If you're an incoming freshman, you are probably dreaming of what your dorm room will look like. The truth is, it's gonna cost way more than you think. Decorating a whole room from scratch is pricey, but you don't have to go broke to get that perfect aesthetic in your dorm. Bargain hunting and smart shopping can save you a lot of money while still allowing you to find trendy pieces that'll make your dorm feel like home.
Start your shopping early
I started shopping for my dorm a whole year before I moved out and went to college. If you can, hit up big-box stores in early-mid September to get discounts after all the college students are done shopping. Dorm essentials will go on sale once back-to-school season is over. This is a great time to get items like bedding, storage bins, rugs, dorm seating options, and shower totes. You can also try to pick up must-haves for your dorm during the holiday shopping season, including on Black Friday. This is a great time to buy a TV, a quality fan (if your dorm doesn't have AC, it's a must), small appliances like a Keurig or microwave (we'll get to those later), and bedding. If you start shopping early, you can take advantage of more sales.
DO NOT fall for the Dormify scam
I know you are thinking to yourself, "but their stuff is SO CUTE!" Yes, their Instagram feed is adorable and you probably have tons of their room inspo posts saved to your Pinterest board; however, I am here to tell you that their products are ridiculously overpriced and pretty unpractical for most dorm rooms. I know that removable wallpaper looks adorable, but it won't be so cute when you get fined for ripping the paint off your dorm wall while moving out. Under no circumstances should you be paying $40 for a throw pillow for your twin bed. Their products are great for inspiration, but you can find alternatives that are way cheaper. Look elsewhere for affordable, yet still trendy, dorm decor.
Check Five Below or the Dollar Store first
You will be amazed what you can find at these stores as far as small decor pieces and flexible storage. Five Below has a lot of trendy room pieces and cute storage options. Dollar Stores have more of your basic organizational tools, cleaning supplies,
Items to look out for in these stores:
-Small wall decor pieces
-Small bins, baskets, and trays for storage (for toiletries, clothes, desk supplies, jewelry, or snacks- you will need more of these than you think)
-Storage and Inflatable Ottomans
-Dry erase boards
-Mini throw pillows
-Small throw rugs and blankets
-Plastic cups and plates
-Cleaning supplies (sponges, detergent, scrub brushes, window cleaner, and I cannot stress this enough: stain remover)
Opt for a budget-friendly bedding set that'll last
I personally recommend getting a bedding bundle from Roomify. They offer promotions and right now their "Starter Pack" bundle is on sale for $195. That may seem like a lot but it includes over 39 items, including a comforter, sham, two pillows and cases, a flat sheet, two fitted sheets, a memory foam mattress topper (trust me you need this!), a blanket, bath towels, hand towels, washcloths, hangers, a hamper, under bed storage and more. That's a great deal. Plus, if you're attending school out of state their ship-to-campus option makes your move in a lot easier.
If you don't want to buy a bundle, I recommend getting super comfy jersey sheets from Walmart and a cute comforter from Target. Trust me though, you need a memory foam mattress topper
Hit up your local TJMaxx, Marshalls, and Homegoods
For knick-knacks and budget-friendly, trendy items hit up any TJMaxx-affiliated store. You might even be able to find good deals on designer bedding here. I found a lot of my wall decor and desk supplies here.
Things to look for:
-Floor poufs/cushions for flexible seating
-Candles (if your dorm allows them)
Use printing services like Shutterfly for photo walls and art prints
Photo collages and art prints are super trendy right now. I have a mix of posters, photos, and polaroids in my dorm that I love. Websites like Society6 and Redbubble sell cute prints but they can be a little pricey. I recommend printing posters with Shutterfly instead and keeping your eye out for promo codes. Shutterfly is also the site I used to print my photos. You've definitely seen those swoon-worthy photo collages that can go for upwards of $50 (yikes). Save yourself the money and find your own photos online to print. When you sign up for an account, Shutterfly will give you 101 free prints (!!) and a free poster. All you have to do is pay for shipping. If you're into the polaroid look, I use Inkifi to turn my favorite photos into retro polaroid prints. I recommend arranging the photos in a Pinterest board beforehand to make sure you have a cohesive color scheme and overall vibe.
Where to look for photos:
You can even find some decor and storage options on Shein!
A lot of people do not know that Shein has a Home section! You can find everything under the sun on that site. They even have adorable posters that are surprisingly high quality. They sell pillowcases, blankets, rugs, and shelves. Shein also stocks so many organizers and storage options that will keep your dorm super tidy.
Things to find here:
-Hanging/closet storage (great for towels or shoes)
-Assorted baskets and bins (these are adorable)
Shop back-to-college sales at Target, Walmart, and Bed Bath and Beyond
These big-box stores are your go-to for dorm room essentials, but they can get a little pricey. Stick to household staples.
Items to look for here:
-Steamer (trust me on this one they are a godsend and WAY more practical than an iron)
-Glasses and cups
-Storage carts and cubicles
Try buying appliances second-hand
Even though you may want to buy brand new appliances for your dorm, you can save a lot of money by reaching out to family members who are upperclassmen or recently graduated. I got a mini-fridge for $20 from a family friend and it saved me a ton of money. The same goes for microwaves, coffee machines, blenders, toasters, and all small appliances. A vacuum is also a must-have because dorms get dirty super fast, but a good one can cost you big bucks so it's better to get a gently used one. If you don't have an older sibling, cousin, or family friend to ask then consider looking at local Facebook groups to see if anyone is selling them.
DIY projects are your new BFFs
Head to Pinterest and YouTube to find easy DIY projects for dorm decor. Make your own gallery wall with washi tape frames, create a macrame wall hanging for boho-chic vibes, or paint a canvas with your own design. These help make your dorm unique to your style and make it a comforting place for you to unwind at the end of a long day. Get creative with any ideas you have and bring some extra crafting supplies to school for DIY nights with your new besties! Projects like this can save you a ton of money.
Surf Etsy for DIY inspo and one-of-a-kind pieces
Etsy items can get expensive, but if you do enough hunting on the site you can find cute and affordable customizable decor. If you come across something you really love but can't afford, draw some inspiration from it and try to DIY it. I like to go on Etsy and then pin some items to my dorm room Pinterest board, then I just keep my eye out for similar items in cheaper stores or in DIY tutorials.
Things to find here:
-Art prints (save money by choosing the print at home option)