Frugal Furnishing Ideas For Your Child's Dorm Room


College tuition alone is an astronomical expense for families, but when we add the growing cost of on-campus housing to the list, those budgets stretch even tighter.

According to a 2012 study from the College Board, the average annual price for a year’s worth of room and board is $9,200 for a public university and $10,460 per year at a private university. In the past ten years, residential living costs have risen by over 50% for public and private colleges alike.

When it comes to paying for your child’s college living expenses, the first question to ask is whether any of these costs can be covered by scholarships or grants. For answers here, take a closer look at your child’s financial aid award letter, and if necessary pick up the phone and talk to someone in the school’s financial aid department.

One popular alternative these days is to opt out of dorm life altogether and make the daily commute from home to school. According to a study from Sallie Mae, more than half of students opted to live with their parents during the 2012 school year in order to cut costs.

Living on-campus does have its benefits though, especially for first-year students. Dorm living is a great opportunity to make friends, get easy access to school resources, and save on commuting costs. If your child has his or her heart set on dorm life, here are a few resources for setting up their new home away from home without breaking the bank.

1. The College Board’s Back-to-College Checklist

This checklist from The College Board, a not-for profit group, is a handy tool to bookmark as you and your child prepare for that first year away at school. It covers many of the things a first-year student will need, from a stapler to headphones, a trashcan, light bulbs and all the other little things you might not think of before packing up the van and heading off to school.

While many of these items are things you’ll have to purchase, it’s usually cheaper to find, borrow or purchase supplies beforehand rather than buying them at school or shipping them to your child after the big move.

2. Apartment Therapy’s “Cheap Ways to Decorate a Dorm Room”

These days many retailers are gung-ho about stocking shelves with merchandise specifically for dorm living, but that doesn’t necessarily mean these items are cost-effective. Luckily, there are a number of alternatives to purchasing furniture and décor off the shelf. The always-crafty Apartment Therapy offers a number of ideas, from handmade curtains to Craigslist browsing and plant-centered décor.

3. Houzz’s “6 Tips for Dorm Room Layout & Organization”

Dorm rooms are notoriously cramped spaces. No matter which school your child is set to attend, you’ll need to get creative with the space provided. Online design and home improvement community Houzz offers a number of inventive layout and décor options in the above article, including lofting beds, using curtains for privacy and building non-traditional storage compartments.

For more ideas on saving money on your child’s college expenses, check out our student loan series. And for the younger ones, learn how go get an early start on your child’s education fund.

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