7 Tips to Decorate Your Dorm on a Budget

Looking for cheap dorm decor? Learn how to deck out your digs on a budget with DIY, discounts, and other savings tips.

portrait of Lyss Welding
by Lyss Welding

Published on June 7, 2022

Edited by Cameren Boatner
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7 Tips to Decorate Your Dorm on a Budget
Image Credit: svetikd / E+ / Getty Images


Does your dorm look the same as the day you moved in, with the prior tenant's tape stuck on boring white walls? Or is it an oasis that speaks to your personal style?

Your dream dorm could express parts of your identity or display the things you're proud of. What it doesn't need to do is empty your wallet. Even on a college budget, you can still design a stand-out dorm room.

Follow these tips to find cheap dorm decor and dorm room essentials —or even make them yourself.

1. Find Secondhand Decor

Thrift shopping isn't just for filling your closet with old-school threads. You can buy furniture, art, and other decorations secondhand, too. Used furniture can be cheaper than the new stuff. It's also more sustainable since it lowers overall consumption.

Stores like Goodwill and The Salvation Army resell donated furniture. Goodwill also reinvests in the community through job training programs.

Need a place to thrift near you? Find your nearest thrift stores for cheap dorm decor at TheThriftShopper —just scroll past the sponsored results.

2. Buy and Sell on Online Marketplaces

Online marketplaces allow anyone to sell their used home goods — or anything, really. On some sites, like Poshmark, you can bundle multiple sale items from a seller to negotiate a better price.

Some colleges have an online marketplace just for students. You can find old furniture, cheap dorm decor, and other college supplies for sale right on campus. Usually, these finds are cheaper than what you'd buy at a department store.

You can also make room in your dorm and your budget by creating a seller profile on these marketplaces. Sell gently used clothes or decor that no longer fits your style. Check out any of the following online marketplaces to find cheap dorm decor:

3. Plan Your Shopping Around Sales Seasons

Shopping secondhand isn't for everyone. You can save money on new dorm room decor by shopping during certain times of the year.

Many department stores and online retailers hold "white sales" in January. White sales offer major discounts on bedding, linens, and other bedroom furniture. This gives you a chance to refresh your duvet cover or add a few throw pillows to your space.

Presidents' Day in February is another time to find furniture sales. Hint: It's a good time to buy that futon you've been eyeing.

Three-day weekends (July 4th, Memorial Day, etc.) tend to feature sales on large appliances. However, small appliances like mini fridges, vacuums, and blenders tend to be cheaper during the end-of-year holidays, from Thanksgiving through December.

4. Use Cashback Apps

While shopping, take advantage of every coin you can collect back. Cashback apps can help.

Here's how they generally work:

  • Download the app on your phone or log in to an online account.
  • Scan or upload your receipts.
  • Rack up cash back, usually a percentage of what you paid on certain purchases.
  • Cash out on a schedule or when you hit a certain amount.

Ibotta and Fetch Rewards are just two of many cashback apps you can use for dorm room purchases. Other apps like Snap by Groupon and Checkout51 work similarly and offer money back on groceries.

If you're more likely to shop online, try Rakuten. Rakuten allows users to browse its website for discounts at home decor stores and other retailers. You earn a percentage of your purchase back just by using the platform.

5. Create an Amazon Wishlist

An Amazon Wishlist is an online list you curate with products you want to purchase on Amazon.

Building a wishlist could help prevent impulse buying. Instead of adding items to your cart right away, you can put them on your wishlist, delaying the purchase. You'll also get alerts when items you like go on sale.

Another upside is that you have this list handy for special occasions like birthdays and holidays. Share your list with family and friends, so they know what to get you.

6. Do It Yourself

Instead of buying dorm room decor, make it yourself. DIY dorm rooms are cost-effective and can result in a unique, artsy space.

Introducing different fabrics and colors can make a huge difference in how your space looks. But instead of buying a new couch or chair, you can DIY your own slipcover. You don't even need a needle and thread to make no-sew pillowcases and curtains for your dorm.

Personalize your space with cheap DIY wall art. Here are a few ideas:

7. Recycle and Upcycle Materials

Upcycling is reusing old materials to make them more functional. It's like DIY's even craftier cousin. Upcycling is great for college students who need to save a buck and want to decorate their dorm sustainably.

Say you find an old desk, chair, or bookcase someone's selling on the cheap. Spruce it up with washi tape, a Mod Podge collage, or paint. A sample size of paint at a home and garden store typically costs way less than new furniture.

Upcycling works for organization hacks too. What should you do with cracked plastic food containers or ones missing lids? Transform them into organization bins for your desk or under your bed.

Pro Tip: Raid the dumpsters behind your college's art department. From someone who furnished their first apartment with student dumpster art — you might be surprised what you find.

Other Ways to Save Money in College

You can make tons of smart money moves in college to cut back your spending and set yourself up for stability later on.

While digging into frugal design options, keep the below resources in mind:


DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute professional financial advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. Readers of this website should contact a professional advisor before making decisions about financial issues.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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