If you're watching your pennies while earning your degree, following a few frugal dorm tips will make it easier to stick to your budget.
Setting Up Your Frugal Dorm
The first step for creating a frugal dorm is to choose a basic color scheme for your room. This will help your room looked pulled together, which is essential when most of your furniture is hand-me-downs from friends and family or thrift store purchases. When you have items that don't fit your color scheme, you can either paint them or reupholster them with funky fabric. If you're not sure what colors to pick, LoveToKnow Interior Design has tips on selecting the best color scheme for your room.
Choose dorm room furniture with the goal of getting the most possible use out of every piece. Raise your bed up on cement blocks to add extra storage space, push it against the wall, and add a few large pillows so it can double as a couch for your friends to sit on when they come to visit. On a similar note, storage ottomans and side tables with drawers are useful multi-tasking purchases.
Dorm rooms are notoriously tiny, so staying organized is essential. Go to your local dollar store to find inexpensive plastic baskets for storing your makeup, toiletries, school supplies, and other small miscellaneous items. Weave a bit of ribbon through the slots in the basket to give the containers a more polished appearance. For storing larger items, decoupage sturdy cardboard boxes with colorful wrapping paper or magazine clippings.
When it comes to wall art for your frugal dorm, think beyond posters purchased from the campus bookstore. Make a collage featuring pictures of your friends or paint an abstract design on a large canvas from a craft store such as Hobby Lobby. All it takes is one piece of memorable wall art to lend pizzazz to a room.
Of course, if you will have a roommate, it's important to discuss your decorating plans before making any major purchases. Since you'll be sharing the space, you need to come up with a plan that is acceptable to both of you. Discussing your ideas before you arrive on campus will also help make sure that you don't end up with unnecessary duplicate items.
Dorm Room Cooking
If you're like most college students, you probably plan on eating the majority of your meals in the dorm cafeteria. However, there may be times when the school's schedule doesn't match your meal plan. Instead of ordering pizza or expensive takeout food, prepare your own meals from the comfort of your dorm room.
Most schools will allow you to have a microwave and a small refrigerator in your dorm room, which will take care of your basic cooking needs. Keep items such as ramen, peanut butter, microwave popcorn, powdered drink mix, instant coffee, tea, and an assortment of spices readily available in a large storage container.
If allowed, you may want to consider investing in one of the following kitchen appliances to give you a bit more flexibility with your meal preparation:
- Indoor grill
- Electric skillet
- Hot pot
- Crock pot
- Rice cooker
Bar Charts has a free PDF download with suggested tools for cooking in your dorm room, as well as a few easy recipes. There are also many excellent cookbooks written for college students, such as The $5 a Meal College Cookbook: Good Cheap Food for When You Need to Eat by Rhonda Lauret Parkinson and B.E. Horton.