11 Smart, Frugal Things Every College Care Package Should Include


My son headed off to college this fall, so I have been thinking about the best things to send in a college care package. Whatever you ultimately decide to include, make sure the items inside your care package fit the following criteria:

  • Small: So your care package items won't take up too much space in a small dorm room or apartment.
  • Lightweight: For inexpensive shipping or easy carrying to the room.
  • Nonperishable: So items won't spoil before they can be enjoyed.
  • Inexpensive: After all this is a frugal care package!
  • Personal: Make them remember the comforts of home, as it will relieve stress as they cram for exams.
  • Useful: Don't make your student store and haul items around that they'll never use.
  • Scarce: Items not easily obtained on campus will be appreciated more.

It is difficult to find things that meet all of these criteria, but good college care package items should meet at least some of them. Here are some best bets for a college care package.

1. Homemade Cookies

Since homemade cookies only stay fresh for a few days, a dozen is a good number to send. Pack your homemade cookies in a zip-lock bag to extend freshness.

2. Clean Clothes

I included a favorite pair of my son's exercise pants that he left at home in my last care package. I remember from my college days how much clean clothes are appreciated!

3. Handwritten Note

Of course you could send a note by text or email, but it is nice to get something tangible from home that your student can have around as a reminder that they have not been forgotten.

4. Photos

It is nice for your student to have some real hard-copy photos from home to look at and maybe even put up in their room or on their desk.

5. Lucky Item

I went to college with a wool trench coat that my father wore when he was in college, which I thought was really cool. I gave my son a medallion that I received to take with him for good luck.

6. Small Toys

Small toys can be good stress relievers and provide a convenient break from studying. Some good toys for a college care package are a Jenga, Play Doh, a deck of cards, or a Rubik's Cube.

7. Smart Snacks

College kids keep weird hours, so late night snacks are always appreciated. Some good snack items are: beef jerky, gum, granola bars, a box of their favorite cereal, microwave popcorn, instant oatmeal, and tea bags. Include a ceramic microwaveable mug that your student can use to heat water to prepare items that require hot water.

8. Cash

Cash will never go unused or unappreciated by a college student! Gift cards are also useful, but I prefer the simplicity and convenience of cash since gift cards cost money to purchase and may have restrictions on where they can be used.

9. Team Gear

This item breaks the rule to send things that are not readily available on campus, but is sure to be a hit anyway. Send a hat, T-shirt, or sweatshirt with the school logo.

10. Forgotten Items

Surprise your student with small things they forgot to take with them. Send their slippers, grooming or self-care products, and other personal items that were left behind. Your student will appreciate these things after they are settled in.

11. Reverse Care Package

Here is a free care package idea — take stuff away from your student! There were a few items that my son took to college with him that he didn't need, so we picked up a "reverse care package" from his dorm room. Taking unneeded items away gets them out of the way and frees up space. Plus we got to visit our son and see his room after he had it all set up.

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Guest's picture

Great ideas! As my son has five other roomies in his apartment, a dozen cookies isn't enough. But as mid terms approach it looks like a good time to send a package!

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