17 Incredibly Useful (But Cheap) Gifts for College Students

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Practical gifts college students totally want you to buy

college student Christmas gift wrapped with a red bow

Deciding on what to give a college student is never as simple as it seems…

What will they actually use at school? What kind of things are most useful to a college kid?

Well, for one: food.

It’s something that’ll always be met with excitement. And while that example wasn’t exactly a revelation, it does serve as a reminder that broke students aren’t difficult to please.

In this post, you’ll find cheap ideas that will improve the giftee’s life in the best of ways.

Here are 17 useful gifts for college students that’ll make them wonder, “how did you know I needed this??”


Useful Gifts for Students in College

1. Outlet Extender With USB Ports

dorm room outlet splitter with multiple outlets, USB ports and shelf on top

View on Amazon

Kids in college have lots of gadgets that need charging. Yet dorm rooms never seem to have enough outlets to plug everything in…

The solution: an outlet extender. It’ll help them maximize the limited socket real estate they’re sharing with roommates.

Just make sure to pick one that’s surge protected, so nothing expensive gets fried!


2. Bombas Socks

multi-pack of ankle socks in fun colors college students love

View Women’s Socks on Bombas View Men’s Socks on Bombas

As a college student one of the first things you realize you’ve taken for granted all your life is SOCKS.

Not only are Bombas socks an amazingly useful gift, but it’s also a gift idea that gives back. For every pair of socks you buy from them, Bombas donates a pair to those who need them most. You can feel good about buying these socks for your college student because you know you’re helping others too.

I refuse to wear any other socks but Bombas socks these days. I love giving them as gifts! The quality is super nice, they come in a wide variety of colors, and the comfort is unparalleled. I’ve converted so many friends and family to this brand of socks, it’s kind of ridiculous.

Bombas are the kind of quality socks college kids will love and appreciate for years. They’re such a small thing, but they make a world of difference in a college student’s everyday life!


3. Microwave-Ready Egg on a Bagel Maker

small ceramic dish for cooking bagel shaped eggs in microwave

View on Uncommon Goods

The majority of college students living in the dorms only have one appliance they access at all times – the humble microwave. Thankfully, it can be a very versatile cooking tool with a little creativity.

This ceramic dish not only turns eggs into an instant omelet but is also in the perfect shape for a delicious bagel sandwich.

And when it comes to grab-and-go foods, bagel sandwiches reign supreme. They’re a well-rounded meal because you can include a little bit of everything: whole grains, protein, and even greens.

With no mess and no fuss, skipping breakfast will become a thing of the past. Convenience is a huge factor for students, so you can be sure an egg on a bagel maker will be in constant use.


4. Personal Popcorn Popper

Popco Microwave Silicone Popcorn Popper with Handles - Microwave Popcorn Bowl with Handle - Popcorn Maker - Collapsible Popcorn Bowl - BPA Free and Dishwasher Safe - 15 Colors Available (Light Blue) View on Amazon

While we’re on the topic of microwave gadgets, here’s another one that really comes in handy:

A personal popcorn popper!

While instant bags are a great invention, popping corn kernels are so much cheaper. To illustrate, let’s make a quick comparison of the cost:

It might not seem like much, but when you’re in college and living on a shoestring budget, every little bit helps.

Plus, the younger generations are particularly conscious when it comes to eco-friendly choices. Enjoying a satisfying snack while cutting down on waste (i.e., instant popcorn bags) is a double win.

All in all, silicone microwave popcorn poppers are the epitome of practical college gifts.


5. Electronic Accessories Organizer

BUBM Double Layer Electronic Accessories Organizer, Travel Gear Bag for Cables, USB Flash Drive, Plug and More, Perfect Size Fits for iPad Mini (Medium, Gray) View on Amazon

According to a 2013 study, college students own an average of 7 tech devices. And I’m sure that number has gone up by now!

An electronics pouch for organizing it all is sure to help sort out the jumbled pile of cords in their backpack. Having a place for everything is SO nice. It makes finding the right cable or charger super simple when a college student needs one.

Video: Gadget Organizer Review


6. Things to Do Before You Graduate College

175+ Things to Do Before You Graduate College: Your Bucket List for the Ultimate College Experience (book) View on Amazon

From finding the perfect friend group to succeeding academically to exploring your newfound freedom, a lot goes into making your college experience a success. And some avenues of opportunity aren’t obvious until reflecting upon them years later.

Instead of getting trapped in the myth that you can (or even need to) “do it all,” 175+ Things to Do Before You Graduate College helps students figure out what’s most important to them and how to make it happen.

This book is full of ideas that will inspire freshman through senior year students to take advantage of their time at college. After all, you can’t go wrong with a gift of wisdom.


7. French Press Coffee Maker

Bodum 10948-01BUS Brazil French Press Coffee and Tea Maker, 12 Ounce, Black View on Amazon

It’s no secret that college students go through a lot of coffee and, well, caffeine in general.

