Tips for Stretching Your Dorm-Decorating Dollars

on January 15, 2014

Whether you will be living on campus or off, college housing generally is pretty Spartan and often bears a striking resemblance to a prison cell. Your room will undoubtedly be in desperate need of some personality and warmth. But where to start on a limited budget?

Whether you are going for the Martha Stewart look or something a little more avant–garde, interior design doesn’t have to be expensive. Interior decorators make a name for themselves by being able to stretch their client’s dollar under some interesting architectural pressures.

You, most likely, will have a square room in which two people will live. That’s the largest hurdle – agreeing on a motif. Once you agree on that, you can start finding the elements. Try these tips to help you save while you decorate:

• Be thrifty – Thrift stores are a gold mine for items to use in your room as well as for ideas if you haven’t decided on a theme. Almost anything for a room can be found there at bargain basement prices, from curtains and bedspreads to wall decorations and lamp shades.

• Board up – Check the college bulletin boards for possible items being sold by other students. This can be the place to find a used dorm-sized refrigerator or bookshelves that are more than boards and cement blocks. Outgoing students usually want to unload their goods quickly, so prices can be negotiable.

• Shop online – Check free listing sites such as Freecycle and Craigslist daily for local items you likely won’t find anywhere else. If you’re going with a Western motif, you might find a pair of steer horns for the wall or a saddle made into an ottoman. Some of the listings will be free for the pickup and may only need minor repair or upgrading.

• Cash it – Stick to paying with cash whenever possible. Credit is costly and if bills add up, you could be making payments on purchases made long ago, long after you’ve graduated. According to finance experts, the average person should have no more than two or three credit cards in their wallet. Try not to succumb to credit offers that could carry a high interest rate.

• List it – Make a list of items you think you’ll need and try not to stray from it. There will be things you find that you think you must have. Think again. Stores in college towns will stock plenty of colorful products designed for dorm rooms—for a price. With a little effort and imagination, you may be able to reproduce the effect for much less.

When designing a dorm room for two, it is best to shop together as a team. You can play off each other’s ideas and stop one another from making an unwarranted purchase. You’ll also avoid duplication. And, in no time, that stark space will be your own and reflect the personality of those living there, all without breaking the bank.


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