University Dorm Decorating on a Budget: Where and What to Shop


  1. Student dorm decorating on a budget
  2. Dorm room decor ideas
  3. Shared space decor ideas
  4. Shared kitchen decor ideas


Woohoo, you’re on your way to university and finally free to decorate your own space! There's no shortage of student house decorations and cool stuff for uni rooms out there but how do you make an impact without breaking the piggy bank? 🐷

Sure you want to put your own stamp on your space, express your personality and feel comfortable and inspired by your surroundings but – as we all know – students are strapped for cash. So, what are your options? Have no fear – we’ve got you covered with the best dorm room decor ideas and where to get them from. We’ve got all the inspo you need to make your mark without blowing your budget. 👇student dorm

Student dorm decorating on a budget


Before we dive into all the ways in which you can pimp your place with decoration ideas, accessories, and interior design hacks, let's talk about how to stay within budget. 👛

The truth is, a lot of interior design can be expensive. Instagram aesthetics and Pinterest pics make it look oh-so-simple but more often than not, the price tag attached to such aspirational rooms is eye-watering. 😭

Spending a bundle on your own space isn’t a crime but it's well worth waiting until you’re out of university to invest like that. Student dorms are temporary and you often don’t know where you might end up after you graduate so don’t weigh yourself down with large, expensive furniture now – that can come later. 

For now, let’s look at how to make the maximum impact without breaking the bank. First up is our fabulous list of places to shop. All are affordable and some even list items totally free of charge – check them out:  

  • Facebook Marketplace

Facebook Marketplace lets you discover, buy and sell items with your local community. All you need is a Facebook account and time to scour the ads. Find anything from clothes to plants and furniture – best of all – many of the goods are free if you collect. 🤝

💡 Top tip: Take a friend with you to collect your purchase, there's safety in numbers and they can help you carry your haul.

  • Etsy

Etsy is an online trading platform that focuses on handmade or vintage items and craft supplies. From jewellery, bags, and clothing to home décor, furniture and art, there is something for everyone and every room. ✨

💡 Top tip: Shop here if you like unique pieces and supporting small businesses.

  • IKEA

This Swedish giant is a household name and needs no introduction. IKEA designs and sells ready-to-assemble furniture, kitchen appliances, and home accessories, much of which is both space-saving and economical. 

💡 Top tip: IKEA's famous “As-is” clearance sections by the checkout areas offer returned, damaged, and display items for as much as 50 percent off! 

  • Thrift stores

There is no shortage of second-hand stores in the US and we're sure there's one in your neighbourhood. From national stores like Goodwill to regional stores run by charities like the Salvation Army, your local town or city will have its own offering. Find your nearest store and nip down to see what goodies are on offer. 🛋️

💡 Top tip: Get there early and remember to take your own bags and transport to get your goods home safely.


Dorm room decor ideas


Dorm room decor can feel like a difficult thing to get right. Tiny rooms with limited natural light, a tiny single bed, brightly colored, built-in furniture, plain white walls, and intense strip lighting don't give you a lot to work with, we know. 😩

What's more, you will be sleeping, studying, entertaining and sometimes eating in your room – it's a lot to ask of a shoe-box size space with little more than a desk. So how do you handle university room decoration in a way that will allow you to make the most of what little you’ve got?

Actually, there are plenty of affordable ways to spruce up your space. Dorm decorating on a budget is easy! You’ve just got to be a little smart about it. Let's take a look at how to handle dorm room decoration – university student style. Here are our best university dorm room decorating ideas:

  • Houseplants

One of the easiest ways to bring a bit of beautiful nature into your otherwise bland room is to introduce a collection of houseplants. A fiddle-leaf fig plant is a low-maintenance winner if you’ve got a spare corner. Otherwise, a selection of succulents on the window ledge never fails to bring the outside in. 

💡 Top tip: Ferns will survive without direct sunlight. Remember to have some fun with your plant pots too – they’re great for adding a splash of color!  

