Everyone has heard the term “poor college student,” and for the most part it isn’t just a figure of speech. But being a “poor college student” doesn’t mean that you have to live life in a plain, uninteresting dorm room. There are many ways to jazz up an otherwise boring dorm room on a college student’s budget and still have plenty of money left over for a month’s worth of mac’n’cheese.
Start decorating your dorm room with what you have
Especially if you have found yourself graced with a private or single room, the first step in decorating your dorm room on a tight budget is to rearrange the furniture that you already have. Even if you are alone in your abode, it is only at very large universities that you will find yourself in a room designed for one person. The more common case, however that you will have pairs of everything; two beds, two desks, two dressers (if you are given a dresser). The best part will be a second closet, useful for creating a kitchen “pantry” or for storage of furniture that you aren’t going to use to make space for something else.
A flat, box-style bed frame can be turned on its side and used for a bookshelf, entertainment center or in conjunction with the second bed frame to create a “daybed.” If your dorm beds have a more standard frame, consider stacking them bunk bed style. Purchase two or three yards of a sheer tulle or lace fabric to create a canopied area which can be used either for sleeping or as a reading nook with the top “bunk” used for sleeping. Place the fabric directly on the upper bed frame and use the mattress to anchor it in place.
Your extra desk can be used as a part of a kitchen area, butted against the other desk to create an L unit, in the closet as a dresser or as an entertainment unit. Most desks will have drawers on one side and a space for your chair to fit on the other side. Fit a short suspension rod in the chair space and tuck the desk into the closet and magically you have more space to hang clothes, plus drawer space for socks, pants, underwear and other such things. Or use the drawers to house dry snacks – cookies, crackers, chips, candy, canned goods, cereal – , plates, silverware, and paper products and convert the top of the desk into a countertop to create a kitchenette.
Discount stores/ “Vintage” clothing stores
These are fantastic places to shop for your dorm room. At most discount stores, you can find furniture with some assembly required but don’t let that frighten you. First of all the prices of these items is often very reasonable and assembly is so simple that, in most cases, one person working alone can build a bookcase in under an hour. A small bookcase can be stashed in your spare closet to be used for food storage, or can be used as intended to house books, DVD’s and CD’s, plus a bookcase that didn’t “come with the room” adds an extra bit of personal flare to the room that your neighbors don’t have.
And a bookcase isn’t the only way to add flare from a discount store or vintage clothing store. Most vintage clothing stores (such as, but not limited to, the Goodwill or Salvation Army) also offer a small selection of furniture, including decorative items such as lamps and framed prints. A small armchair, in good condition, at a vintage clothing store may cost you between $25 and $50, but is something that you can either take with you when you move on or sell to someone else for a very similar price. If you pay $25 for a chair, for example, you can easily, and guiltlessly, turn around and sell it to an underclassman the following fall for $20. You won’t make a profit off of the chair but you also won’t have to worry about how to get it from point A to point B.
Paintings and prints aren’t the only ways to decorate your walls. On your visit to the vintage clothing store, look for novelty tee-shirts, especially outside your size range. A screen print tee-shirt that is too small for you but has a cute design and a $2 price tag will look great and original tacked to your wall. Or, if you don’t want to tack it to the wall but you are handy with a needle and thread, throw another couple of bucks into a bag of polyester fiber fill and make a one-of-a-kind throw pillow out of that tiny, tasty tee.
Other things you can find at discount stores or at vintage clothing stores for reasonable prices include area rugs and throw rugs, “whites” (sheets, blankets, towels), kitchen wares and gadgets, hardware items (not limited to suspension rods, small hand tools, nails and thumbtacks) and various other “knick knack” style trinkets.
Use old things in new ways
Chances are that you buy a calendar because you like the pictures in it. But why throw it away at the end of the year. Save the calendar, drop a few bucks on some decorative frames (which can be found at nearly all vintage clothing and discount stores), and continue to enjoy your favorite scenes from that calendar for years to come. You can also frame magazine ads, postcards or greeting cards that you find particularly artistic or eye catching.
Glass soda bottles (or beer bottles, if you are old enough for such things) can be cleaned up and used for vases or holders for taper-style candles. Shot glasses or juice glasses are a perfect fit for votive candles as well as teeny tiny vases. Silk flowers are inexpensive and will live forever.
You can also display practical, everyday items in a decorative way. For example, if you have a collection of various, brightly colored neckties or a menagerie of hair accessories, hang them on the wall in a creative pattern. That way, not only are they visually appealing, they are easy to find when you need them.
Decorating on a tight budget isn’t hard, as long as you know where to look for what you want and use a little creative thinking. Decorating on a budget definitely requires the ability to look at something, such as a glass soda bottle, and see its potential to become something bigger, such as a vase or candle holder, after its original purpose has been fulfilled, the ultimate in recycling projects. As long as you are creative and can think “outside the box,” there really is no limit to what you can accomplish in your decorating endeavor, or adventure, as it were.