Holiday Dorm Room Decorating Ideas: Cheap Ways to Decorate for Christmas or Hanukkah

As fall semester comes to an end and you’re freaking out about studying for final exams, here’s an easy and fun way to take a study break: decorate your dorm room for the holidays! Of course, you have limited space to work with, and you probably have limited funds, so you’re going to need to get creative. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind and some cheap decorating ideas.

Holiday Decorating Guidelines

  • Be sure to consult with your roommate first. It’s good roommate etiquette to have a discussion before you put up decorations. This is especially important if your roommate has a different religious background than you do. The issue of Christmas decorations on college campuses is a sensitive one for some people. Remember, the room is the home to both of you, so you may have to compromise. Perhaps you can each decorate–or not decorate–your half of the room as you wish.
  • Follow the rules. Check with your residence hall assistance to make sure your decorations aren’t considered safety hazards, and don’t move your tables or chairs into dangerous places to make room for the decorating. Candles are almost certainly against the rules. (See below for the issue of Hanukkah menorahs).
  • Be careful not to damage the room. Use common sense. Tacks and tape on the walls can cause damage that you’ll have to pay for at the end of the year. Don’t use holiday snow in a spray can because it’s difficult to remove.
  • Decorate your door with caution. In many dorms, door decorations are subject to vandalism. If you do decorate the door, put up something inexpensive, like festive wrapping paper.
  • Don’t decorate outside your room without permission. Talk to your residence hall assistance before you take it upon yourself to spruce up the hallway. There are probably regulations for this that involve both safety concerns and religious sensitivity issues.

Ideas for Inexpensive Dorm Room Decorations 

  • Small artificial trees. You simply don’t have room for a large tree, and a live one may be against the rules (and messy). You can buy artificial trees that come pre-decorated with electric bulbs, so all you have to do is plug it in and have a little instant Christmas. To surprise your roommate, you can wrap a gift for him or her and place it under the tree.
  • Ornaments. You can place these on your artificial tree or anywhere around the room. Bring it a few favorite ones from home, or stop by the college bookstore to see if they sell school-themed ornaments. Or you can procrastinate a little on your studying and make your own. Just be careful to avoid ornaments that are expensive or very breakable!
  • Paper snowflakes. This is the easiest decoration in the world, and if religious issues are a concern, they’re completely secular. You probably remember how from second grade–just fold a piece of paper two or three times and cut little shapes into the folded paper. Unfold the paper and you’ll have a snowflake. You can decorate the snowflakes with spray paint or glitter. And here’s a green college student tip: make them out of paper you’ve already used for your schoolwork.
  • Personalized stockings. One with your name, and one with your roommate’s. You can also put up stockings for any frequent visitors. And don’t forget to put small gifts in the stockings.
  • Mistletoe. This can be great fun potentially. Don’t hang it over your door, though, unless you want to kiss all your guests.
  • Hanukkah menorahs. This is a tricky issue because candles aren’t allowed in the dorm–and yet lighting the candles is an important part of Hanukkah for Jewish students. Some dorms do make exceptions for menorahs, and if they don’t, some students ignore the rule and light a menorah regardless. If you do this, be careful and watch over your flames. Some students are content to light a menorah at the campus Hillel or at another designated spot on campus. You can also use an electric menorah, which does not have the same religious significance, but it can serve as a decoration.