College Care Package Ideas for Every Budget – Even FREE Options!

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More Gift Ideas

College Survival Kit

Got a new college student?

There’s no better feeling for a homesick college student than getting mail from home. It’s even more exciting when it comes in a box!

Between the cost of shipping and the items inside, sending care packages can get pretty expensive. Thankfully, you don’t need to break the bank to brighten a college student’s day! Send a little cheer with one of these care package ideas for every budget.


Fancy College Care Packages

If you want to indulge your college student with a little splurge (or if Grandma is buying), spoil your recipient with one of these more extravagant options.

1. Hangry Kit

Hangry kit

Ranging in price from $27.50 to $32.99, these Hangry Kits are a little spendy. They are ready-made if you’re crunched for time though, and they ship for free with Amazon Prime! We LOVE that you don’t need to stand in line at the post office or pay for shipping with this option, and to be honest, they had us at “hangry.” 😂


2. Inspirational Socks

women wearing 'strong' socks

At around $15 a pair, the cost of filling a care package with multiples of these Notes to Self Socks isn’t as cheap as sending a budget-buy 6-pack, but their cheerful affirmations would be such a fun morale-booster for a homesick college student!


3. FabFitFun Box

FabFitFun Summer Box

Your college student will be the envy of her dorm when she gets up to $250 worth of beauty and lifestyle products in this FabFitFun Box! Although these boxes are regularly priced at $49.99, keep your eyes open for promo codes. We’ve seen them go for as low as $24.99! 😱 Head on over here to find the best current deal available at FabFitFun.


4. BattlBox

open Battlbox subscription box

If your college student is the outdoorsy type, consider surprising them with a Battlbox. They’ll get a box full of useful items curated for all their outdoor adventures away from home, whether they’re into hiking, camping, hunting, or fishing. Subscription boxes start at $29.99 plus shipping or choose one of the ready-made gift boxes to send.


5. SprezzaBox

men's accessories

Sprezzabox is one of our favorite splurges for guys. It’s a monthly service that delivers men’s accessories, so it’s a great care package for a college student who is just starting to build his professional wardrobe!

If you want to send a Sprezzabox as a one-time gift, you’ll pay $28 for the monthly subscription (which can be canceled immediately after your first box). To save even more, the best deal is a 12-month membership, which shakes out to be just $20/month when you pay up-front!

We love that you can choose from several different boxes before your shipment, so you know that your college guy will love his new accessories! Boxes include 5-6 items, usually valued at $70 – $130, so you’re getting a great deal even if you pay $28 for a single delivery.


Frugal College Care Packages

Send your college student a little pick-me-up with one of these more affordable options.

1. Target Beauty Capsule

beauty samples next to a box

Formerly known as the Target beauty box, Target now offers different beauty capsules each season. If you can wait for last season’s capsules to go on clearance, you may see them marked down to less than $5! When that happens, buy one of each, and you’ll have multiple care packages boxed up and ready to send – easy peasy!


2. Walmart Beauty Box

contents of Walmart Beauty Box

Walmart also sells a fun subscription box full of beauty and personal care items. When you register your college student for a membership, they’ll get a new box every season (four per year) for just $6.98 shipped.


3. Box of cupcake socks

socks rolled up like cupcakes

These adorable socks look sweet enough to eat, and a pack of 3 is under $11! You can also splurge and switch up the sock box theme to foods your college student loves, like sushi, doughnuts, or pizza.


4. Gift Cards

Rite Aid Discounted Gift Cards

It’s easy to control the budget with this option, too, because you get to choose the amount of the gift card. Plus, you can ship a gift card for much less than it costs to send a big box of goodies! Try searching Raise.com to see if you can get the gift card you want to send at a discounted rate!


5. Dollar Shave Club

shaving kit in shipping box on table

Imagine your college student’s surprise when they have to buy razors for the first time and they realize how expensive they are. Now imagine their gratitude when free razors just show up in the mail! For $5, you can send the Ultimate Shave Starter Kit from Dollar Shave Club. Keep the subscription going with shipments every 2 months, or cancel at any time!


