5 Cheap(ish) Dorm Essentials to Make College Life Easier
HomeHome > News > 5 Cheap(ish) Dorm Essentials to Make College Life Easier

5 Cheap(ish) Dorm Essentials to Make College Life Easier

Jun 14, 2024

Buying everything you’d need to turn a dorm room into a livable space for approximately nine months of the year can be pricey, but some of the most important items aren’t super expensive.

Of course, you need must-haves like twin XL sheets and shower flip-flops, as well as some of the nice-to-haves, like a Brita pitcher or an area rug. But a few more items can make the transition to dorm living even smoother, several of which may even last long after graduation.

It assembles in seconds and offers ample interior storage for a fraction of the price of any other storage bench we considered.

Lofting a bed absurdly high is the first step in maximizing dorm storage space, but neatly stashing everything under it requires creativity. A collapsible ottoman, such as the Seville Classics Storage Bench Ottoman—which also comes in a smaller cube shape—is an aesthetically pleasing, multifunctional storage option for your new tiny living situation.

Editorial projects intern Hana Stepnick used her storage ottoman to keep extra shoes out of sight and as an aid to climb onto her lofted bed (according to Seville Classics, the storage ottoman can withstand up to 500 pounds on the lid when closed and can hold up to 50 pounds inside). When friends come over, you can also use it as an extra seat.

This budget digital alarm clock does so much for so little. It has the largest numerical display of the clocks we tested, two USB ports, and easy-to-use tactile controls (which take the guesswork out of changing settings).

On the off chance your phone dies or gets lost, having an old school alarm clock will help you keep track of the time so you don’t miss class. We like the DreamSky Compact Digital Alarm Clock because it’s inexpensive, intuitive to use, comes with two USB ports that you can use to charge other devices, and has a large digital display—each number is 2 inches tall—so you can see it easily no matter where you are in your room.

These inexpensive plastic containers come in multiple sizes for packing and transporting food. They do become soft after microwaving, and they hold onto stains and smells, so they aren’t the best for long-term use.

Having proper food storage makes it easier to save your leftovers, and the Rubbermaid TakeAlongs Food Storage Containers are a solid budget option for your dorm needs. They can handle a few falls without breaking or leaking, so they’ll likely survive a busy college lifestyle pretty well, and they’re designed to stack so they’re easier to store. You may want to ditch them after graduation, but they’re a better food storage option than to-go coffee cups from the dining hall (a method I tested and don’t recommend).

If you need something simple for quick cleanups, this affordable, cordless handheld vacuum gets the job done.

No matter if you have linoleum, carpet, or wood flooring, having a handheld vacuum cleaner helps keep your space clean (and there’s a good chance you’ll end up loaning it out to neighbors and friends). For a budget-friendly option, we like the Black+Decker Dustbuster AdvancedClean CHV1410L. We found it captures most common household debris and is good for quick tidying, but it’s a bit louder and takes longer to charge than more-expensive models.

This three-outlet model has an auto-shutoff feature and offers almost as much surge protection as full-size alternatives. Plus, it has two USB ports.

May be out of stock

A surge protector not only gives you more outlets to work with (so you can plug in, say, your floor lamp, phone charger, and even your laptop charger at once), but it also protects you from fires and your items from power surges. We like the Tripp Lite Protect It 3-Outlet Surge Protector SK30USB as a budget-friendly, compact option that offers top-tier protection. It has an auto-shutoff feature and a small light to indicate that your electronics are still protected.

This article was edited by Annemarie Conte and Alexander Aciman.

Gabriella DePinho

Gabriella DePinho is an updates writer at Wirecutter. Previously, she worked at NBC News writing about deals and product launches. She loves working in product recommendation but personally hates shopping—and she knows that doesn’t make sense.

by Christina Williams

Here are 40(ish) of our favorite school supplies.

by Gabriella DePinho

Redoing your room doesn’t have to blow your budget. Here’s a handful of less-pricey picks for mattresses, pillows, and everything in between (ahem, sheets).

by Christina Williams

Attention college students! Here are five cheapish things to upgrade your dorm room.

by Wirecutter Staff

Ready to furnish your dream kitchen? Here are the picks to make it happen, from big-ticket items like espresso machines to upgraded essentials like oven mitts.