Furnishing your student’s first apartment on a budget? Here’s the ultimate shopping list of basic essentials, decor ideas, and organizing tips-with a free Dollar Tree Checklist.
Take this list with you wherever you shop, and make sure you don’t forget anything important.
Our Dollar Tree Adventure
“Look at that black Lamborghini, Mom!” The sports car gleamed like a misplaced beacon in an ocean of parking lot minivans. And I would have missed admiring the sleek sports car, had I not shared this adventure with my son.
Within a few short days, he’ll return to college to start his junior year. He calls it “the gauntlet” for the intensity of classes, competitive internship opportunities, and general seriousness of turning into a grown up all too soon.
My days hanging out with him at home are numbered and precious. Since he was game to go Dollar Tree shopping with me, I snapped up the opportunity and we spent the afternoon strolling the aisles of the discount store.
Behind the Scenes
Our official purpose was hunting for items for his first apartment. My hidden agenda was spending time with him and sneaking in some cooking, cleaning and organizing tips along the way. To my surprise, I was treated to belly laughs and special insights about his college life as we perused spatulas, air fresheners and whoopee cushions.
This First Apartment Checklist will make your shopping trip so much easier, and you’ll save money, too.
My son is not a fan of being photographed, but he allowed one snapshot in front of the store, as well as several “demo” shots of products he gave his stamp of approval. He declared we should start in the kitchen aisle-and off we went.
Since this is his second year returning to an apartment with 4 roommates, he was quite a discerning shopper. I listened in awe as the kid who use to ask me to peel his orange shared culinary tips like a pro.
Kitchen and Grilling
As I expected, he was immediately drawn to all things grilling. Many apartments have a deck area where small grills are permitted. He and his friends prefer to use the luxury propane model found near their complex’s clubhouse and pool, where they can lounge and do belly flops while waiting for their meal.
He turned 21 last spring, so of course, the beer steins and margarita glasses drew him in like a moth to flame. When I mentioned the trouble of transporting fragile glasses, he suddenly remembered a Dollar Tree store is located just 5 minutes from his apartment.
Print this list, you might be surprised what you can find for just a dollar!
“I didn’t know they had so much good stuff, or we would have been shopping here all the time.” This eureka moment added new focus to our little shopping trip. We were not only picking things to buy, but also doing research that would make him the apartment Dollar Tree expert.
Dollar Tree Secrets
With new vision, we walked the food aisle and talked about prices. I warned him that, although every item costs just one dollar, Dollar Tree package sizes are often smaller, sometimes making the item more expensive per serving. Smaller packaging is an asset, however, for weekend camping trips or trying something new.
Office and Study Supplies
By now, my son has his study area set up and knows what he needs to start the semester. But there were a few surprises in the back to school aisle.
The card stands you see pictured look like placecard holders and come in two sturdy sizes, each with a “kickstand”. He was excited to use these for reminder notes that he apparently places around his room. Who knew?
He also got a kick out of some of the elementary school supplies and motivational items, and shared his ideas for practical jokes on his roomies.
Hardware and Repair
The winner in the home repair aisle was this set of mini-screwdrivers. This kit contains 6 different screwdriver heads for everything from repairing eye glasses to changing batteries on the remote control.
We also invested heavily in large shrink bags. They worked just as well as their pricey competitors, allowing my son to fit approximately 70 items of clothing in a medium-size duffle. That trick was a game changer when it came time to pack up his car.
The doorstop was another practical winner. We snagged both the large and small sizes for propping open the apartment door during move in and grocery shopping trips.
First Aid and Bathroom
As we perused the toiletry and first aid aisle, I learned he is the unofficial medic of his apartment. He snapped up bandages and waterproof tape for calming skateboarding and surfing wounds.
The packages for various digestive and seldom-used medicines are clearly marked for their use, and in sizes appropriate for a young adult.
Toothbrushes! I learned, to my dismay, that he only uses a new one when I buy them. We snapped up several and I gave my scripted lecture about changing his toothbrush every time he gets sick, which I’m hoping won’t be often.
Print this list. It will make your shopping so much easier, no matter where you go for first apartment necessities.
Just for Fun
With all the serious purchases out of the way, we had some fun the toy aisle, where he schooled me on items he’d love to receive in care packages. I’ll share those revelations in a post coming soon!
He also shared favorite snacks and treats he likes to munch on, but probably wouldn’t buy for himself. More care package ideas… Turns out, when I gave him permission to be brutally honest, I’ve been sending items he really doesn’t care about.
Back to that Crazy Car
As we pulled away from Dollar Tree, our purchases nestled in the backseat, he noticed the sports car. Once he pointed it out, I wondered how I’d missed it. Seeing the world through my son’s eyes for just a couple hours reminded me how rewarding this parenting gig can be.
Despite the angst of saying goodbye, I felt so very grateful for time to laugh together and share a connection that was worth so much more than our Dollar Tree treasures.
Pretty please, share your bargain hunting secrets below, by leaving a comment!