Gloomy economic news has cast a pall over the dorm room daydreams of college kids for several years now, but those who track retail sales figures think this might be a breakout season.

More of America's children are going away to college this year than ever before — about 24 percent of all students — and the average amount each will spend on stuff to take with them is predicted to be about $900, up about $100 over the last three years.


Total back-to-college retail sales will top $53 billion, according to the National Retail Federation and its research arm, BIGinsight, much of it at home-furnishing outlets as students look to replicate the comforts of home.

Clearly, nobody shops in Mom's linen closet anymore.

The retail federation predicts that families will be scouring the Internet for bargains and using mobile apps to find the best prices, still with a wary eye on the economy.

But what if your back-to-college budget had no limits? How might you feather your college nest?

Here are our top 10 items for creating a dream dorm room, along with some budget-friendly alternatives.

After all, college kids can dream, can't they? Simply tell the parents that shopping is a way to ease the sorrow of good-bye.

iChair 2

How about an iChair 2 from Pottery Barn Teen for $600? It has a pair of speakers up top and a subwoofer under the seat — and a setting to control the vibrations from games. Sure beats the old bean bag chair. But if that's not in your budget, you can get a chair made out of a web of bungee cords from Target for $30.

Shower caddy

A shower caddy is right up there with flip-flops on the list of bathroom essentials. And you can find colorful fabric patterns at campground.com for $15.95. But nights out require serious equipment, and that means a rolling "get-ready" stand, topped with a tilting regular and magnifying mirror and two levels of shelves with bins and trays. On sale at PB Teen for $179.

Military style

Extra-long twin bedsheet sets are the standard, too. With the military look being forecast as a fall fashion trend, what about camo sheets (PB Teen, $60)?

Alarm bells


Have trouble waking up for those 8 a.m. classes? Then an iPod dock/radio alarm – with a "bed shaker" attachment — is the ticket ($47 at Target). Put the attachment under your pillow and it will vibrate you to consciousness. Not enough power? Then try the Flying Alarm Clock from dormco.com for $20. It shoots a plastic propeller in the air, which must be retrieved and placed back in the clock to silence the alarm.

Caffeine jolt

Or go old-school and get yourself out the door with a cup of coffee. Nespresso Pixie espresso machine ($230 at Williams-Sonoma) is dorm-size and delivers a powerful shot of caffeine. Or you can purchase a Hamilton Beach single-serving coffee maker from Walmart for $29.

Smoothies and s'mores

When only comfort food will do, load up your S'mores Maker from Walmart ($29.) But if you are determined to avoid gaining the freshman 15, fill the NutriBullet blender ($99 at Target) with veggies and spin yourself some superfood.

Wall art

Decals are all the rage again this season, and you can get a collection of sticky vinyl picture frames for pictures of the loved ones you left at home from etsy.com for $110. Stuck for a calendar? Cover your dorm wall with a daily dot dry-erase calendar, and it will be hard not to notice when that paper is due ($60 at PB Teen).

The brushoff

Why keep your desk supplies in a old mug when a handmade brush from Anthropologie ($68) can sweep the clutter away with style?

Light fantastic

A desk lamp is essential, of course, but so is love, in the form of LOVE string lights, a dreamy dorm room bargain at just $39 at PB Teen.

Sleeping in

Blackout curtains from Target ($13 to $16 per panel) will keep the morning sun at bay, but so will a sexy sleep mask like the one worn by Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's." You can find one on Amazon.com for about $15. (There are pirate versions for guys, too.)