Things You DON’T Need To Buy For College

Repeat after me: Your dorm room does NOT need to look like a photo on Pinterest.

There, I said it.

College culture has created this idea that along with being the perfect college student, having the perfect friends, getting the perfect internship, and getting perfect grades, you ALSO need to have a pinterest-worthy, picture perfect dorm room, with matching duvet and rug, succulents, mason jars, and 18 throw pillows.

This is not true!

The most important thing about your dorm room is that does its job: it should be a place where you feel safe. The essentials? IMO, a comfy bed, desk for homework, and snacks.

Notice that I said nothing about what that room should look like.

Having a beautiful, color-coordinated dorm room is fun, don’t get me wrong. It’s just not a requirement of the college experience.

If you HAVE the money to spend and having a decorative dorm room is what you WANT to spend your money on: go ahead!

No shame, no judgement.

But, if you don’t want to or don’t have the money to spend, I’m here to tell you that there is no obligation for you to do so.

Why We Feel Like We Need To Have The Perfect Dorm Room

When I was going into my freshman year, I was so nervous!

I was worried about making friends, worried about keeping up in my classes, worried about living away from home for the first time…pretty much worried about everything!

I grew up in an affluent community with affluent friends. Buying any and all of the supplies we needed and wanted for going away college was not an issue.

And somehow, in my mind, I figured: if I just had the “right” backpack, the “right” bedspread, the “right” pencils and pens…everything would be okay.

If I had all the right stuff, I would fit in and everything would be alright, right?


But the truth is, nothing I bought was going to truly make me feel less anxious about college.

And as I eventually discovered:

Having my dorm as a space where I felt safe and comfortable: that mattered.

Having my dorm as a space that functioned well for what I needed it to, sleep, homework, hanging out, relaxing: that mattered.

Having a matching rug and bedspread, color-coordinated pencils and pens, an adorable planner and matching to-do list stationary? That did NOT matter.

So…what DON’T You Need To Buy For College?

Candles, electric cooking tools, twinkly lights, or anything else on your residence hall’s “prohibited items” list.

Enough said.

All new school supplies

Yes, invest in what you need in order to be successful. If you need looseleaf or printer paper or red pens, get what you need.

But if there is already a plethora of gently-used pencils, notebooks, and scissors around your house? No need to buy all new ones!

All new bedding

Same concept here.

Invest in what you need to feel comfortable, but don’t feel like you have to spend money on a new duvet or pillows when you already love what you’ve got.

For practical reasons, I do think it is best to have 2 sets of sheets and at least 2 pillow cases. They’ll last longer if you rotate using them, and you’ll be more motivated to wash them frequently when you can switch between sets.

Unnecessary scheduling or organizational tools

For me, I know that my best way of staying organized is Google Calendar (and HERE is how I use it!).

So I don’t need the giant whiteboard wall calendar with matching magnets and markets, or the cute planner with flowers and cats on it, or the bullet journal with a full set of felt tip pens, or anything else.

If you already know how you best stay organized, don’t spend money on things you don’t need or will not use.


Confession: In my 2 years of traditional dorm living, I never owned a shower caddy!

I make it a rule not to buy items with the express purpose of storing other items inside.

It doesn’t mean I NEVER buy storage items, but when it comes to college, I found that the less stuff I had to store stuff in, the less stuff I ended up accumulating.


Hear me out. I love decorating. I love color coordinating. I love throw pillows and pictures and artwork.

But let’s think for a minute. Dorm rooms are SMALL. They have minimal floor space, wall space, and storage space.

Are you allowed to use push pins, tape, or command hooks on your walls? If not, how are you going to display the artwork that you want to buy?

If you want to buy throw pillows for your bed or your chair, where are they going to go when you need to sleep or sit in the chair?

If you want to buy a decorative basket for your blankets, where will the basket sit in your room so that you don’t trip over it?

At the end of the day…

I’m not here to rain on anyone’s parade. College shopping can be fun!

I love decorating, and sometimes being able to buy new things for myself is a really nice form of self care.


College is expensive enough already.

Thousands of dollars in tuition, room and board, textbooks, and other expenses put millions of college students into precarious financial situations WITHOUT the added worry of needing the “right” dorm room aesthetic.

So, I am here to give you permission.

Permission to NOT decorate.

To NOT splurge.

To NOT worry that you’ll be judged, or unprepared, or feel like an outcast if you don’t have a Pinterest-perfect room.

Hear all my thoughts about the things you DON’T need to buy for college in THIS episode of Feed That Nation.

Natalie Nation

Hello! Welcome to Feed That Nation!

My name is Natalie Nation. I’m a graduate student, future registered dietitian, health educator, content creator, and self-proclaimed mac and cheese expert!

Feed That Nation is a space to talk about all things college life and health. I want to help college students to be confident, successful, and healthy during their school experience!

Follow me on Instagram, watch me on YouTube, and check out my podcast!

Minnesota-based grad student, future RD, educator, content creator, and mac and cheese expert! Natalie is currently a Masters of Public Health student and dietetic intern at the University of Minnesota, and is on-track to becoming a registered dietitian-nutritionist. She earned her bachelor's degree in Dietetics in 2019 from St. Catherine University.

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