• Jennifer Hathcoat

8 Tips to Decorate a Dorm on a College Budget

Updated: Jul 12

It looks like it is dorm decorating season once again! This can be a very fun process for the incoming freshmen and upperclassmen looking for a style change. It can also be a very pricey process at the end of the day. The end goal is for every student to have a comfortable, stylish, and functional space for the college semester.

Don’t worry about forking over hundreds of dollars on advertised ‘dorm room complete packages’ filled with items you may never use! Because here you will learn the easiest tips to cut down on spending with dorm décor while still living in a stylish and ‘gram-worthy’ room.

Tip # 1: Look Before You Buy

Dorm rooms come in all different shapes and sizes! So before going crazy at Target or Bed Bath & Beyond, look at the college’s dorm information on their webpage. If you cannot visit, the college should provide pictures and typical size dimensions for the rooms. This should help guide you on how much you can or can’t bring.

If you were able to snag a single then you can decorate and bring as many essentials as desired. But for those roomie lifestyles just consider how your items will fit in the room with another person…or two.

The worse thing is buying too many things and then finding out that not all of it will be used. The best dorm room is one that isn’t overflowing with junk that you thought you needed.

Tip #2: Fridge…. Microwave…Trashcan?

Multiple households’ items make dorm room living a little bit more comfortable. But speaking from experience, moving multiple appliances every year can become cumbersome and annoying.

Before buying everything and the kitchen sink ask your future roommates if they already have a certain appliance. There is a good chance that you won’t have to bring everything with you.

Tip #3: Bring Things from Home!

There is nothing wrong with reusing the items you already own in your bedroom. Extra blankets, towels, pillows, photos, and lamps are all possible items to bring.

It’s a great money saver and you will have touchstones to home in your dorm room if you ever get homesick!

Tip #4: Make a Photo Wall

Creating your own photo wall is a cheap and fun way to spice your dorm room up. CVS prints can be as low as 25 cents! Colorful tape designs or a unique photo layout will add character and comfort to the room. Pictures of home, friends, and memories will brighten anyone’s day.

A polaroid wall is also becoming a popular choice of wall décor. This option can get a little expensive with buying film but a great way to constantly add new college memories to adorn your walls.

Tip #5: A Bed Fit for Royalty

The bed is the focal point of any room, and a dorm room is not the exception. A quality mattress topper, soft sheets, and a warm comforter are necessary for comfortable dorm living.

If you go the cheaper route these options you may end up spending more money replacing the items rather than reusing for 4 years. Your bed needs to be a safe, relaxing area so make sure that you pick out items that you really love.

An easy way to spruce up your bedding from year to year is by adding different color throw pillows to add a new accent color to the room! Amazon, H&M home sales, even Target’s clearance section offer cheaper but great décor pillows.

Tip #6: Check Out Amazon

Amazon is becoming increasingly our favorite go-to, but especially for dorm room shopping. The large variety of options and prices make the website a perfect place to get started with dorm room decorations.

Amazon makes college shopping so simple and easy by suggesting items that other students have commonly bought. The best part is that rather than loading down the car or wasting valuable luggage space you can ship all these glorious essentials directly to the school! A stress-free way to deal with moving in all the clothing and fridges.

Tip # 7: Lights, Camera, Action!

String lights are a very popular choice for college students everywhere. It doubles as soft lighting for the room to distract from the horrid fluorescent ones, and it creates a cool edge to the room.

The lights are very easy to hang up, either using a few command hooks or tacks and plugging the lights in/or batteries and you’re done! Amazon offers a ton of different string lights ranging from ones that hang pictures, strobe lights, or stars and hearts. You can’t go wrong adding a few strands of lights to the walls!

Tip #8: Buy as You Go

Don’t feel the pressure to have your dorm room perfectly decorated on the first day of move-in. You will most likely change your style within the first semester of college or at the least find different things you like in the new environment.

Of course, it can be nice to start off the semester with a fully decorated place. But, it can also be fun to explore and shop around the town of your college a discover new, local items that can fit in your room. Maybe prints from a local artist or a plant at the farmers market.

You’ll save some money because you aren’t spending all this money upfront on décor items that you may not necessarily need or like after the year is up!

Bonus Tip

This is a bonus and maybe a bit of a boring tip, but hopefully it’ll save a few freshmen out there: check the colleges' rules on what is/is not allowed in the dorm room. Some colleges can be stricter than others and can be very particular on the items that cannot be in the room. A few examples include upholstered furniture, tapestry or flags hanging from the wall, toasters, VitaMix, and the list continues. Also, consider searching for specific rooms such as bedroom design or bathroom design ideas. Just double-check that you don’t buy anything that an RA may remove from your room.

Remember everything in your room is temporary; when Spring rolls around you will be taking everything down to put it up again all over in the next fall! So, have fun and only buy pieces that you truly love and will use.