By Alyssa Goldman, Cheapism.com
Even before setting foot on campus, college students already have their first assignment: Loading up with dollar store dorm essentials. Chains such as Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, and Dollar General are giving major retailers like Walmart and Target a run for their money these days. And while dollar stores clearly have joined the mainstream, many shoppers wonder about product quality. We assembled a list of items every dorm room needs and identified some value options.
Dry Erase Board. College students typically like to make their impersonal dorm rooms feel like their own. Dry erase boards let them get creative and stay organized. At Dollar Tree, Jot Dry Erase Boards (with eraser-topped markers) go for $1 a piece with a minimum four-board order. The cheapest dry erase board we spotted at Target carries a $3.49 price tag and is available in store only while Walmart's website lists this dollar store dorm essential for as little as $3.31. Reviews of the Jot Dry Erase Boards at the Dollar Tree site are solid, averaging 4.5 stars, and say the boards serve their purpose but aren't the highest quality. One review, for example, claims the magnetic strips had to be glued onto the back again and again and another notes the board can never be fully erased. Even so, reviewers agree the dry erase board is worth the price.Get your college dorm ready for the new school year!
Storage Containers. One way to maximize the tiny space of dorm rooms: Store belongings in plastic containers. A 3-quart container with a hinged lid costs $1 with a set of 36 at Dollar Tree. (Friendly tip: Share with roommates.) Reviewers award the containers 4.6 stars and note that the size of these dollar store dorm essentials limits their use to smaller items. Purchasers supply a few consistent complaints, however: plastic that cracks if not handled with care, lids that open too easily, and some containers ordered online that arrive broken (reviews say customer service remedies the problem quickly). Consumers generally praise the containers' durability and say the hinged lids prevent them from going missing; some claim to own more than 100 boxes.
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Similar plastic containers available at Target and Walmart are larger -- and obviously can hold more stuff -- but cost more on a unit basis. One of the cheapest plastic containers we found at Target is a 16-quart version from Sterilite, priced at $54.98 for a set of 12. Walmart also carries the Sterilite brand, including a 15-quart latched box that costs $39.70 for a set of 10 and earns nearly 5 stars in online reviews.
Clothing Hangers. With hangers, it's a mixed bag. Vinyl hangers are cheaper at the dollar store while felt hangers are less expensive at Walmart. Dollar General offers a 10-pack of vinyl-coated hangers for $1.35 compared with $4.16 for a 10-pack with the Merrick brand name at Walmart. A pack of two felt-covered swivel head hangers costs $1 at Dollar Tree, with a minimum required purchase of five packs. Reviewers report these hangers take up less space in their closets than the ubiquitous plastic types and the felt prevents clothes from slipping off. Walmart sells a pack of 50 felt hangers by Neatfreak for $34.97.
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Plastic Utensils. There's no kitchen in dorm rooms for gourmet cooking, but there's always room for a microwave, ramen, and mac 'n cheese. Clearly, the dollar store dorm essential for such feasts is a seemingly endless supply of plastic utensils. Dollar Tree sells a pack for $1 with a required four-pack order while a bag of 96 clear cutlery pieces goes for $5.24 at Walmart. Both products garner more than 4.5 stars in online reviews, with many users commending the quality and reporting they survive a wash-and-reuse cycle.
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