Keurigs are popular, but they aren’t the end-all, be-all for coffee makers. In fact, the creator doesn’t even use his own invention and has admitted he regrets creating it.

Making a perfect cup of joe is just as easy with a French press – no filters needed! Plus, the cost per cup is miles cheaper than paying for k-cups!

Pair this gift idea with a bag of coffee beans (as a PNW local, may I suggest Dutch Bros private reserve) and get ready for a big smile from the giftee.


8. Cable Saving Spirals

24 Pieces Charger Cable Saver, Silicone Flexible Cable Wire Protector, Mouse Cable Protector, Suit for All Cellphone Data Lines (Black, Pink, Blue, Green) View on Amazon

There’s nothing more frustrating than having a charging cable break when your phone is about to die.

These little silicone spirals prolong the life of charging cables by preventing them from bending at the wrong angle. Definitely a life saver for poor college students who can’t afford to be buying new charging cables every other week!


9. Easy Access Keychain Pepper Spray

SABRE Pepper Spray, Quick Release Keychain for Easy Carry and Fast Access, Finger Grip for More Accurate and Faster Aim, Maximum Police Strength OC Spray, 25 Bursts, Secure and Easy to Use Safety View on Amazon

 It’s best to be prepared for the worst, even if they never need it.

College girls are sure to appreciate the gift of keychain-ready pepper spray. It’s a small but powerful way to give her peace of mind while she navigates life as a young adult.


10. Convenient Lap Desk

college student using a practical lap desk for working on a laptop View on Amazon

While you can use a laptop almost anywhere, it’s not always comfortable.

That’s where a lap desk comes in. It’s an ergonomic solution that students are sure to appreciate for Christmas.


11. Cordless Handheld Vacuum

Bittor Handheld Vacuum Cleaner, 120W High-Power Cordless Rechargeable , Wet and Dry, Suitable for Home, Car, Office, with Three Filters and Three Different Nozzles View on Amazon

A small handheld vacuum is nice to have when a small mess or spill happens!

They’re helpful for cleaning the inside of a car, too. And chances are your student doesn’t have a regular-sized vacuum anyway.


12. Cute & Functional Laptop Backpack

Is your college kid’s backpack looking a little worse for wear?

A sturdy laptop backpack with tons of useful pockets is a welcome sight for weary shoulders. If you’re willing to spend a little more, this adidas VFA backpack is great option.


13. Minimalist Bedside Shelf

Modern Innovations Bedside Shelf for Bed, College Dorm Room, Top Bunk, Clip On Nightstand Tray with Cord and Cup Holder, Bunkbed Caddy for Table Storage (Black) View on Amazon

When you’re living in the dorms, nightstands are but a myth, which is why a convenient bedside shelf will get endless use from a college student.

They’ll finally have somewhere to set their stuff!


14. Essential Fix-it Kit

portable pouch with basic tools college students need

View on Uncommon Goods

A small kit of essential tools is a must-have for college students. I think this review says it all –

“[I] was looking for the perfect graduation gift – one that was small, useful and made a point. I know college gives students a lot of knowledge and tools for life, but one thing it (usually does not) – are the everyday tools, like a flashlight, a screwdriver and such and this item filled the bill – you should have seen their faces when they opened it up… Big grins and understanding that they would need these when family was no longer be on call to come right away to hang a picture or assemble furniture…”


15. Portable Blender for On-the-Go

Portable Blender, Hotsch Personal Blender, Smoothie Blender 13.5 Oz Personal Size Juicer Cup. Rechargeable USB Blender with Six Blades (13.5 Blue) View on Amazon

Smoothie lovers will really like this next idea:

It’s a blender and travel bottle all in one – talk about convenient! It doesn’t take up much room and it’s easy to operate, making it a perfect dorm room addition for busy students.


16. The Ultimate College Student Health Handbook

The Ultimate College Student Health Handbook: Your Guide for Everything from Hangovers to Homesickness View on Amazon

College life and living on your own can be a big, transition-especially when you get sick for the first time!

A good book like The Ultimate College Student Health Handbook or The Greatest College Health Guide You Never Knew You Needed can help them navigate everything from homesickness to hangovers.


17. Reusable Water Bottle

32 oz Wide Mouth Hydro Flask in clementine color

View on Amazon

A reusable water bottle that’ll last through all four years of college and beyond is one of the most practical gifts you can give a student.

Hydro Flask water bottles are trendy for their large selection of colors and their superior quality. These water bottles are powder-coated, come with a lifetime warranty, and keep cold beverages cold for up to 24 hours (plus hot drinks hot for up to 12 hours).

It’s the kind of thing they’ll take with them and love having every day!



Final thoughts on practical gifts for college students

There you have it. Those are the most useful Christmas gifts for cheap college students. You can be sure that these ideas are perfect for the college guy or girl in your life.

What’s the most helpful gift you’ve received?


Related college present ideas:


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16 most useful Christmas gifts for College Students, Pinterest infographic with joyful male college student opening gift

Useful Gifts for College Students (That Are Cheap)

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