundry Bags
Dollar Tree

Laundry Bag

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 fills the bill for only $1.   

Electronic Gadgets
Dollar Tree

Headphones

Dollar stores are worth a look for cheap headphones to drown out noisy surroundings or discourage interruptions. For example, Dollar Tree has over-the-ear sport earphones for $1, and Dollar General has folding headphones for $5. The sound quality may not be so good, but at least you don't have to worry about them getting lost. Other small electronics to look for at the dollar store include device stands and cases, covers and skins, reading lights, and flashlights.