How to Decorate Your College Dorm – on a Budget
So, you’re in college, or starting college soon, and you want to put your interior design skills to work on your dorm room.
Only problem is:
Decorations aren’t exactly cheap and you’re not exactly made out of money.
If that sounds like you, you’re in the right place.
Shopping is fun, right? A whole lot of people love to shop, and that includes me. Shopping on a budget, however, is…
…well, less fun. I think we can all agree on that.
Can you imagine having a limitless budget every time when you went shopping?? That would be SO great!
But, that’s only in a perfect world I suppose.
Shopping for college dorm decor is almost always on limited funds, unless you have an especially generous relative who adores you. There’s no need to worry though:
Because even when your spending is limited you can still have fun designing the perfect room set up.
In today’s post, I’m going to show you 8 ways to make your college dorm room look cute without going over budget.
P.S. If you fit into the category of “heading to college”, find out what you really need to bring to college (and what you can leave at home) here + a free packing checklist.
8 Budget Friendly Ways to Decorate a Dorm Room
Picture credit: Everything Emily Blog
There is just about every color and pattern you can think of available in washi tape. It can be used to decorate walls, doors, binders – almost anything!
Washi tape is a crafting godsend due to how extremely versatile it is.
It’s a damage-free way to decorate and the designs that can made with it are endless. Washi tape is perfect for those who have a big imagination.
Even if you don’t feel like you’re a particularly creative person, you can still make something that looks fantastic!
Stripes, line art and geometric patterns are straight forward and don’t require tons of artists’ talent. You make deigns as simple (or as complicated) as you want them to be.
There are tons of ideas and how-to-guides on Pinterest to help you get it just right.
The best part?
It’s cheap, and I mean really cheap.
Check out this set of these 24 rolls – the price per unit is dirt cheap. Talk about affordable!
Here are a few washi tape designs to inspire you:
Bring outdoor lighting inside to create a whole new atmosphere in your dorm room!
Fairy lights give off a completely different ambiance than the cold, strangely hospital-like feel that the florescent lights typically found in dorms give off.
Because light can affect our moods, sleep cycle and concentration, I’d saying having good lighting is important.
What would be considered “good lighting”?
Lighting that makes you feel: comfortable, relaxed, creative, productive or just plain happy.
You’ll be spending a fair amount of time in a dorm room; between sleeping, homework and late-night cram fests. I think it’s worth spending the time setting it up so everything feels just right, and lighting is a big component of that.
There are many string light types that go beyond your typical Christmas tree lights to choose from, as well.
You can grab a set for $20 or less – with $20 being on the high side. I’ve seen a lot of string lights around the $12 price point, though.
You’ll only need one set (unless you have BIG plans) which is why they get a place on my list of affordable ways to decorate a college dorm.
Extra money saving tip: To get string lights for even less, buy them after the holidays. They will be on sale for rock bottom prices!
While we are on the subject of lighting, I thought I would bring up lamps.
Sometimes, you may want a direct focused beam of light at your desk to keep you track while reading and studying. Or maybe, your room ambiance is just missing something.
Lamps are another way to add your own personal flair to your new living space.
For those of you aiming to spend the absolute least amount possible, Target always has your standard, gets-the-job-done desk lamps for cheap.
And then, there are other frillier, more decorative lamps. That’s where you need to be careful because the prices start going up dramatically.
That doesn’t mean all hope is lost on finding a budget-friendly lamp that is also cute & stylish.
Whether you’re shopping for a desk lamp to illuminate your schoolwork with or an accent light to tie your whole room theme together, remember that there are affordable options.
And when shopping at Target, always bring a list and do. not. deviate. (easier said, than done, I know!)
Here are some of my favorite affordable lamp options:
Picture credit: The Mrs and Momma Bird
This next way to decorate is super easy and cheap, but looks completely professional. You’ll certainly be able to impress your friends with this one.
If you get really into it, you can even make extras to sell locally or on Etsy.
Alright, so I love floral monograms! T
hey are cute, feminine and do wonders to bring color into an otherwise monochromatic college dorm. Plus, they are 100% custom to what you like and how you want it.
Want an all purple one? You got it.
Only greenery and no flowers? It’s yours.
You want a giant monogram that’s as big as you? It will probably take a little longer to do, but you can definitely do it.
You can see, there aren’t really any limits to this project other than your own imagination. Here is a great tutorial on EXACTLY how to make one.
To sum it:
You cut out the shape of the letter you want from cardboard. Then you use a hot glue gun to attach fake flowers to the letter. That’s it!
The dollar store sells artificial flowers and frames, but don’t be afraid to ask your crafty aunt if she has spare ones she can part with. Chances are that her crafting table has been collecting some dust.
Shop garage sales and your local thrift stores for the best deals, too.
All in all, you should be able to whip up one of these babies for extremely cheap.
If you frequent Pinterest, you may have seen some things called “printables”.
