College students are often faced with difficult consumer decisions. College students have to identify items that would benefit their lifestyle while also taking into consideration the space that any new belonging will command within their typically limited living area.

Those who’ve moved out into apartments have a much easier decision-making path than dorm residents, yet the question continues to return, no matter where you might find yourself in the life of a college student. For those in dorms, utilizing space and making the most of your living quarters is particularly important, and one of the main questions that return time and time again is the usefulness of cooking equipment and other kitchen supplies.

However, answering this question is actually easier than you might think. Read on to discover whether it makes sense to purchase or skip kitchen supplies as you continue to progress through life as a dorm resident on your college campus.

Break up kitchen supplies into categories.

College financial planning demands a careful approach to any new spending. College students haven’t had the time to build up an extensive backstop of financial security like older adults, yet they must navigate the same basic lifestyle requirements. College students have to attend their job regularly—in the form of scheduled classes and additional study hours on their own time—and feed themselves every day. Many students opt for a meal plan to make this second requirement more streamlined. Yet the addition of a meal plan won’t completely cover your dietary needs. Dining halls are open at designated times, and the occasional meal will come at midnight or later after an elongated study session in advance of a test or a weekend night out at the bar with friends.

Many dorm buildings will come equipped with a kitchen room and some basic cooking equipment for students to make their own meals, but a certain subset of utensils and other necessary elements will be required of you. The average dorm resident won’t need pots and pans, but a good peeler and chopping board might be the perfect addition to your living quarters in order to make excellent home-cooked food whenever the occasion calls for it. Likewise, you’ll need mugs (porcelain coffee mugs and teacups are often the best value and style for a variety of beverages), forks, knives, and spoons, and some other crucial elements that make for a well-rounded lifestyle. These pieces of equipment likely won’t be available—or very useful long term if they are—in a dorm kitchen, so supplying your own will give you the greatest flexibility.

Consider the future and purchase with a strategy in mind.

For some dorm residents, a mug, small microwave, and saucers are just the start. Many living in dorms their first year will want to move into their own apartment in the following years of their time on campus (or after graduation, of course). When this changeover occurs, the need to purchase additional kitchenware will become evident. In an apartment, you’ll have access to a more spacious cooking area, but will be required to supply all your own utensils and supplies. Coffee mugs will quickly need to be supplemented with pots, pans, and the works. Buying near the end of the term is a great way to get your hands on discounts, coupons, and other great prices on new and used equipment that will serve you throughout the remaining years of your time on campus. Purchasing with a strategy in mind is the best way to get your money’s worth on these essential items.

For many, buying kitchenware is a rite of passage that signals a change from childhood into adulthood. Make sure you approach this with intelligence in order to make the best possible decisions.