The Ultimate SPY Guide to Back to School Season

back to school shopping guide
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* It may be hard to accept, but summer is winding down
* It’s never too early to start preparing for your return to school
* Style, tech gadgets, stress relief, and more for students of all levels

As hard as it may be to accept it, summer is slowly, but surely winding down. Before you know it, school will be back in session and our much-loved summer breaks will forever be in our memories as we reminisce on beach days and warm weather. Don’t be caught off guard this fall season as September is just around the corner. We’ve rounded up our top back to school stories below to help you shop and prepare for the start of a new school year.


All Things Style


Back To School Fashion Essentials

Whether you’re heading off to college or are simply looking for a convenient excuse to refresh your wardrobe for the fall, the back-to-school season is in full swing with plenty of new trends and stylish options to upgrade your back-to-school swag.

back to school fashion Image by Michael Buckner

Gallery: Back To School Style



Backpacks aren’t just for school kids and hikers anymore. They’re now a stylish (and convenient) piece of luggage for professionals, students, and travelers alike. The only problem is picking the right one for your style and transportation needs, but don’t worry – we’re here to help. Below are ten of the best backpacks for your daily commute.

backbacks back to school season Image courtesy of Amazon

The Best Backpacks Under $100


All Black Backpacks

Black backpacks are cooler than ever, especially with the clear backpack controversy  that ensued following the Parkland high school in Florida. The rebellious look is being utilized by all kinds of brands including Fjällräven, Urban Outfitters, and High Sierra.

Men's Backpack Fjallraven Image courtesy of Urban Outfitters

The 7 Best Opaque Backpacks for Student Rebels


Bags and Backpacks Galore

If you’re not ready to make the switch to a backpack, we’ve got plenty of traditional bags to choose from, too. From hikes, to overnight trips, to the office, we’ve uncovered the best backpacks for new uses. Check out our comprehensive guide to backpacks, totes, and messenger bags.

best backpacks

The SPY Guide to Bags and Backpacks




The Best of Bluetooth Speakers

We all like to party in our dorm rooms and have Disney sing-a-longs with our roommates (guilty as charged). But sometimes your computer speakers are just falling flat. But that’s why we have Bluetooth speakers to blast those Spotify playlists or lectures you recorded from class since you were too busy online shopping to pay attention.

tech back to school Image courtesy of Amazon

The 9 Best Bluetooth Speakers for Your Dorm


Safety Devices

It may be a touchy subject, but personal safety is an issue everyone should take the time to think about. Whether you’re visiting a new area for the first time, or just want a little extra peace of mind, having a trusty personal safety alarm could make all the difference between a disaster and an avoided situation.

safety alarms amazon Image courtesy of Amazon

The 4 Best Personal Safety Alarms


Cheap Charging

When it comes to phone chargers, Apple cables don’t come cheap. In fact, Lightning cables are arguably one of the most overpriced Apple products on the market — especially when you consider the fact that you can get the same quality cable at a fraction of the price. If you’re looking for a new Lightning cable but don’t want to pay top dollar for the Apple name, here are seven of the highest-rated cable alternatives.

cheap chargers amazon Image courtesy of Amazon

The 7 Cheapest Charging Cables for iPhone or iPad


Keyboard Covers

Keyboards are gross. So gross, in fact, that the average keyboard has been found to be roughly 20,000 times dirtier than the average toilet. Think about it — when was the last time you actually took the time to clean your keyboard? If you’re looking for ways to help keep your keyboard clean, or if you simply want something to help prevent fading keys and other wear ‘n’ tear, here are six keyboard covers to help cover your keys.

keyboard covers amazon Image courtesy of Amazon

6 Keyboard Covers for PC or Mac


Keychain Batteries

Tired of having to deal with a dying phone whenever you leave the house? With a portable power back, you can easily and quickly charge your phone no matter where you are. Grab a quick charge on the train, in the car, or even while you walk with these super handy (and stylish) portable keychain chargers.

best keychain batteries on amazon Image courtesy of Amazon

The 5 Best Battery Pack Keychains Under $20

This $13 Charging Cable Fits on Your Keychain


Back to School Entertainment


Movie Mania

Heading back to school may feel like a bummer for some students, but movies about school are awesome. Check out our favorite back to school flicks and click through to watch.

back to school movies Photo by Paramount/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Gallery: Back to School Movies



It’s that time again — back to school. For many, dorm life means a tiny bedroom, co-ed bathrooms, microwave meals and super loud roommates. Whether it’s your first foray into dorm living or you’re already a seasoned pro, these streaming devices will help your room feel a little more like home.

best streaming devices college Image courtesy of Amazon

The 8 Best Streaming Devices For Your Dorm


Kitchen & Home


Small Space Cooking Appliances

If there’s one thing the recent grad in your life is about to miss, it’s probably access to a stocked fridge and full-size kitchen courtesy of mom and dad. While you might not be able to take care of the former once they’re on their own, there are a few small-space hacks for the latter, from professional-grade iron burners to multifunction mini-food steamers.

