How to Furnish a College Dorm Room on a Budget

Tuition, residence fees and books can be expensive when prepping for college, but buying furniture for your dorm room doesn’t have to be. As you begin to think about decorating your dorm room, the first thing you must do is decide what you need. Start by checking with your college or university housing services or the residence hall director to see what’s already in the dorm.

Find Out What You Need

Some dorm rooms come equipped with a bed, desk, chair, light, garbage can, and a dresser, while others don’t allow some types of lighting, cooking appliances, air conditioners, space heaters and electric blankets. Once you know what’s provided and what is not allowed at your school, you can draw up a list of what you want to bring.

Tips on Saving Money

There are a few simple things you can do to reduce the cost of furnishing your dorm. You can shop at second hand stores, which commonly have pricing that’s far less than new. Buying second hand also saves resources and reduces your environmental footprint. You may also want to consider splitting the cost of furnishing your dorm with your new roommate(s). Many colleges and universities use housing applications that to try to match roommates, so it is entirely possible that décor and furniture tastes will be among the things that you and your new roommate(s) will have in common. 

Look for Multifunctional Furniture

Perhaps the most important single thing you can do to minimize costs and make the most out of a small space, is to get multifunctional furniture. When you buy furnishings that have more than one function it’s like getting two or more pieces of furniture for the price of one. 

Shop Sales

If you’re going to buy new, look for inexpensive dorm furniture. To get the best prices you may want to shop for sales. You can also keep costs to a minimum by focusing on a few key pieces of furniture. 

It’s important to understand that you don't need to buy specialized dorm room furniture. Many furniture retailers will sell the same furniture for less than stores that specialize in dorm rooms. In addition to choosing reasonably priced retailers, some stores offer discounts to students, so carefully selecting the stores you buy from can save you a small fortune.  

While it is possible to spend thousands, it’s also possible to fully furnish an entire dorm room with new furniture for less than the cost of a good recliner.  Here are eight affordable dorm room furniture essentials that cost between $25 and $250 each. 

1. Bed

While beds can cost a pretty penny, a bed with built in storage space can cost as little as $100. Platform beds reduce costs by doing away with box springs and foundations.  Beds that are easy on the wallet can do a lot more than just give you a comfortable night’s sleep. Beds can provide excellent storage making this a dorm room essential that will serve you in multiple capacities. You can cut costs further by bringing bedding from home instead of buying new. 

REALROOMS Colten All Metal Universal Platform Bed

2. Desk

A computer desk doesn’t have to be a budget breaker. They can cost as little as $150 and some space saving desks not only house your computer and printer, but they also include drawers to store office supplies and other stuff you need for school.  

REALROOMS Bexley Modern Computer Desk with 2 Storage Drawers

3. Bedroom Storage

Bedroom organizers can help you to deal with dorm room clutter. While dressers can be expensive, there are lots of affordable organizers that don’t break the bank. You can inexpensively stow away clothes, papers, and other material for as less than 80 bucks. 

REALROOMS Keegan 5 Drawer Fabric Bin Storage Organizer with Metal Frame

4. Futon

A couch that can is easily converted into a bed is a great way to combine functions and keep costs to a minimum. A stylish futon can be bought for less than $250. This is a great example of cost-effective dual function furniture that will wow your friends.   

REALROOMS Tyler Velvet Tufted Upholstered Futon with Wooden Frame

5. Ottoman

An ottoman is a small ticket item with many uses. For under $60 you can have an amazing multifunctional addition to your dorm. Whether you use it to put your feet up at the end of a long day, as an extra seat for friends, or as storage space, an ottoman offers lots of functionality for small space living at very little cost.  

DHP Small Square Faux Leather Storage Ottoman with Solid Wood Feet

6. Office Chair

An office chair may be the most important piece of furniture in your dorm room. You’ll be spending many hours in this chair reading, studying, and doing assignments, so it’s critical that it can provide hours of comfort.  While chairs can cost thousands, they don’t have to. For just over $100 you can get a budget conscious chair that doesn’t sacrifice support and comfort. 


7. Pub Set

A pub set can provide great bang for your buck. For around $100, you can get a compact pub set that will serve you in many ways. In addition to making your dorm room one of the coolest on campus, a pub set can be a bargain that maximizes the small space of your dorm room. Whether you’re using it as a dinning table, a study table, or as a bar that serves drinks to all your new friends, this is a space saver that will maximize your square footage and make your room the envy of the dorm.  

REALROOMS Jace Kitchen 3-Piece Pub Set with Wood Finish and Metal Frame

8. Step Stool

The least expensive pieces of furniture can be among the handiest. For around 25 bucks, you can pick up a multipurpose step stool that not only lets you to reach those hard-to-reach areas, they can also serve as a makeshift stool.  

COSCO Stylaire Retro 1-Step Step Stool


You probably don’t need all the furniture reviewed above, but these examples illustrate how you can get a lot for a little.  As proven by this guide, you can make your dorm into a home away from home without spending a fortune.