6. Cheryl’s Cookies

cookies in Cheryl's Cookie box

Cheryl’s Cookies runs frequent promotions allowing you to snag a 6-cookie sampler, PLUS a $10 reward card for just $9.99 shipped! When you take advantage of this promo, your college student’s cookie care package will arrive with a $10 reward card to use towards a future Cheryl’s purchase, so they can enjoy treats both now and later!


7. Love With Food

Love With Food snacks in box

Join Love With Food’s Snack Smart, Do Good Club for as little as $8.50 a month, and send your college student snacks made with real ingredients and no added chemicals. Keep the snacks coming for your college student by continuing with a monthly subscription, or cancel any time!


8. Seasonal decorations

Dollar Tree Halloween decorations

Consider filling a box with some fun & frugal decorations for their dorm room. Cruise the aisles at Dollar Tree or check out Bullseye’s Playground at Target for affordable seasonal decor, and use it to put together a themed box for the next holiday on the calendar!


9. Dollar Tree College Survival Kit

College survival kit

Make an affordable College Survival Kit! Fill a basket with Dollar Tree items the recipient will both love and need. Get some ideas for what to put in your kit and download our FREE printable card.


10. Box of Sunshine

box of sunshine

Brighten someone’s day with a cheery box full of yellow items and our free downloadable card! You can completely customize the Box of Sunshine to fit your budget and the preferences of your recipient.

Consider sending a different color-themed box every month! Get reddy for midterms, orange you glad we love you so much, a little something out of the blue, we’re pinking of you… you get the idea! 😉


Free College Care Packages

No budget at all? We’ve got you. Let your favorite college student know you’re thinking about them by scoring some freebies and sending them their way!

1. Magazine Subscription

people magazines on table

Head on over to RewardSurvey.com to earn a FREE magazine subscription for your college student! Simply complete a survey and redeem the reward points earned for a FREE subscription! Choose from 20 titles such as People, Sports Illustrated, and Travel & Leisure.


2. Make your own sample box

beauty samples

Start setting aside all of those freebies you’ve been scoring from couponing and following our freebie posts. If you’ve been following Hip2Save for a while now, you may already have a stash of freebies in your stockpile! Use them to make your college student a hand-selected beauty or snack box, and pay only the cost of shipping it out to them.


3. Handwritten encouragement

woman opening letter

College students love getting mail of any kind – and it doesn’t have to come in a box! For the cost of a postage stamp, you can send your love in a handwritten letter, homemade card, or even a postcard to brighten your college student’s day. Get younger siblings and other family members in on the act, and stuff their mailbox full of good cheer with multiple messages on the same day!


Don’t send your college student off without checking this list first!


Jenna has a Bachelor's Degree from Lycoming College and her Master's from Penn State, holding 3 years of writing experience between a variety of publications and Hip2Save.


Join The Discussion

Comments 17

  1. acgold

    I have made the college survival laundry baskets for all my “kid” cousins for years. I add toilet paper, disinfectant wipes, bandaids “protection”, microwave popcorn, soup, plastic flatware, hangers, toiletries. Plus a gift card for Target or Amazon. They and their parents love that they don’t have to get all of it!

    • Jennifer (Hip Sidekick)

      That’s such a great idea and help to her parents, acgold! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Michele

    We have 3 in college & honestly they just love getting mail. Send dollar tree cards once a month or so. I know we can all call/text/FaceTime the college student, but mail is fun 🙂

    • Jennifer (Hip Sidekick)

      Three in college! Wow! Go MOM! I think snail mail is way more fun than an email!

    • Kristine

      This is so true! I work in the student post office at a small university and I often hear the students expressing gratitude for receiving snail mail (and sadly others commenting on how they never get mail 🙁 My daughter just graduated this May and my son is starting this fall and I try to put together a care package for midterms and of course finals. I usually go to the dollar store and make up goodie bags with food and drinks, etc as well as putting an encouraging note in. This way I can give a few out to my kids friends as well without breaking the bank. Three in college! That’s amazing!

  3. Lpmousse

    I put together care packages for my bestie’s daughter 3 times a year. She loves peanut butter, so I send that, and free protein bars I get, some pads, and other random stuff. She loves & appreciates it.

    • Jennifer (Hip Sidekick)

      Great idea and she’s very lucky to have you, Lpmousse!

