The cement walls of dorm rooms can frustrate in a few ways — they’re usually way too close to each other, they are somehow thin enough to hear everything your neighbors are up to, and they’re so ugly. But before you drop lots of money at the start-of-school poster sale and IKEA, try out these much more unique and inexpensive dorm room decorating ideas to dress up your new room.

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Make it Yourself

  • Wall Art – Add your personal touch to what’s on the walls. Get a few small bottles of acrylic paint and doodle on shoebox lids instead of pricey canvas; suddenly, you have unique wall decor for under $10. Take that, $40 store art!
  • Clothesline Display – With a couple feet of yarn, a handful of clothespins, and two command strips (these are lifesavers for dorm decoration), you can create a display for photos, ticket stubs, and postcards. Clip them to the yarn, which is tied a command strip at each end. Boom, brilliance.
  • Storage Boxes – Save your cardboard move-in boxes. Cover them in colored paper and patterned duct tape ($3 at an office supply store), then slide them under your bed or in your closet. Store-bought storage cubes no more.

Use Affordable Alternatives

  • Posters – Instead of buying a poster you find on a store rack, choose the perfect photo for an image you actually want blown up on your wall. Use this tool, which sections the picture up into regular page sizes that you can print out at your school library and tape together for a totally customized poster.
  • Vintage Prints – 4” x 6” photo prints cost less than a quarter at your local convenience store. To get a cool Polaroid look for your photos, don’t buy an instant camera with costly film; use this website for free, then print from the convenience store.
  • Lamps – Get a strand of Christmas lights off-season for under five dollars, and save an empty salsa jar! A bundle of LED lights inside the jar will make a funky desk lamp that nobody else can buy at a home-dec store. (It costs less too.)

Take Advantage of Free Things

  • Paint Samples – A handful of paint sample cards from a home improvement store will make a nice background for a bulletin board or a fun and costless way to color-code your desk drawers. (Neat freak.)
  • Movie Theater Posters – Swing by your local movie theater and see if they have any old posters laying around. They have to replace them every couple of weeks, so check in a few times if they’re friendly.
  • Newspapers – You can probably find your school newspaper or local newspaper for free somewhere on campus, and when you do you’ll also have a completely free collage source! Cut out pictures, headlines, and more to glue together decoratively and tape around the room.

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All these dorm room decorating ideas are way cheaper than spending money at a store. Plus, they’ll leave you with the coolest, most unique room in the building. Double win! Spare yourself the cement-wall frustration by using these budget decoration ideas instead.


About the Author: Cecilia Weddell is a junior at Boston University, Massachusetts majoring in Comparative Literature and minoring in Mathematics. She writes for two campus blogs and is a Resident Assistant. She also interns at Boundless, where she helps the company disrupt the textbook industry one affordable college textbook at a time. See more of her writing at!


Image: Running Wolves