Most students won't try to create a room as well-wired as BRAD -- the Berkeley Ridiculously Automated Dorm student Derek Low created. Fifty-four percent of students do expect to buy a new computer, MP3 player, smartphone or other device, according to a National Retail Federation's Back-to-College survey. Remember cables, as well as installation disks in case the computer dies. If your child wants a MacBook Air, they start at $999.
$870: Laptop HP 15.6" Pavilion Laptop 6GB Memory, 640GB Hard Drive ($630), with Microsoft Office Home and Student 2010 software ($120), and HP Deskjet Network Ready Wireless Color e-All-In-One printer ($120) -- bestbuy.com
$50: Retractable laptop lock -- sears.com
$42: Two 12-outlet surge protectors with phone/ethernet/coaxial protection and extended cord (one may suffice, but it can't hurt to have two) -- amazon.com
$20: Two flash drives -- sears.com
$13: Blank CDs -- target.com
The tally: $2,215.50