Six Hacks for Decking out a Dorm on a Budget
Preparing for move-in day should be a fun experience. But, it's also a teachable moment when students can learn a little about frugality and strategy. After all, there's a delicate balance to strike between being practical, expressive and homelike; all while optimizing space, cooperating with roommates and staying on budget.
To help students kick off campus life on the right foot, here are six hacks for decking out a dorm without overspending:
1) Make a plan
Before purchasing anything, sit down and strategize with your student. Start by checking UCF's move-in resources, packing list and videos. They'll help you determine the dos and don'ts of what to pack, and what's already available in the dorm.
Once you know the ground rules, have your student create a personalized list while noting lower and higher priority items. Then estimate costs by comparing prices, so you can determine a reasonable spending goal. There are some handy cost-comparison apps out there that will do the legwork for you. As you begin to make purchases, record the actual cost of each item. If you approach your spending limit, look to cut (or hold off on) low priority items.
2) Find what's free
Gather a portion of your student's list at no cost by checking around the house first. Look for crates, towels, laundry bags or utensils you can spare. Then take a look at your bedding options. While you'll need to buy the extra-long twin sheets, an oversized bedspread will do the trick for the top layer, plus it may be large enough to hide items stored under the bed. Then ask around. You never know what family, friends or neighbors might have on hand.
3) Give secondhand a chance
Spend an afternoon browsing your local thrift stores, garage sales, and websites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. These are great places to find storage, picture frames, lamps, accents, small appliances and dishes. You may be surprised (in a good way) at what you can find. What's not to love about paying less for the basics? Considering they'll only be used for a few years anyway.
4) Share the load
UCF housing allows students to have a mini-fridge (no larger than five cubic feet), a coffee pot and a microwave. With such limited space, it's recommended that there's just one of each in the dorm. Students should connect with their roommate to discuss sharing these small appliances. They can choose to split the cost down the middle or divvy up the shopping list. Upperclassmen are a great resource, too. Many are looking to sell appliances as they move to off-campus housing, so check message boards and online.
5) Embrace versatility and creativity
When looking for storage or decorations, find things that have more than one use. Get ottomans that double as storage, so there's seating for friends. Or use wooden crates, and create a weight-bearing cover that doubles as a seat. String lights make great decorations using minimal space, too. They provide soft lighting and can be arranged with photos for a personal touch. We also recommend looking for other low-cost DIY decor tips on Pinterest and other sites.
6) Protect your purchases
It's likely your student is bringing a laptop or computer, along with pricey textbooks and electronics. It's also likely you don't want to spring for these items a second time in the event of a catastrophe, accident or theft. So, renter's insurance is highly recommended. FAIRWINDS Insurance Services is a great place to get a provider, a quote and coverage.
One last key to remember is to pack light. There's no need to bring it all on day one. Add personal touches little-by-little, and note that some items are best acquired once your student is more familiar his or her limited living space.
We understand! There's a lot to consider when getting ready for the big day. To help ease the pressure, break up the preparation into small manageable chunks, maintain a sense of humor and keep your eye on the big picture.