Housing & Living Fall 2018   |   cutout

Decorating on a broke-college-student budget



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Despite having a small work space, freshman Brooklynn Weisenbach makes the most of it and decorates with photos and Christmas lights. "I only study in my dorm," Weisenbach said. "It's easy for me to differentiate schoolwork and relaxing time even when working in my room." Ty Vinson Buy Photos

You’ve finally signed a lease for your first college house or apartment, or maybe you’re an incoming freshman excited to live in the dorms. Either way, you’re likely less-than-thrilled about the aesthetics of the small cement room or old house you’re about to call home. 

While your first thought might be to go on the biggest Target run of your life, that might not be the most budget-friendly way to deck out your new pad. Shocking, I know. 

The best way to get the most bang for your buck, especially when shopping for furniture and decor, is to shop around. 

Do your research. 

Once you have ideas about the style you want for your space — Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram are great for brainstorming — you can start shopping around. 

Now is not the time for impulse purchases. Comparing prices of similar products from different stores, both online and brick-and-mortar, will save you money. 

Watch for sales and coupons, too.

Stores like IKEA, TJ Maxx, Wal-Mart, Bed Bath & Beyond and, yes, Target offer a wide variety of inexpensive, trendy pieces from throw pillows to shower curtains to coffee tables.  

Websites such as Wayfair.com and Overstock.com are also great options for affordable furniture, rugs and wall decorations. 

Even if you aren’t splurging on Pottery Barn bedding, pay attention to quality. You’ll want your new purchases to last at least a school year — hopefully longer. 

Don’t underestimate the value of shopping secondhand at places like Goodwill, Salvation Army and Plato’s Closet. Not only will you save money, but you won’t have the same IKEA couch as everyone on your block. 

Use color.

To make a space feel bigger, the goal is to make it feel more open, and that means light and bright. Above all, lighter colors are your friend.

Think whites, pastels and open windows. Limit large areas of black and other dark colors, as well as an excess of busy prints, as they’ll absorb the light and emphasize the tightness of the room. 

Show your style. 

Especially if you’re in a dorm and want to cover up the dated blue carpet or cold linoleum floor, a soft rug serves both form and function. A pattern, rather than solid color, will help disguise dirt and stains. 

Mirrors are another great way to make a room feel bigger and brighter, while also adding a personal touch to a wall. 

Large empty walls can feel overwhelming to fill, but making a “gallery wall” with an assortment of photos, posters and artwork is easy and customizable. 

Wall art doesn’t have to be expensive either. Order prints of your favorite photos from a local convenience store or grocery or have a DIY night with friends to make your own canvas paintings or collages.  

Most importantly, you want your space to feel like your home away from home. Choose styles that fit your personality, and you’ll be sure to love your space, no matter your budget. 

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