Holiday and DIY decorating tips: For your college digs when you’re short on cash

Paper Snowflakes

Paper snowflakes

You are well into your first semester, but your college dorm or apartment looks like you just moved in — or, worse yet, your “home” resembles an insane asylum with its barren interior and dim lighting. Your drab walls scream, “Help me!” But you’re on a student’s budget and can’t afford to splurge on decor. Think again! With these DIY decorating tips, a little ingenuity can go a long way in getting your college digs in guest-worthy shape, even if you’re short on cash. With the holidays right around the corner, this is the perfect time to get your creative juices flowing.

Where there’s a theme, there’s a way

Outside of school, your dorm room or apartment is where you spend the majority of your time, so why not make it reflect a part of you? It should be a place where you can feel your best — which will ultimately help you study better, relax easier and make your college years more memorable. In coming up with decorating ideas, think about your favorite hobbies — like music, sports or cooking — and try building a theme around one in particular.

When looking for themed items to adorn your walls, try this quick, and cheap, fix:

  • Rather than buying artwork — because really, who can afford that in college? — walk around campus and take photos related to your theme or pictures that inspire you around that theme.
  • Print a set of your favorite 10-12 photos in a 4×6 size.
  • Look for deals on small, unfinished wood frames at your local craft store or $1 store and paint them in two-tone colors, or mount the photos on cut cardboard with a 1-inch border on each side as a DIY matte. Then, clip a clothespin on the top of each one and hang them on a string tacked to the wall on either end above your desk. Voila! You’ve created your own little darkroom style collage.

You can also take Instagram photos and make your own coasters, like the ones in “DIY Dorm: Instagram Coasters,” posted by Sandybn on September 14, 2012, on

Since the holidays are coming up, consider some creative, space-saving ways to decorate your dorm or apartment! You and your friends can have fun making your own colorful paper chains or paper snowflakes and hanging them on the walls! Why stop there? For the artistically-inclined, try making your own perfectly beautiful paper menorah to hang up (add paper flames and candles when the time is right!) or a paper Christmas tree to decorate! (Just promise not to light any paper candles…)

Let there be light

Don’t underestimate the power of light when it comes to decorating. Light creates a calm, welcoming mood and, with just a few adjustments, it can do wonders.

  • Maximize the natural light coming in by opting for transparent curtains that diffuse the light rather than opaque ones. Of course, one of the cheapest options would be if you sew or if someone you know sews. Then you could simply buy remnants at your local fabric store and just hem the edges.
  • Rather than buying one or two large floor lamps, try using several small table lamps to put in the corners of rooms to illuminate the spaces. Try IKEA, flea markets or garage sales for the cheapest finds and add some character to your space.

Wall and door therapy

Chalkboards and decals are great ways to get your walls and doors to “pop.” Draw up a beautiful holiday greeting for your guests. Or they are also a great way to communicate with your roomies when you need quiet time to study or to remind them that it’s their turn to clean the kitchen. Check out “Chic and Functional Dorm Room Decorating Ideas,” a post to by Kayla Kitts, to view the latest design fads for college students and find your own style!

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