20 Creative Ways To Decorate Your Dorm Room If You Don’t Want To Spend A Lot Of Money

It’s common knowledge that while living at college is pretty great, living in a dorm room is not so great. Dorms have a bad reputation, because (with a few exceptions) most are small, cramped, and ugly. They often only come furnished with an uncomfortable bed, a uniform desk, and maybe some closet space, but in general, they’re pretty bare. It’s up to you, not the school, to decorate and style your dorm room into a spot that is homey and fits your personality. If you want your dorm room to look nicer than a large beige closet with old furniture, you need to head out to the stores to stock up on rugs, storage space, lamps, wall decor, and lots more – and, as you can imagine, that quickly adds up. It’s not easy to decorate a dorm without spending a lot of money in the process.

But, it’s also not impossible. There are definitely cheaper ways to make your dorm room look amazing – you just have to know where to look and let yourself get a little creative. In fact, I often find that the dorm rooms full of DIY decor and cool, unique pieces are the ones that look the most comfortable and pleasant. Sure, dorms full of expensive furnishings and chic decorations look good too, but there’s something about rooms that don’t look so perfectly put together that is so aesthetically pleasing. So, if you’re trying to stay on the cheaper side, this Ask Reddit thread about inexpensive ways to decorate your dorm is super helpful – you’ll want to follow at least one, if not all, of these tips:

1. Don’t Buy Everything Right Away



User Ternarctic says, “Don’t decorate on arrival. Just bring in some nice bedding, cushions and blankets, and leave space for your new home to be organically filled by all the things you’ll love over the next few months.” This is great advice! A lot of people get so excited to decorate their dorm room that they end up going crazy buying tons of cute stuff (it’s hard not to!), and then they get to the room and realize things either won’t fit or won’t go with what their roommate bought. Be patient – buy things you know you’ll need, then wait to check out the space before you buy anything else. And no one says your dorm has to be fully furnished by the end of move-in day, so let yourself find the right stuff over time rather than feeling the need to get everything at once.


2. Look In Thrift Shops & Flea Markets

User futurecrazycatlady says, “For decorations (non bed-bug/moth infest-able) I really, really like thrift shops/flea markets. Both for the real decoration stuff, like prints or candleholders, and for pretty versions of the useful stuff you need anyway. When you go for ‘pretty lamp’ instead of ‘generic lamp’ a place looks already a lot more decorated.” Finding cute items at the thrift store is much cheaper and pretty much guarantees that you’ll have the most unique dorm room ever – which is definitely ideal if you like that look!


3. Hang A Tapestry

User sctrex says, “A tapestry is a must have. You can get one the covers up most of your wall for around $10 online. They also make great backdrops for pictures!” Tapestries are excellent at quickly making your living space look amazing. Don’t feel like you have to spend $90 on one from Urban Outfitters – sites like Redbubble have cheaper options. They cover up the ugly walls and can be left alone or used as a backdrop for other wall decor. Here’s how to hang them without ruining your walls.


4. Look For Cheap Rugs

User CrazyIrina says, “Carpet warehouses usually have a LOT of new carpet remnants left over. You might be able to score some pretty cheap. I had a good sized one that kept my feet warm and fit a big spot. It was like $20.” Area rugs are such a great way to give a room color and to make it feel more cozy. Dorm rooms tend to have either bare, cold floor, or floors with very old, icky rugs that probably never get washed. Cover them up with a colorful or fun rug, and use the above tip to find something affordable!


5. Decorate With Old Records

User Pariah_Dog says, “Grab some junky records from a thrift shop and hang them on the wall like this. You can also paint them for a touch of color.” If you like a vintage look or if you’re a big fan of music in general, you should definitely decorate with old records. You can get them for cheap (your parents might even have old ones they don’t want anymore) and they look very cool hanging on the wall.


6. Make Photo Collages

User singinganddying says, “When I went to college I got a bunch of pictures printed out from Shutterfly. It was pretty cheap, like 40 pictures for $7, and you can even pick them up from Target. I taped them up on my dorm room walls, and they took up lots of space. A good way to decorate and be surrounded by reminders of things that make you happy.” A photo collage is a great, easy way to personalize your room, show off your memories, and feel more at home. They also look quite aesthetically pleasing. There are lots of ideas for these right here.


7. Add Plants

User Teapotje says, “Plants! They are pretty, make the air better, and will make you happier.” It’s true! Plants are such a simple way to make your dorm look better, and if you get the right kind, they help purify the air. Make sure you opt for plants that are easy to care for and don’t require a lot of light, like succulents or aloe vera. I love how this girl decorated her windowsill with lots of little vases. Here are some ideas for plants that will survive the best in your room.


8. Hang Maps

User angelINline says, “I went to a AAA/travel agency and picked up maps of places I wanted to visit and stuck those to the wall behind my bed. They’re interesting and a pretty good talking point if you have people over.” This is a great idea – even better if you’re the kind of person who saves maps from where you travel. Maps look cool no matter what and make for super cheap decor – I like how this person used all different kinds. And, this Reddit user is right: they make for a good conversation starter. But even if you haven’t traveled a lot, you can definitely still use them as decor and inspiration!


