Holiday Dorm Decoration On A Budget

As students we’re already living on a tight budget – ESPECIALLY when abroad – so most of us couldn’t be bothered with buying Christmas decorations. But I’m one of those people who is Christmas-obsessed and was able to full on decorate my dorm under 20 USD. Here’s how I did it.

holiday dorm decorations


The dollar shop is your best friend

One of the easiest ways of saving money, and a lot of the times forgotten, is the dollar shop or a second hand shop. Every year, most dollar shops will bring out a Christmas/holiday collection and it’s the perfect place to buy things like garlands, bobbles, and other cheap things that will your room look like a holiday haven. I currently live in Japan and the ultimate “dollar shop” here is called Daiso! Here I bought two garlands, of which I draped one over my bookshelf and the second I scotch taped to the wall above my bed. If you’re lucky, you might even find a very cheap Christmas tree here.

holiday dorm decorations - budget

Ask around

When living in a dorm abroad, you are bound to run into other students who are leaving your guest country soon. Ask them if they have anything they are planning to get rid of or something they want to sell. I got my fairy lights this way! I ran into a student living in my building dragging some boxes downstairs. He was planning to sell them to a second hand shop. I asked if I could take a look and I found some fairy lights! I wanted to pay him a small amount but he said I could just have them. You see! When people get into the Christmas spirit, everything is just better.

holiday dorm decoration - DIY

Three letters: DIY

DIY, my friends, DIY! There is no cheaper way. I’m sure you have some cardboard lying around somewhere, or someone you know recently ordered something from Amazon and has a big box he or she is planning to throw away. Get out your scissors, colorful pens and get creative. Just by cutting up my last Amazon package a made a huge “Merry Christmas” sign and hung it on my wall with some scotch tape. Every year there are some pretty awesome DIY Christmas decoration tutorials on YouTube, so definitely give it a try.

holiday dorm decoration - crafting

Let it come to you

If you’re lucky, a family member, a friend or a lover from your home country may visit you during winter break. Why not seize this opportunity to let them bring something “Christmas-y” from your parents’ home? My boyfriend is visiting me during the holidays and will be bringing along some things (think more fairy lights and bobbles). Not too much of course because students abroad, keep in mind, still have to return home and bring all that stuff back with you (or find a way to get rid of it).

holiday dorm decoration - glitter

What did I eventually do?

So, you might wonder if I’ve used all my own tips, and the answer is definitely: YES! I have a small Christmas tree on the top shelf of my bookshelf, which I got from the Japanese store Nitori and this cost me 1000 JPY (about 8,67 USD), which was the most expensive thing I bought. Then I bought some garlands and bobbles from Daiso which were each a 100 JPY, so in total I spent about 500 JPY (4,33 USD) at the dollar shop. Then I received the Christmas lights from the friendly neighbor and will still be receiving some decorations from my visiting boyfriend. Finally, I DIY’ed the rest, which was 100% free! I cut out some letters from cardboard to make a “Merry Christmas” sign. Then I just took some white plain paper from my notebook and handmade some snowflakes and taped them to my door. I also had some cute ribbons lying around from previous gifts, boxes, fancy store bags, etc. so I made some bows out of them and hung them on my walls. You have no idea how the little things can change up the whole mood of your room until you’ve tried it. Even if you’re not into decorating, just try one of these little tips and maybe you’ll even like the newfound coziness of your room!

images: metrouk (1), tumblr (1), tenor (3)

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Hanna B

Hanna is a 22 year old Japanese Studies student who majored in Japanese literature in Tokyo, Japan last year. She founded her blog,, where she documents her travels and daily life in Japan. In her spare time she loves to read and write. She also has a big passion for food and fashion.

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