Splurge vs. Save: Dorm Room Essentials
With so many “dorm room essentials” lists available, it’s easy to figure out which items you need to make your dorm room fabulous—but what about which things you should (or shouldn’t) waste your money on?
Because almost all of us entering college are balling on a budget, we need to make sure we spend our money wisely. I just started my freshman year of college, so as someone who’s just been through the dorm room shopping process, here are the essential dorm room items and whether or not they’re worth spending the big bucks.
Save: Bed Sheets
Silk sheets aren’t necessary for a dorm room—I mean, come on, you’re a college student, not a princess. While you don’t want scratchy or uncomfortable bed sheets, you can get soft inexpensive ones from Target for less than $15. You also won’t stay in a twin bed forever; usually college students move into apartments or lofts their second or third year that have full or queen-size beds. So spending a chunk of change on sheets that’ll only last you nine months isn’t practical.
My Erin Condren LifePlanner is my glue. It’s what keeps me from going insane and helps me remember all the things I have to complete each day. This is a power item that every college student needs, especially when you’re trying to get a hang on the overwhelming workload. I say spare no expense on a high-functioning, personalized planner.
ESL PICK: Erin Condren LifePlanner, $55+ at ErinCondren.com.
We all know the importance of a good pillow, so for the sake of your neck, invest in a couple good ones. An uncomfortable pillow makes it hard to sleep and can leave you feeling sore, tired, and cranky in the morning (and with early classes you don’t need any added annoyances). Some like hard, firm pillows and others like soft, fluffy ones—regardless of your preference make sure you choose wisely.
Save: Laundry Basket
Some of my friends have requested monogrammed, high-priced laundry baskets for their rooms, and I say that’s crazy. In reality, a laundry basket is nothing more than a glorified trash can or storage bin; you only need it to move clothes from one place to another.
Go to Target, Walmart, Bed Bath and Beyond, or wherever your store of choice is and get you something that’s under $20. The money that you’ll save can be used on other things—like shopping, which is much more fun than a laundry basket. I’m not saying that you can’t get a basket that’s really cute, funky, and colorful; I’m simply suggesting that you don’t spend money on something that literally no one besides the people washing their clothes alongside you will see.
ESL PICK: Room Essentials Woven Laundry Hamper, $16.99 at Target.
Splurge: Mattress Topper
If you’re like me, you’re used to a soft, comfy, fluffy bed at home—which is seriously the best. But in college, you’re going to be stuck with a tiny twin bed that’s not too fluffy and forgiving. This is where a mattress topper comes in handy; it can pretty much make or break your sleeping experience for the next four years of your life.
Your comfort is the most important thing. Spending that extra $50 on a good mattress topper isn’t going to break the bank, but it is going to save your back and have you well rested for those early-morning classes. Not to mention, because mattress toppers are just made to lay on top of the bed you can reuse them even when you’re not in a twin anymore.
Splurge: Coffee Maker
Coffee is a necessity, especially in college. Most of my friends hadn’t ever drank coffee until freshman year and now they’re caffeine addicts; it’s what’ll get you through some of your hardest days. So, unless you want to shell out $3 for a cup of coffee each day at the campus coffee shop, get yourself a good coffee maker.
When choosing a coffee maker, you should keep these things in mind: is it easy to clean, low maintenance, does it produce enough coffee for you and your friends, and is there variety in what you can make (meaning can you make more than just coffee). While you definitely don’t have to splurge on a Keurig, it’s top-rated for college students because it’s compact, makes a perfect single cup, is easy to use and clean, and doesn’t require much maintenance. Other reputable brands are Mr. Coffee, Bosch, and Hamilton Beach—to name a few.
ESL PICK: Hamilton Beach Scoop Single Serve Brewer, $34.99 at Target.
Save: Duvet Cover
Duvet covers are the most overrated dorm room item out there. People easily spend hundreds on a pretty cover that’ll only last them a year or two—I say be more sensible and conservative in this case. A duvet cover (especially one made specifically for twin XL) will only fit that specific bed type; so, like I said with bed sheets, it’s not worth it to buy an expensive cover that’s going to end up in a storage box in your parents’ attic in a year. An inexpensive comforter or duvet cover from Target will do just fine.
Also, what’s hot and in style this year will probably not be what everyone wants next year. Getting the most sought after bed cover won’t work out in your favor next year or the next because something else will come along that you just have to have.
Splurge: Mini Fridge
A mini fridge is a must-have for all college students, and you’re definitely going to want one that’ll last you a few years. If your fridge stops working or is constantly messing up (or if you have a roommate who can’t handle a shared fridge situation), that’s just added stress that (especially as a college student) you don’t need. Now I’m not saying that you should go find the most expensive refrigerator out there and buy it, but just be mindful of the company and the quality that you’re getting.
I would also recommend getting a fridge with a freezer on top—for those nights when you just need a pint of ice cream or if, like me, you’re obsessed with toaster waffles.
ESL PICK: Whirlpool Mini Refrigerator – Stainless Steel, $159.99 at Target.
Save: Mattress Pad
When I first started getting dorm room items I didn’t even know what a mattress pad was, and maybe you don’t either so I’ll explain. A mattress pad is something that goes around the mattress before any sheets, toppers, or covers are put on the bed. Its purpose is to keep stains from seeping through onto the mattress itself—like spilled drinks and food or other messy accidents (which is bound to happen, hello college life).
Because you’re not going to be able to see it and it’s really only there to protect your mattress, I don’t see the point in spending a lot of money on one. You can find good quality ones for less than $20 at Target. To that point, just like sheets, a mattress pad is only going to fit the size that it’s made for, so if you end up getting a larger bed in the next year or two, that money will have gone to waste.
Save: Decorative Pillows
Decorative pillows are the perfect way to accent a room and bring together colors and styles—but you don’t need to spend $50 per pillow to get that aesthetic— take it from someone who’s bought insanely expensive pillows and regrets it. You can get high-quality pillows starting at $10 at Target.
Also, oftentimes people change their room design each year. If you spend tons of money on pillows that match your specific blue-room theme and then decide you’re into pink the next year, you’ve wasted that money. Cute but cheap is definitely possible and nothing to be ashamed of—after all, you’re a college student, so bring on the Ramen noodles and Target bedding.
ESL PICK: Throw Pillows, $10+ at Target.
Splurge: Wall Art
Art is the thing that I spent the most on for my dorm room. Why? Because I used it as the focal point, the basis for my color scheme, and really the overall tone of the room. While I’m not saying that everyone should do this, I am saying that you should choose your art or wall decor wisely because it can really make your room feel like home.
I chose to have paintings in my room (probably because my mom is an artist and I’ve grown up appreciating fine art) but if your preference is posters, tapestry, or pictures, you should take time to find something special. With all of these choices, you’ll have the option to keep them for a very long time, especially posters and artwork. So, don’t go out and get cheap painting or posters (although if that’s your thing more power to you); spend the money you’ve saved on other things to express your personal style.
Follow Anna on Instagram: @annamariedepoyster