Printables are simply things like workbooks, checklists and wall art that you can print right from your computer. No design skills needed.
And then, there are free printables – they rock! Especially when it comes to decorating a college dorm room on a budget.
There are lots and lots of free printables on Pinterest, which means lots and lots of ways to adorn your walls.
There is even free printable wall art in my resource library – score! The one pictured above comes in 7 different variations in both portrait and landscape layouts. Head here to get instant access to it.
Oh, and don’t forget that frames are uber cheap at the dollar store, garage sales and thrift shops. Or, just make a washi tape frame!
Picture credit: Succulents and Sunshine
Plants are a nice, low cost way to decorate a college dorm.
There is a small, one-time investment upfront to set your growing space, and then from there they only need water. Completely budget-friendly. 🙂
You can grow them from seeds (most inexpensive option) or you can buy plants that are already grown. Get plants starts at your local farmers market, on Amazon, from your mom, at Walmart, etc.
Plants are readily available, but make sure to shop around to find a price that suits your budget.
Bring the outdoors inside to give your college dorm a whole new feel. On days where you’re stuck inside for most the day, a plant can make it feel like less of a drag.
Green thumbs and non-green thumbs alike, can agree that a little greenery can go a long way.
Having an indoor plant will improve your air quality because they naturally absorb air pollutants.
As long as you have a window (and most dorm rooms should) where sunlight comes in, you can grow an indoor garden!
So which types of plants would suitable for a mini dorm garden?
Succulents for one! They’re cute, they come in a lot of different varieties and, to top it all off, they’re pretty LOW maintenance. A perfect combination of traits when it comes to a busy college life.
If succulents aren’t your thing, there are plenty of other plant options that can do well indoors, as well.
You could grow a small herb garden (fresh flavors for your meals – yum!), or you could decorate with awesome air plants – which don’t require any dirt.
Air plants are kind of the ultimate minimal effort plants. If you’ve been guilty of killing a plant or two, I would suggest learning more about them.
Those who are confident in their gardening and plant caretaking skills, can even grow a bonsai tree. I love how bonsai trees look!
Keep in mind that your indoor garden can be as BIG or as small as you want it to be.
Let your creative juices flow and create a stunning vertical garden with a variety of plants, or keep just one small potted plant on your desk.
There are a ton of cool ways to grow indoors! Pick plants that won’t become a burden for you to take care of.
Useful articles on related to indoor gardening:
- How to create a succulent garden
- How to Plant a Succulent Garden in a Cart
- Easy indoor herb garden that’s simple to maintain | 10-minute diy project
- How to take care of a bonsai tree – Beginners guide
- $10 DIY Succulent Frame
- Popsicle Stick Mini Pallet w/ Succulents
P.S. If you like that succulent garden in a cart, you can get one like it right here & it’s not too pricey, either.
Another way to decorate a college dorm is to use a tapestry!
Cover an entire white wall in one easy, single action. This decorating idea may require the least amount of effort from you, but it’s still a brilliant way to really change up the mood of a room.
Boho vibes, beach vibes, desert vibes – there’s a tapestry to fit any style.
I know what you’re thinking:
“Tapestries – aren’t those just for hippies?”
They don’t have to be just for hippies, in fact there is just about any design you can think of. Think of it more as a cloth canvas for art.
Alright, I think I’ve covered the point that there really is something for everyone.
Extra tip: How to hang one without causing damage to the walls.
My last way to decorate a college dorm on a budge,t is with throw pillows.
Throw pillows aren’t always cheap, but you can find ones that are. They are a nice way of adding a pop of color or a fun pattern, without having to invest in a pricey duvet purchase.
Give your room an instant makeover at a reasonable price. Again, throw pillows are another decorative item that comes in a thousand variations.
So, you can be sure to find something that’s right up your alley.
Besides, have you ever had too many pillows? I myself, a pillow lover, have not. There is always room for another pillow in my life. 😉
You can make throw pillows yourself – no sewing required. Check out this tutorial where Rose made some for less than $4 each. It only takes minutes to make one, too!
Here are some throw pillows I like:
- Modern Simple Geometric Style 4 Pack
- Gold & White “Hello Lovely” Throw Pillow
- Faux Fur Throw Pillow Case (Multiple Colors)
- Bear (& other animals) Throw Pillow
Those are my 8 budget-friendly ways to decorate your college dorm room.
Now you know that even when your budget is limited, you can still create an amazingly stylish living space. What you lack in funds can be made up for in creativity, even if you have to “steal” someone else’s ideas.
Oh, and one last money-saving tip: don’t forget to check TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Ross for more affordable decor!
- My EASY 12 Step Guide for Dorm Shopping on a Budget
- Dorms in UCLA: Pictures, Tour Videos, & Housing Options
- 14 Dorm Room Ideas Girls Will LOVE
How do you save money on decor? Let’s talk about it in the comments!