How Do I Decorate My College Dorm Room on a Budget?

Part of the excitement of going to college is living away from home which prompts most dorm occupants to investigate ways to decorate on a budget to personalize their space. Putting one’s stylish stamp on a small, shared space like a dorm room can be both a design and social challenge depending on the personalities and tastes of the students sharing the room. Once roommates agree to a certain dorm room layout and general style, they can have tremendous fun pulling together a vibrant, fashionable room that accurately reflect their personalities. Here are some examples of ideas to get started.

Get Organized

Removing clutter is a way to gain much needed square footage in a small dorm room space. This is typically done by organizing everything into the basic furniture provided in dorm rooms that may include dressers and closets. Students can take cardboard storage boxes and color coordinate them with the rest of their décor with inexpensive paint and stencil designs. Also, a way to personalize the space and organize messages between room mates is with a message cork board that is decorated with re-purposed fabric, ribbon and perhaps some favorite photos. One can even personalize the message board’s push pins by gluing decorative objects like shells or crystals to the plain push pins. Depending on school regulations, students can create extra storage space underneath their beds by using bed risers. This extra space can display decorative storage bins, or it can be covered by a colorful bed skirt to discreetly hide storage containers. Students who like the fancy teas that come in small tin bins can save them, attach magnets to them and use them to decoratively display pens, pencils or a small grocery list on the dorm refrigerator.

Go Thrifting

By visiting thrift stores and garage sales students discover many treasures that can be used to make their dorm rooms feel more like home. For example, using softer lighting from lamps is a way to make dorm rooms look less institutional and sterile. Thrift stores often have lamps with shades that can be replaced or decorated in a way to coordinate with the rest of the furnishings and accessories of their dorm room. When these old lamps can be purchased for rock bottom prices, students can take out the electrical components and replace them in their own custom designed lamp and shade. Garage sales are also great places to pick up old jars and containers that can be painted with coordinating colors and used to organize dorm room desks and dresser tops. Instead of throwing out old nail polish, dorm residents can use the paint to decorate plain jars and glass votive candle holders.

Use Multi-purpose Style Accessories

A great way to decorate a room on a budget is by creatively displaying items already collected. Some people have a great collection of jewelry while others have scarves of various hues. Building an inexpensive board or other creative hooks to put them on display allows these favorite collectibles to double as wall art. This method of display also frees up storage space for other personal items that are not so decorative.


When you schedule a college tour, be sure to check out the dorm rooms, so you know what you’re working with when it’s time to start decorating. Some of the most important tools for decorating on a budget are the personal styles of the students and knowledge of where to go for bargain hunting. For instance some websites often feature things that are free which is better than even the deeply discounted thrift store items. No matter where the items are purchased, these decorate on a budget style ideas are great ways for room mates to express their personal styles and get better acquainted during the design project.