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How to decorate your dorm room on a budget

Published February 26, 2024| minute read

    Let’s face it: you want your dorm room to feel like home, but decorating a new space can get expensive. On top of budget constraints, you may need to find things that can fit into a small space and not create clutter. Decorating a dorm room on a budget isn’t easy!

    Fortunately, there are plenty of budget-friendly ways to decorate your dorm room and make it your own without breaking the bank. Continue reading for some inspiration.

    What do you need for a dorm room?

    First things first, you’re going to need the essentials when setting up your dorm room. You want your room to not only be comfortable but also functional, as you’ll likely be spending a good amount of time in it.

    Here’s a list of items commonly needed items to set up a dorm room:

    • Bedding: Sheets, a comforter or blanket, pillows, and a mattress pad will help create a comfortable sleeping environment.
    • Storage solutions: Containers, bins, under-bed storage organizers, and over-door hooks can help maximize space and organize your belongings.
    • Study supplies: Stock up on essential school supplies, such as pens, notebooks, folders, and a desk lamp for late-night study sessions.
    • Personal care items: Depending on your dorm layout, you may have a bathroom in your dorm room, or you may be using a communal bathroom. Bring items accordingly; for example, a shower caddy and robe will be helpful if you’ll be using a communal bathroom.
    • Kitchen essentials: If permitted, you might want to bring a mini fridge, microwave, coffee maker, reusable water bottles, and a few non-perishable snacks to help keep you fueled during study sessions. 
    • Decor and lighting: Add personal touches to your space with posters, photos, and plants to create a cozy and inviting atmosphere (we’ll provide some more specifics on what you might want to bring to school to do this below).
    • Cleaning supplies: Keep your space tidy with a small vacuum, cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, and a hamper or laundry bag.
    • Electronics: Electronics to consider bringing include a laptop, chargers, and power strips. Consider a small printer, if needed, and surge protectors to safeguard your devices.
    • Health and safety items: Bring a first-aid kit, medications, and necessary health-related items. Investing in a small safe for valuables may also be a good idea.
    • Comfort items: Consider bringing things that will provide comfort and relaxation, such as your favorite throw blanket, a small rug, and a pair of slippers. 
    • Room essentials: Don’t forget items like a trash can, command strips or hooks for hanging items, and a small toolkit for minor repairs or adjustments.

    Although there are some items on this list that you’ll want to buy brand new, many of these items you may have at home already, or you may be able to find reasonably priced used items via online marketplaces. Consider taking advantage of back-to-school sales and discounts as well as student discounts as you stock up for school, too.

    If you’re going to have a roommate, it’s also a good idea to coordinate with them to avoid duplicating items so you can maximize your shared space.

    Lastly, remember to check with your college or university about any specific rules or restrictions for dorm room items so you don’t bring something that’s not allowed.

    Tips to decorate your dorm room on a budget

    1. Utilize wall decals and removable wallpaper

    One of the easiest and most affordable ways to add personality and style to your dorm room is by using wall decals and removable wallpaper. These adhesive decorations come in various designs and patterns, allowing you to create a custom look without damaging your dorm walls when they need to be removed at the end of the year. Look for wall decals and removable wallpaper at affordable prices online or at local home decor stores.

    2. DIY artwork and decor items

    Bring creativity and personal flair to your dorm room by creating artwork and decor items yourself. DIY projects such as painting, crafting, and upcycling can inexpensively add unique pieces to your space. For instance, you can make wall art, decorative pillows, or photo displays using affordable materials and supplies found at craft stores or thrift shops.

    3. Add greenery with low-maintenance plants

    Adding a touch of greenery can instantly liven up your space and create a calming atmosphere. Look for low-maintenance plants such as succulents, cacti, or snake plants that require minimal care and can thrive indoors. You can find affordable potted plants at garden centers, home improvement stores, or online.

    4. Create a cozy reading nook

    If space permits, carve out a cozy corner in your dorm room where you can relax and unwind with help from a cozy rug, floor cushions, and a small bookshelf or storage unit to keep your favorite books nearby. Look for inexpensive decor items such as string lights, throw pillows, and a soft throw blanket to add a touch of warmth and comfort to your reading nook.

    5. Utilize affordable storage solutions

    Maximize the space in your dorm room and keep it organized with affordable storage solutions. Look for storage bins, baskets, and under-bed organizers to help keep clutter at bay and maximize your limited space. You can also repurpose items such as mason jars, shoe organizers, and hanging shelves to create additional storage for your belongings.

    6. Personalize your bedding and linens

    Give your dorm room a personalized touch by choosing bedding and linens in colors and patterns that reflect your personality and style. Look for affordable bedding sets, throw blankets, and decorative pillows that complement your decor room’s theme and add a pop of color to your space. For a custom look, you can also personalize your bedding with DIY embellishments such as tassels, pom-poms, or fabric paint.

    7. Incorporate multi-functional furniture

    Make the most of your dorm room's limited space by incorporating multi-functional furniture. Look for affordable options such as a futon that can double as a bed and a seating area, a storage ottoman that provides extra seating and hidden storage, or a desk with built-in shelving for added functionality. Choosing multi-functional furniture can help maximize your space and eliminate the need for additional decor items. Keep in mind that while many dorm rooms provide furniture (and therefore, you won’t have much wiggle room), for those that don’t, furniture pieces that have a dual use can be a big space saver.

    8. Shop secondhand and thrift stores for unique finds

    Take a thrifty approach to decorating your dorm room by shopping secondhand and thrift stores for unique finds and budget-friendly decor items. You can often find affordable furniture, decor accents, and vintage pieces that add character and charm to your space. Look for mirrors, artwork, lamps, and small furniture pieces that can be repurposed or updated to fit your decor style.

    Final thoughts

    You can create a personalized and inviting dorm room without breaking the bank by incorporating affordable and unique decor pieces, creating DIY art, and getting creative with storage. Whether you’re starting college or returning for another year, these budget-friendly decorating ideas can help you make the most of your dorm room and turn it into a place you’ll enjoy coming home to.