Decorating a Dorm on a Dime

Students who are entering college this year are going to be on tight budgets. Parents are tightening the checkbooks and locking down their credit cards, monitoring their free credit score, telling students to buy only what they need. Families are going to be shopping at discount stores, looking for the best deals. Even with an eye on frugality, many freshmen are looking to spend on average $820.77 on their back-to-school purchases. One of their big ticket items is going to be dorm furnishings.

So before you break the budget, use these helpful tips to decorate your dorm on a dime.First, go to your college’s website, and find out what’s included. Most colleges will provide a bed, desk, dresser and closet. If you’re looking to add a mini-fridge or additional furniture, make sure you have the space so you’re not cramped. If you have a roommate, try to coordinate what big ticket items each of you are bringing. Also find out the rules related to decorating your dorm. Some colleges put restrictions, and you’ll have to find decorating alternatives, such as 3M Command Strips or wall decals that will peel off without harming the paint. Once you know what you can have in your dorm room, you’ll need to come up with a plan and a budget. Breakdown your expenses into basic categories:

  • Appliances/Electronics
    • Alarm Clock
    • Computer
    • DVD Player
    • Fan
    • Microwave
    • Mini-fridge
    • Mini-vacuum
    • Iron
    • Radio/Stereo
    • Reading Light
    • Surge Protectors
    • Toaster Oven
    • TV
  • Bedding/Linens
    • Bed Sheets
    • Bed Shirt
    • Comforter
    • Curtains
    • Mattress Pad
    • Pillows
  • Decorations
    • Carpet/Rug
    • Wall Decor
  • Extra Items/Furnishings
    • Chair/Bean Bag
    • Dishware
    • Laundry Basket
    • Plants
  • Storage/Organization
    • Bed Riser
    • Hangers
    • Shoe Rack
    • Stackable Crates
    • Under Bed Storage Box

Make a comprehensive list of what you’re going to need in your dorm room. Look around your house and figure out what you can bring with you. Ask family members to donate items that they have and are not using. Make sure to consider the costs of shipping these items. Then make a list of items that you have to buy once you’re on campus. Research the costs of these items online and give yourself a realistic budget. Try to shop at thrift stores and consignment shops for low cost decorations. If you’re not going to have a car on-campus, make sure you have a way to get these new purchases back to the dorm.Whatever you do, try to avoid putting these purchases on a credit card. According to Sallie Mae credit card study, 84 percent of undergraduates have credit cards, and the average undergrad has $3,173 in credit card debt. It’s important to use your credit wisely and stick to a realistic student budget.

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