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dorm bed with white comforter
dorm bed with white comforter
Original photo by Hannah Tolley
Style > Decor

How I Decorate My Dorm Room on a Budget

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at FSU chapter.

I have long been a believer that decorating a bedroom is one of the most undervalued and uniquely personal opportunities for self-expression there is. Not only are your own walls one of the few spaces where you can freely and unapologetically showcase an extension of yourself, but they’re a curation of sorts — an art gallery of pieces that are carefully selected and stylized to authenticate the space where you and your passions intersect. When you move into your college dorm room for the first time, you’re faced with a blank canvas that needs your creative touch. This is where the magic of personalization begins! Decorating your dorm room can be transformative, allowing you to create a space for yourself that feels like home.  

While it might seem like making your dream room a reality would be a costly endeavor, decorating doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are some of the ways that I decorate on a budget while still making my room feel like my own!

Printing pictures

A few posters might be nice to have on the wall, especially larger ones that can account for more wall space, but how about saving some money by printing pictures yourself? I was able to print most of the images on my walls fairly inexpensively just by using the library color printer, and I love the way they set the tone for the style of my room.

Pinterest is a really useful resource not only in finding images but in gaining a more holistic perspective in how pictures coincide aesthetically. It even introduces you to artwork you wouldn’t normally find at a store or a poster sale. Some of my favorite printed images I’ve found on Pinterest are the more unexpected ones such as vintage advertisements or the covers for Simplicity sewing kits. Creating boards is also immensely helpful in categorizing and saving the images in a way that you could end up arranging them on your own walls.

Want to add an extra touch to your printed pictures? You can buy frames for standard 8×11 paper at a fairly low cost at places like Walmart or Dollar Tree; I was even able to find most of mine for discounted prices in packs of three. If your picture doesn’t fit, consider adding a piece of colored paper behind it to add a border, and hang it on your wall for a more finished look.

finding wallpaper alternatives

Wallpaper can be extremely costly, not to mention impractical for dorms since they only allow for limited alterations to their existing paint. However, that doesn’t mean you should have to give up adding patterns and colors in ways that cover your walls and create a full, uniform background in the spaces that might need it.

For a more cost-effective route, any patterned pieces with a large surface area can provide a similar effect to the one you might want from wallpaper. I bought two large floral pieces at Paper Source (that were actually meant to be wrapping paper) for just four dollars each and I love the way they look over my bed! Some other ways to get creative include scrapbook paper, large fabric swatches, or even hanging old blankets, patterned sheets, or curtains for a more textured tapestry look! 

hanging same-day photographs

Most drugstores like Walgreens or CVS can develop digital pictures from your camera roll for just a few cents each and can be ready oftentimes in less than an hour! Arranging your own photographs on the wall can add a personal touch to any bedroom, and they can usually stick onto walls fairly easily with hanging putty or stick-on Command strips. There’s also something about glossy, tangible pictures that I’ve always felt makes my memories become more real. They’re such a meaningful way to be reminded of the people in my life who appear in them, especially those who might be far away during the school year.

There are so many possibilities for how you can incorporate these kinds of photographs into your room decorations; you could scatter them throughout your room amongst other pieces of wall art, lay them out in a pattern, or even cut around the borders to create a more DIY collage. I decided to hang mine in several rows across my closet doors, and I love the way they’re arranged!

being creative!

Do you have any postcards? Concert tickets? Magazine cutouts? Any kinds of little mementos that mean something to you, or even just complement your own personal style in a way that you feel has to be displayed? Why not use them as decorations?

I personally love hanging unconventional pieces on my walls; some of my favorites include a Sgt. Pepper drink coaster, empty album jackets, section dividers from a planner, and even a miniature tie-dye hook rug that I made in high school. Conversely, the drawings and letters from friends that I’ve saved over the years are some of my most original (and most cherished) decorations, and I love the way that they enhance my room. Don’t be afraid to be creative and make use of the things you have; the best part is, they won’t cost you a thing!

If you’re a student who just moved to college and it’s your first time living away from your childhood home, I really recommend incorporating personal touches in your dorm room. Not only will decorating your dorm be super fun and give you a sense of motivation, but it will also bridge the gap between the comfort of your parent’s home and your unfamiliar, new college life. Whether it’s a concert ticket or magazine cutout, those little things can turn your room into a space that feels warm and inviting, making it easier for you to call your dorm room home!

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Emily Clemente is a staff writer at the Her Campus at Florida State University Chapter. She writes campus, culture, and lifestyle articles. Beyond Her Campus, Emily is also a writer for STRIKE and local music magazine The Tally Beat, and she has held staff positions for WALTER, Cellar Door Magazine, and The Carolina Quarterly. Her fiction and creative nonfiction have been featured in literary publications such as december, Star 82, and Jellyfish Review, among others. She currently studies Creative Writing at Florida State University with a concentration in fiction. You can find more of her work at https://emilyclemente.com/