This is a post in our 2009 Back to School series. You can see all of the posts here.

Oh, the complexities of the typical college packing checklist. It always fails. You’re going to remember to bring clothes, sure. But what about hangers? Believe me, I forgot them three years running, and the “I’m wearing wrinkled clothes to be ironic” thing only works for so long.

So, you get to school, realize you need all these little things, and where do you go? The bookstore. Where they rip you off, steal your money, and laugh at you while you pay $11 for a clothes hanger.

To save you some money, and stick it to the man that is the bookstore, here are 11 things you should bring with you to college that you might not think about.

Printer Paper – Printer paper is something you’ll use constantly, and a big pain to not have available. Hunting for paper ten minutes before an essay is due is not the most fun experience, and the bookstore knows they can rip you off in your moment of need. Make sure you’ve got more printer paper than you could possibly need when you arrive – it might even make you someone else’s savior.

Printer Ink – This one’s the big kahuna, the one that’s caused me more anxiety in college than anything else. I’ll be printing a paper, and all of a sudden it starts coming out lighter and lighter, until the pages are just white. Bookstores, once again trying to take advantage of you, charge a whole lot more than, say, Staples. Or better yet, buy online.

Hangers – Edges of chairs, your headboard, the door – all these are replacements for hangers, and none really work that well. You’re going to have times when you need to look presentable, and having clothes ready is key. Bookstores don’t always have hangers available, and when they do, they’re about $43 each.

Light Bulbs – It never ceases to amaze me how creatively I can destroy light bulbs. I’ve tripped and broken one, hit one with my shoe, and just flat-out dropped one – it’s no fun. Go to Walmart or Target, and buy light bulbs in bulk – you’ll need a bunch over the course of the year. Darkness is highly overrated.

Athletic Shorts – This one’s a classic: you run out of clothes, don’t feel like doing laundry, and wander over to the bookstore. You find shorts, think “I’ll totally work out in these,” and drop $50. Instead, plan ahead, and go to a big-box sporting goods store and pick up a couple of pairs. They’re great for wearing around, as well as the impromptu games of ultimate frisbee you’ll encounter.

Ethernet Cable – Most campuses these days have excellent wireless Internet capabilities. But they all, at some crucial point or another, break. Whether you’re just trying to watch some TV online, or are doing world-changing research, having a backup, wired cable is huge. And your school knows this – I’ve paid almost double what I’d pay at an electronics store when I was in a pinch.

Laundry Detergent – This one I actually did some empirical research on, because I was so amazed that a 10-load thing of laundry detergent could possibly cost $11, like it did at my school’s bookstore. Fun fact: it doesn’t. Also, having laundry detergent around means you’ll do laundry more, which is always a plus. Buy the biggest thing of detergent you can find, and you’ll appreciate it – and so will everyone else.

Toothbrush/Toothpaste – Because, well, dental hygiene’s kind of important. I’m not saying you definitely won’t have any friends if you don’t bring a toothbrush (which, for the record, is the world’s easiest thing to forget regardless of where you’re going), but it certainly won’t help your chances.

Those Sticky Hook Thingies – The little hooks that attach to your wall can be a lifesaver – they’re always allowed because they don’t leave any mess, and they’re great for everything from hanging up your backpack to hanging a painting in your room. Skip the hammer and nails, and just bring a bunch of hooks in various sizes. They’re in the bookstore, too, under the “outfit your room for too much money” section – you don’t want to go there. Bad things happen there.

Batteries – Your computer mouse takes batteries. So does the keyboard. So do your Xbox controller and your TV remote. Buying batteries two at a time, which is fairly bookstore-standard, is a huge waste of your money – buy ‘em in crazy bulk at a Walmart-like store, and share the wealth if you’ve got too many.

Headphones – Noise-cancelling headphones, on the other hand (or even some stock earbuds for an mp3 player) can be a great thing to have, whether you need to drown out some sound or just don’t want to be bothered. If you’re an audiophile, what you find at the bookstore won’t be good enough. If you just want to be left alone, you’ll want something cheap – which your bookstore, by definition, isn’t.

Before you go to college, take stock of your stuff – what little, random things do you need? Your college’s bookstore knows the answers, and tries its darndest to screw you over when you suddenly need to buy one of them. So beat the system. Remember the random stuff.

What other little, easy-to-forget, things would you rather not leave to the sales cartel that is the bookstore?

[image courtesy evelynishere / CC BY 2.0]