  4. Susan

    I ask my college student each year to update the list of preferences for chocolate, salty/crunchy, candy, quick meals, etc. as well as non-food items so we know we are sending faves whenever hubby and I put together a care package (or family ask what they might send). We try to include items the roommate will also like as I recall how much I appreciated being included in care packages my roommate received. We also try to send something fun/unexpected as often as possible; seasonal items/decorations are always appreciated.

    • Jennifer (Hip Sidekick)

      I love the idea of including the roommate! Thanks so much for your comment, Susan!

  5. Lpmousse

    I put together care packages for my bestie’s daughter and cousin’s daughter a few weeks ago. Razors, shaving gel, food, fun freebies or cheapies I had acquired. I collected the stuff over many months and then sent it. They both adored the packages. It’s the stuff inside, but it’s also that you thought of them.

  6. shop4mybabies

    i did this with all of my sons friends when they went off to universities…don’t forget things like can openers nothing worse than wanting some spaghettios at 2 am and not being able to get the can open:)

  7. llc

    To save on postage, go to usps and calculate shipping and experiment with regional B and flat rate boxes as ur shipping container. These boxes are not based on weight but distance so u can stuff them full of heavy food items. Once u determine the cheapest box, order a set of 10 (they are free) thru usps. Al’so, it’s cheaper not to mention easier to buy postage online so u can skip the lines at ur post office. Once its ready to be mailed, take to the post office and they have a counter for packages with prepaid labels. U just drop it and go. Not necessary to stand in line. Priority boxes come with automatic $50 insurance too!

    • Hartsell

      This is helpful. I always end up just picking something from Amazon and sending it directly through them to save the money and hassle of shipping! I’ll look into this idea now!

  8. Susan

    Here’s my huge college supply list for my daughter. This makes a great gift!

    Supply List:
    Small square laundry basket
    Laundry soap
    Dryer sheets
    Hair straightener
    Blow Dryer
    Curling iron
    Clothes steamer/iron
    Facial cleansing brush
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01DTYN4N8/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1
    Stun Gun/Pepper Spray combo
    https://www.amazon.com/SABRE-Pepper-Spray-Keychain-Self-Defense/dp/B07XLX163D/ref=sr_1_6?dchild=1&keywords=stun+gun&qid=1626963938&sr=8-6
    Lint roller
    Cotton balls
    Nail polish remover
    Q-tips
    Hangers – *use thin ones because closet space it small
    Pads/Tampons
    Lysol Wipes
    Toothpaste
    Electric toothbrush
    Deodorant
    Body Wash
    Loofah
    Face Wash
    Pore Cleansing Strips
    Shampoo/Conditioner
    Fingernail Clippers
    Nail Polish
    Lip Balm
    Body Lotion
    Brush
    Comb
    Goody brand black rubber bands
    Towels
    Wash clothes
    Hand towels
    Shower caddy (she chose a washable mesh one from Amazon)
    https://www.amazon.com/Attmu-Toiletry-Organizer-Conditioner-Accessories/dp/B00MGB4YRQ/ref=sr_1_12?dchild=1&keywords=shower+caddy&qid=1626963722&sr=8-12Queen Bee Perfume (highly recommended inexpensive perfume)
    https://www.target.com/p/queen-bee-by-good-chemistry–8482–women–39-s-eau-de-parfum—1-7-fl-oz-/-/A-52702683
    Microfiber Hair towel wrap
    https://www.amazon.com/YoulerTex-Microfiber-Absorbent-Turban-Drying/dp/B07KM3CMZM/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=hair+towel&qid=1626963775&sr=8-2
    Reusable dishes/silverware for 1 or 2
    Insulated water bottle
    Coffee mug
    Mattress Pad
    Extra long twin sheet set
    Robe/slippers
    Shower flip flops
    twinkle lights/extra lighting

    I hope this helps! This is my third college kid, and we’ve figured out what works for us.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks so much for the helpful list!

  9. spike

    Be careful with the gift cards. On Most college campuses you can not use the gift cards at restaurants. It even says it in the restaurants and some on the gift cards. Learned this the hard way!!!

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks so much for the warning!

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