Shopping list essentials for the college dorm room

08/16/2013 7:48 PM

08/16/2013 7:48 PM

You’ve purchased the sheets and towels, multiple extension cords in the shape of octopus arms, and a warehouse-size box of note cards. You even bought the most indispensable dorm room device of all — the shower caddy.

But where’s the can of WD-40, the duct tape, the bed risers, and lots and lots of plastic hooks for hanging wet towels, clothes and cable for the 42-inch big-screen?

And did you check the homeowner’s insurance policy to make sure Junior’s computer is covered in case of damage or theft? Or see which bank has the ATM closest to campus?

What I’ve learned over the years of moving three kids into college dorm rooms is that essential supplies and services always get overlooked. You’re frazzled and your 18-year-old is overwhelmed. That translates into bad decisions and possibly paying lots more for stuff at stores near campus that could have been bought more cheaply at home.

With that in mind, here are some suggestions — all with money implications — to add to your college preparation checklist:


Tool time:

Tom Wertz, a Kansas City area father of two college students, recommends buying an inexpensive but relatively complete set of tools and a small drill. His reasoning: There’s always something to put together that requires tools.

“These items will not only be a great help to them personally,” Wertz said, “but they will put them in good stead with their peers in need.”

As for the WD-40, I’m not joking. It will come in handy quieting squeaky closet doors and bunk bed hardware.


Security devices:

Is the dorm room equipped with a small safe for every student? If not, it’s worth shelling out $30 to $50 to provide safekeeping for a passport, important bank account papers and other valuables. The same goes with buying heavy-duty locks to prevent computers and bicycles from being stolen.

The truly security conscious and identity theft conscious will want a shredder to dispose of credit and debit card receipts and other sensitive papers.


Bank services:

Many banks offer checking accounts for students with low or no monthly service fees. Look at the online banking features so you can track your student’s spending and transfer funds easily, and make sure accessible ATMs are on or close to campus.

Be careful about adding overdraft protection to the checking account. It might be best to decline the service and let your student cope with an embarrassing yet instructive moment if the account is overdrawn.



Parents, check with your agent to determine whether your homeowner’s policy extends to children’s possessions at school. If it doesn’t, consider a relatively inexpensive renter’s policy.

Insurance regulators also recommend checking whether the homeowner’s policy or rental policy covers identity theft. Typically, direct financial losses aren’t covered, but the costs of making copies, mailing documents or hiring an attorney are.

Is your student taking a car to campus? If so, your insurance rate might drop, depending on the school’s locale. If the car is staying in your garage during the school year, that might lower your premium.

Finally, before saying your farewells, make sure there’s an understanding that your freshman cannot expect the same standard of living at college that he had become accustomed to at home. Unless, of course, you want to pay for it.


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