A set of Twin XL sheets, memo board, and flip-flops can only get a college freshman so far. Add these clever budget finds to your back-to-school shopping list.
DIY Smartphone Projector
Instead of marathoning a favorite Netflix series alone, he can use this high- and low-tech combo to bond with dorm-mates. The faux-vinyl printed cardboard amplifies the retro feeling, and it even includes a slot for speakers or a phone charger.
To buy: $27, uncommongoods.com.
Blazing a Trail Mix Snack Bag Set
Some good advice for incoming freshman? Stay out of the dorm room and experience all campus offers. But being away from the mini fridge can be expensive when three o’clock munchies hit. Toss these whimsical, reusable bags into her satchel for a practical, prepared, and eco-friendly snack.
To buy: $16, modcloth.com.
RAVPower Luster 3000mAh Mini Portable Charger
A smartphone battery drains pretty quickly when she’s texting friends and recording lectures. Prevent her from missing the weekly call home. Smaller than an index card, this portable charger can fully recharge a smartphone.
To buy: $10, amazon.com; comes in six colors.
Howard Leight Pilot Earplugs
Floor-mates sing karaoke until 3 a.m. Next-door neighbors blare the TV during naptime. A roommate never stops talking. Be prepared for dorm-life’s constant noise with earplugs. These comfortably close out the exterior world when hitting the books. The ergonomic design provides comfort and safety, making them all-nighter-friendly.
To buy: $35 for a box of 100 pairs, amazon.com.
EZ-Freeze Cereal on the Go
Eight a.m. classes come quickly when he’s hitting snooze, but this nifty container allows time for a dining hall trip before class. Separate containers for milk and cereal prevent soggy breakfasts, so he can happily munch away during Bio 101. It even has an ice pack.
To buy: $7, amazon.com; comes in three colors.
Drybar Shower Cap
Dry shampoo made daily hair washing optional. Showering daily, however, is still mandatory. So it’s a good idea to supply her with a shower cap. Lined with soft terry cloth, this one extends yesterday’s good hair day.
To buy: $16, shop.thedrybar.com.
Mik – Amplifying Phone Case
Encourage spontaneous dance parties and study jams with this iPhone case. It increases speaker volume up to 50 decibels. The impact-resistant case even protects against an accidental fall from the table.
To buy: $25, uncommongoods.com; For iPhone 5/5s and 6.
Dirt Devil Quick Power Bagless Handheld Vacuum
Though universities provide cleaning services, it’s typically only for common areas. Prevent him from spending all night before Winter Break picking up a semester’s worth of crumbs with duct tape. With a flip-out crevice tool, he can even reach the space between the bed and the wall. It’s cordless and battery charged, so expect his less-prepared floor mates will ask to borrow it.
To buy: $29, amazon.com.
Restore Compact Foam Roll
When her first and second classes are a mile apart, anticipate her complaints of achy legs. This portable foam roller works out the kinks from cross-campus treks with a full backpack. Slightly larger than a standard water bottle, it slides easily into an available crevice.
To buy: $20, gaiam.com.
Hot Cups and Lids
When he’s sharing a kitchen sink with 17 other people, cleaning a reusable mug can be beyond difficult. With this nifty kit, he can skip the sink line and head straight to class. Toss the cup between lectures to prevent facing a spore-infested coffee mug at the bottom of his Jansport.
To buy: $6 for 14, 12 oz. cups, officedepot.com.
Yankee Candle Dove Weave ScenterPiece Warmer
Most universities ban lighting candles to prevent fires, but what to do when a roommate ran out of laundry quarters two months ago? Get all of a favorite candle’s fragrant benefits without the curtains catching fire.
To buy: $20, bedbathandbeyond.com.
Stainless-Steel Coffee Scoop
If he doesn’t drink a morning cup of Joe now, he probably will by Thanksgiving. But for a novice coffee drinker, eyeing grounds per cup can be a difficult task. Ensure a perfect pot every time with this two-tablespoon scoop. We recommend sticking a magnet on it, too, so it stays visible on the mini-fridge.
To buy: $5, surlatable.com.