  • Bedding

Getting a good night’s sleep is so important when you're stretching your brain and gaining new knowledge. Have some fun with your blankets, you may not be able to paint the walls but you can easily introduce some color and patterns via your bedsheets. 🛌

💡 Top tip: Going for some reversible bed sheets means you get two looks for the price of one!

  • Art on the walls

No home, room, or hallway is complete without a gallery wall these days. Decorating one of your walls with all of your favorite paintings, limited edition prints, postcards, and photographs is the perfect way to make it feel like your own. Put your beautiful things on the wall and have fun with contrasting frames. 🖼️

💡 Top tip: Use adhesive hooks so as not to damage the walls and make sure to include a mirror to give the impression of more light and space.

  • Mood lighting

College dorms are not known for their subtle mood lighting but you can easily do it yourself. Just make sure to bring several secondary lighting options with you. That way you can always create the perfect ambiance to suit the situation. 🔆

💡 Top tip: Desklamps and fairy lights are brilliant for adding options and creating a more cozy feel for when it's time to relax and unwind.

  • Soft furnishings

You may feel a little extra rocking up on your first day of college with a carpet under your arm but actually, large bits of beautiful fabric – like rugs, throws, and wall hangings – are easy to install and will immediately change the space beyond recognition. 

💡 Top tip: Go all-in on an aesthetic – from neutrals to patterns or block colors – use these statement pieces to put your stamp on your space in one easy step. 


Shared space decor ideas


Shared spaces are also important when you're living in dorms. They're where you come together, relax, and socialize. 

First of all, it's crucial to give everyone a chance to agree on what does and doesn’t need to be in the space, but once that’s done you can all get on with decorating on a budget together. Here are our best shared space decor ideas:

  • Bean bags

Along with lava lamps and bad hair, bean bag chairs were a staple of the 70s. They saw a resurgence in the 90s and we’re here to tell you they are back again. They aren’t the most sophisticated piece of furniture you’ll ever own but they are lightweight, versatile, and fun – perfect for a bunch of students. 🧑‍🎓

  • Shared wall calendar

With any luck, your roommates will be your friends too. So, alongside a busy WhatsApp group for the house, a shared calendar means you can keep everyone in the loop when it comes to all-important dates like exams, study weeks, nights out, and Halloween dorm parties. 🥳


Shared kitchen decor ideas


Dorm decorating on a budget can be tricky when it comes to kitchen spaces. Often seen as the heart of any home, a student kitchen needs to accommodate more individuals and their needs than most! What’s more, every meal needs to keep you going for a full day of studying! 🥘

First and foremost, a kitchen should be functional but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a bit of fun in there too. Let’s look at some of the ways in which you and your roommates can create a kick-ass college kitchen. 

  • Streamline shared goods

Although it may feel tempting to combine everybody’s kitchenware, you will very quickly run out of space. Sure, you can keep your favorite cup and throw your knife sharpener into the mix but no single kitchen needs fifteen sets of silverware, 30 pasta bowls, and a million sponges. Talk to each other and get used to sharing – that way you can maximize the space you’ve got. 🍽️

  • Vertical herb garden

“Students can’t cook'' is an old myth! We know you like to pack a bit of flavor into your meals. So, why not install a vertical herb garden in your shared kitchen? All you need is a couple of jars and some galvanized metal tape. Check out this how-to and save yourself some cash on that weekly herb shop. 🌿

  • Get color dipping

Color blocking is an easy way to revamp old furniture and gives you an excuse to get crafty. After you’ve done your chairs, why not paint the table legs as well? Just paint the bottom 20-30 cm of the legs with the color or colors of your choice for a delicious, dip-dyed aesthetic. 🪑

Some of our GoStudent tutors are students too, so they know how important it is to balance achieving academic excellence with having a great time whilst you are at uni. Book a free trial lesson with one of them today to see how you can work together to get the most out of your time as a student. 🎒

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