Kitchen gadgets dorm room Image courtesy of Amazon

The 8 Best Hot Plates and Slow Cookers for Quick Meals


Dorm Room Decor

School is almost back in session. Whether it’s your first year in college or your last, it’s time to start thinking about how you’ll want to decorate your home away from home. Give your classmates dorm room envy with these 10 stylish and practical ways to deck out your digs for under $50.

Image courtesy of Amazon

Dorm Room Decorations Under $50

10 Things Under $30 To Spice Up Your Walls


Space-Saving Furniture

When maximizing storage for smaller bedrooms and living spaces, quick, easy and with minimal assembly is the only way to go. Just because you have less space to work with does not mean you have to make do with less; the key is to be smart about how you organize and maximize the space available to you.

best furniture small spaces Image courtesy of Amazon

How to Maximize Storage for Smaller Bedrooms

The 8 Best Closet Organizers for Dorm Rooms


Mini Fridge Madness

We all want to have access to a quick snack (or drink) when the craving comes, but sadly, most rooms don’t have space for a full-size fridge. Whether you’re moving into a new dorm, or need refreshments close by in your home bar or bedroom, we’ve found four great mini fridges to hit every decor style and budget.

mini fridge dorm room Image courtesy of Amazon

4 Unique Mini Fridges for Your Dorm Room


All Things Wellness


Self Care Commodities

If you’ve remained unaware of the current “self care” trend, it’s a great time to do some quick research and dive right in. This well-being mandate puts an emphasis on taking care of yourself first, over and above anyone else. That leaves only one person to blame if you don’t take advantage of this trend. And that person is you.

natural anxiety relief Image courtesy of Amazon

The 10 Best Self Care Products To Try


How to Work Out in Small Spaces

Whether you’re moving into a dorm room in the fall or live in small studio apartment, you can still have an effective workout whether you’re in you’re bedroom or kitchen with just a few feet to spare. With the right fitness “equipment,” you can perform a wide range of cardio, resistance, yoga and even interval training workouts, even when space is limited.

how to workout out in dorm rooms Image courtesy of Amazon

7 Items to Help You Work Out in a Small Space


Healthy Snacking

Granola Bars, protein bars and bars in general, are a multi-functional  food that can come in handy when you are in a pinch. The heartier bars can serve as a quick breakfast, or they can be used for fast fuel before your workout, and they are great for on-the-go when you need something healthier to eat on your way to class. These options below are palatable, highly-rated options that come in flavors that will please everyone.

healthy snacks amazon Image courtesy of Amazon

The Best Granola Bars You Can Order Off Amazon


Home & Organization


Laundry Day

If you’re tight on space with nowhere to store a bulky laundry basket, we have a selection of laundry bags that save space. These laundry bags are especially useful for those who prefer options that take up a minimal amount of room. Our list includes off-the-ground bags, collapsible bags and hampers that have their own wheels for ease of movement.

laundry hacks Image courtesy of Amazon

7 Slim Laundry Baskets for Small Spaces


Notebook Necessities

Class is almost back in session; it’s time to pay careful attention to your note taking options. Here are five fantastic notebooks to help you take notes and study hard for any exam.

best notebooks for college Image courtesy of Amazon

The 5 Best Notebooks for Avid Note Takers

The 8 Best Bound Journals Under $40


Carry-All Caddies

The first day of school is just around the corner; it’s time to stock up on necessities. When it comes to shower caddies, everyone has their own preferences, so we gathered a collection of six diverse and effective options.

multifunction caddies dorms Image courtesy of Amazon

The 6 Best Caddies for Dorm Rooms


Organization Stations

As summer comes to a close, that spring cleaning you did of your office suddenly seems very far away. SPY has gathered six items that will help you de-clutter and make the most of your space, while adding a pop of color in the process.

organization hacks dorm rooms Image courtesy of Amazon

The Best Accessories for Organization Freaks


Test Prep for High School and College

The best way to beat the big test jitters is with proper preparation. We have your back with this list of six super-handy, stress-reducing study guides to help you ace any exam.

best college test prep books Image courtesy of Amazon

Test Prep for High School

Test Prep for College


Spin Away Stress

If you haven’t purchased a fidget spinner yet, aren’t satisfied with the cheap, boring ones at gas stations, or want to add to your collection, check out these crazy fidget spinners that you won’t see in the classroom or at work. Regardless of whether you’re onboard with the trend or not, we recommend trying these out.

fidget spinners stress Image courtesy of ThinkGeek

8 Crazy Fidget Spinners for the Stressed


Hacks For Living With Roommates


Living with roommates (especially in a tiny dorm room) can be difficult. Check out link below for a roundup of helpful hacks and products to help you stop hating them.

how to get along with roommates Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Home Harmony: 5 Things to Help You Stop Hating Your Housemates