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How to Decorate a College Dorm Room on a Budget

College costs are on the rise. When calculating the cost of college, it makes sense to include the cost of tuition, books, fees, meals, transportation and room and board. But what you might not consider is the cost of furnishing your college dorm room. If you don’t have a lot of money left to spend on bedding and furniture, check out seven ways to decorate a dorm room on a budget.

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1. Split Costs With Your Roommate

The National Retail Federation reported that half of college student in 2015 planned to spend $126.30, on average, to furnish their dorm rooms and apartments. Altogether, the average student expected to spend nearly $900 on clothing and other items when preparing to go back to school.

If you can’t spend extra money on dorm furnishings, one of the most obvious solutions is to get your roommate to chip in and buy some of the items on your list. You can figure out who will buy the mini fridge, the microwave and the cleaning supplies, for example. Just keep in mind that at the end of year, your roommate will probably take what belongs to her. So you might have to make additional purchases later on or find another roommate to split costs with next year.

2. Tap Into Your Creative Side

If you’re comfortable taking on DIY projects, there are plenty of inexpensive ones that can make your dorm room seem more visually appealing. You can decorate your walls with removable wallpaper or washi tape. If you’re feeling particularly crafty, you can hang old pictures on a clothesline made from pushpins, clothespins and twine.

3. Go Thrifting

How to Decorate a College Dorm Room on a Budget

A thrift store can be a great place to search for a chair, picture frames or artwork for your dorm room. Or you could make time to stop by a neighborhood garage sale. Either way, you’re bound to come across some interesting pieces. They probably won’t cost as much as brand new furniture and they can add some character to what might otherwise be a dull and cookie-cutter dorm room.

4. Buy Versatile Furniture Pieces

If you’re on a budget, you can buy furniture that you can use for multiple purposes. For instance, instead of getting regular seat cushions for your friends to sit on when they visit, you can buy ottomans that double as storage units for your extra stuff.

If you need more shelf space, you can find lamps with tiered shelves surrounding the lamp stands. If side tables are out of your price range, you can buy a cheap wastebasket, flip it and use that as a table. A popular item for college students is the futon, which can serve as a couch and a bed for overnight guests.

Related Article: Starting College? Don’t Make These Four Budgeting Mistakes

5. Shop Your Own Closet

Before you leave home, it’s a good idea to look around and see if there’s anything that you can bring with you. Why waste money on new lamps if you can take the ones you already have in your house? Even if you want your room to have a particular theme, you can take some existing pieces and add cheap new accessories to tie everything together.

6. Ask Around

How to Decorate a College Dorm Room on a Budget

It probably doesn’t make sense to be too cheap when it comes to buying sheets and blankets, unless you don’t mind sleeping on an uncomfortable bed. But if you’re looking to save on dorm decor, you can always check with your neighbors and friends to see if they’re willing to give anything away.

If you’re not planning to go shopping before moving into your dorm, you can use your college or university’s official move-in day to meet your new suite mates and find peers who might have bought too much furniture in advance or purchased something that they don’t want after all.

7. Find Deals Online

There are plenty of websites that you can scour for deals on furniture, including Craigslist and eBay. Sites like Amazon offer exclusive discounts to students. And if you’re opposed to buying, there are sites that’ll let you rent your furniture.

Related Article: 3 Back-to-School Tax Breaks Parents Can’t Afford to Miss

The Bottom Line

For many college students, their dorm rooms simultaneously serve as their bedrooms, kitchens and living rooms. If you want to create the perfect home away from home without going into debt, it’s a good idea to consider the tips we’ve highlighted.

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Amanda Dixon Amanda Dixon is a personal finance writer and editor with an expertise in taxes and banking. She studied journalism and sociology at the University of Georgia. Her work has been featured in Business Insider, AOL, Bankrate, The Huffington Post, Fox Business News, Mashable and CBS News. Born and raised in metro Atlanta, Amanda currently lives in Brooklyn.
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