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college student sitting at his desk in his dorm

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Classes are starting and your dorm room is calling. But after paying for books and tuition, the dorm room budget might be looking pretty tight.

These dorm room essentials are budget-conscious but still make your dorm feel like a place you don’t mind studying (or just lounging).

Storage and Organization

Let’s face it, dorm rooms are, well, small. There’s little space for clutter. Storage and organizational pieces will help you with that, but they don’t have to be plain or expensive.

Cube Organizer

cube storage unit

Image: Target

Storage is at a premium in a dorm room. One way to add extra storage, and come color or style is with a cube organizer. They can help you organize your food, school supplies and other odds and ends.

They come in multiple sizes, so it should be easy to find one that fits your dorm room. They’re also cost-effective, starting around $30.

Since a cube organizer is kind of plain on its own, consider buying a cube storage bin. These help keep your stored items a little more discreet, but they can also show your personal style. These bins come in plenty of colors and materials. Find a fabric one with your favorite colors or patterns that fit your personality. If you want more of a rustic or industrial look, opt for wire or wooden ones.

Place candles, picture frames or fun décor pieces on the top of your organizer to use it like a shelf.

Storage Mirror

storage mirror hanging on a door

Image: Target

A full-length mirror is probably on your list for things to bring to college, but if you’re willing to spend a little more money, you could get a two-for one deal.

Storage mirrors open up so you can store items inside. The one pictured is great because it hangs over the door, taking up less space.

Organizational Wall Décor

hanging wall organizer

Image: Target

When you’re working with a small space, double duty items are a lifesaver. Organizational wall decor definitely fits into that category. Take the one pictured above, for example. It looks great and hangs on your wall (since most dorms don’t allow you to put holes in walls, I’d recommended attaching it with removable adhesive strips), just like a piece of décor. The benefit is you can store things in the cup attached, hang lightweight things like cords or car keys from the hooks, and has a chalkboard and corkboard to leave notes and pin important things.

Hanging bulletin board organizers aren’t the only option, though. Look for unique whiteboards with special trim or a colorful background or geometric cork boards you can arrange together. Use these to hang photos of friends and important things you need to remember, like next week’s test. They’ll look great, help you stay organized and keep your budget intact.


Most dorms don’t have much of a kitchen, but a student has to eat, right? Right. Even though you may not have a kitchen, these ideas can help you out.

Plastic Serve Ware

plastic plates

Image: Hayneedle

Even if you have a food plan, there will come a time when you’re sitting in your dorm room and need to quickly make something to eat. Having a plate or a bowl is going to come in handy. Plastic serve ware to the rescue!

Plastic dishes are great for dorm rooms because they don’t shatter, they’re lightweight and you can find them in fun colors. If you’re not sure where to put them, store them in your cube organizer. That thing’s coming in handy already.

Single Cup Brewing System

Keurig Mini

Image: Target

It was in college when I had to start budgeting for coffee and I haven’t stopped since.

Having a way to make coffee in your dorm room will save you some money, plus the Keurig MINIs come in some several colors so you can find the one you like.


retro style Igloo fridge

Image: Urban Outfitters

Every dorm room has to have a mini-fridge, doesn’t it?

This one from Igloo is great because it’s about the same price as other mini-fridges, but it has a cool retro style and comes in a variety of colors you can use to show your personality a bit more.

If you’re looking for ways to get more use out of your mini-fridge, try using the top as a shelf. Put books or a tray with things for your coffee, like sugar and stir sticks. You can also get magnets and use them to hang photos or important info on the refrigerator.


colorful bedding and decor

Image: Urban Outfitters

The bedroom (or just the bed area) is where you get to have a lot of fun with your dorm décor. Your bed is likely the largest piece of furniture you have in your dorm and as such, has the opportunity to make a big statement.


Have some fun with your bedding. If you love bohemian styles, show it off with your bedding. If you’re more minimal, go with a solid colored comforter in a color you like.

Urban Outfitters has some great bedding options for just about any style, some of which come with a drawstring bag for your sheets. It would be wise to buy an extra sheet set as well. It will be handy to have an extra set when it’s time to change your sheets, especially if you weren’t planning on washing them that day.


On surefire way to add some more style to your room is with accent pieces, like throw pillows. Throw pillows usually run $15 – $30, but with just one or two, you can style your bed or lounge seating to make it look more pulled together.

Area Rug

An area rug can help anchor your room and make it feel homey. Being away from home can be difficult, anything you can do to make that transition easier, even if it’s just to feel more cozy, is helpful.


There are bound to be a few late-night study sessions in the future, so lighting is a must.

Light Box

light box

Image: Target

This one isn’t as useful as a traditional lamp, but it is fun! A few years ago, marquee letters took the décor world by storm. While they’re still popular, there’s a new fun lighting trend that’s gaining some steam – light boxes.

You use can use letters, numbers and characters that come with the light box, to write out your own message. It’s totally customizable, making it more fun. These can be great if you like to host friends, too. Having a taco night? Pizza party? Girls night in? Put it on the board.

Desk lamp

Image: Walmart

If you have a desk in your room, you’ll want to have a lamp for it. Desk lamps are good for illuminating smaller areas. When you’re studying, late at night, this will help keep your desk bright.

The trendier you go with these ones, the pricier they’ll be. Even if you’re looking to spend only $15, you can find cool colors, and even some that have desk organizers built in.

Clip On Lamp

Image: Amazon.com

If you’re sharing a room, a clip-on lamp could be a lifesaver.

What happens when your roommate is going to sleep but you still have things to do? Pull out your clip-on lamp and light up your bed, leaving them free to sleep without bright lights in their face.

Are you off to college? Tell us how you prepare your dorm and stay on budget.

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