9. Use A Whiteboard

User indiscoverable says, “Want to feel like you have your shit together? Get a whiteboard with a calendar grid on it and a pack of colorful dry erase markers. Write EVERYTHING there. Try to make it look pretty so you enjoy looking at it. Don’t get sucked into the cute little trinkets at Target! They’re cute but will ultimately clutter up your limited space!!” This is an excellent way to stay organized and add some decor at the same time. Bonus points if you draw little doodles like this person did.


10. Go To Goodwill

User CalmYourManicCat says, “Get yourself to a Goodwill or ARC on their half off Saturday of the month. Get some pots for plants, string lights (make sure they work or are still in the box), throw pillows (wash them with detergent in your bathtub by stepping on them) and some picture frames with a little texture in the wood. You can use some white paint to spruce up the frames a little and make them uniform. Insert art. Hang on your wall. Bam. Got yourself a little midmod paradise. Shouldn’t cost more than 20 bucks all said and done.” Thrift stores aren’t the only place to get cheap stuff – Goodwill is another option you should take advantage of.


11. Use Paint Chips For Decor

User CAMcrochets says, “Pinterest has some cool ideas for a paint chip wall! Using them like tiles to make a mosaic picture, and also creating a gradient wall.” Paint chip wall decor sounds weird, but once you’re done, it looks amazing. Plus, they’re free! Just raid your local hardware store and you’re good to go. I like how this student made a rainbow look, but you can do anything you want.


12. DIY Wall Decorations

User lazymay says, “A roommate of mine in college did a really cute project where she cut out butterflies from black cardstock and taped them to the wall. All in all, like, less than $5 for the project and super cute! Pinterest has templates and design ideas for it.” Get creative with some cardstock and cut out any kinds of patterns you want – these butterflies are adorable, but you can obviously make this your own.


13. Make Your Own Tapestry

User Asuminghoney says, “Buy a white sheet, tye dye it and hang it up! Tons of different designs you can do.” If you can’t find a cute tapestry you like, make your own. Tie dying a sheet is fun and easy, and you can drape them on the walls or even just use them as your bedding.


14. Make Decor With Wrapping Paper

User teatreefoil says, “I went to Paper Source and bought some of their decorative wrapping paper (it’s like $2-$6 per sheet) and then bought frames somewhere else and framed the paper 🙂 Very decorative, low effort and cheap! “Upcycle some old, cheap stuff using wallpaper. I love how the frames look in wall paper above, but you can really do a lot with it.


15. DIY A Canopy Bed Feel

User crunchyrealdeadfrog says, “Go to anywhere that sells fabric and find a sheer one you really like – I like ones with nice patterns. You may also be able to find something at World Market too. Longer than it is wide – depending on how tall your bed is, maybe like 2-4ft wide BUT long enough so it can wrap ALL the way around the perimeter of your bed. Then use tacs to stick it onto the ceiling around your bed so it hangs down to make a pretty, kind of half canopy! I did this around my bed at home and put fairy lights around the inside perimeter and got a cheap lantern from target to hang in the middle. It makes a very cozy resting environment and has enough light to read by without being too bright and annoying for nighttime!”


16. Use Lighting Wisely

User Only1story says, “Lighting makes such a difference! I remember my dorm had these borderline offensive fluorescent overhead lights, so having fairy lights and lamps made the room feel so much cozier.” Lighting really is so important. String lights are great, but adding lots of fun, colorful lamps is also a good idea. Try finding cheap ones at thrift shops or garage sales instead of buying expensive, matching pieces.


17. Get Bright Bedding

User dreamwonderstruck says, “When I moved into my dorm a few years ago, we got really bright bedding to give the room some color. We also made matching canvases with our monograms on them and hung them on the wall.” Colorful bedding can make a bigger difference than you think, and if you can match or coordinate with your roomie, that’s even better.


18. Buy Cheap Pillow Cases

User LiquorishSunfish says, “I got cheap brightly colored pillow cases and used them as backdrop wall hangings for fake flowers. Took up a lot of space, brightened the room up, and cost a grand total of about $15.” Whether you’re using them on your bed or on the wall, colorful and fun pillow cases are another great way to add pops of color to a dull setting. And lots of throw pillows on a bed always makes it look more inviting.


19. Decorate With Fake Flowers

User sapandsawdust says, “A cheap little vase and some pretty fake (or cheap, real!) flowers add a nice pop of color to any space! I used a blingy reusable water bottle with the cap off and put in a few stems of brightly colored fake flowers on my work desk and it added a lot of cheer to a gloomy/austere space.” Flowers are an excellent way to brighten up a room and give it some life, but who has time to take care of them? Get cheap fake flowers so they look good without taking up too much of your time.


20. Go To All The Garage Sales

User CrazyIrina says, “Find out where all the rich neighborhoods are in your city and watch garage sale announcements every day. If the garage sale is set to start at 9 AM, get there at 7:45 AM.” Garage sales can be a gold mine – you just have to be patient and, yes, a little competitive. Using lots of different pieces with a similar theme makes for a really interesting dorm room.


Which one of these ideas are you going to try? What’s your cheap decorating tip? Tell us in the comments.

You can follow the author, Jessica Booth, on Twitter or Instagram.

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