Scouting to survive in college dorms

February 28, 2009|By CHRISTINE BRUN / Creators Services

A recent survey conducted by a vendor of dormitory room products found that 41 percent of college students are feeling the pinch of our country's economic crisis. Many know fellow students who have suddenly found themselves without financial support from home.

News like that makes it even more necessary to create a functional and uplifting environment in college dorm rooms and shared off-campus housing. Yet it is a fact of life most college dorm rooms are furnished with just the basics, such as bunk beds and plain, functional desks. Consequently, students must obtain their own art, area rugs and furnishings if they wish to personalize their surroundings.

By this time of the school year, most students have already decorated and are now in survival mode; they are looking for ways to cut costs and save money.

Some of the best places to scout for bargains are charity thrift stores, such as Goodwill, secondhand stores or consignment shops. Tables, files, desks or lamps are good things to buy secondhand because they can be inexpensive and easy to clean. However, one should take care when buying upholstered items, such as chairs, sofas or bedding, at secondhand stores.


Tapestries are often the wall decor of choice for young people, and some might be available on the secondhand market. Posters like those in the picture from are another popular item with college students decorating on a tight budget. But they probably need to be purchased new because they are more fragile. Other dorm room must-haves shown in the picture include a tiny refrigerator for snacks, toaster and a hot pot, or electric kettle.

Be aware that many campuses discourage in-room cooking other than that that done in a microwave. But the raging appetite of young people combined with the odd hours that they keep makes them need a cheap way to supplement food services meals.

Cooking in an electric hot pot or multi-pot can save as much as $289 per semester. Student cooks can prepare inexpensive snacks such as ramen noodles, macaroni and cheese, soup, canned ravioli or anything else that can be dumped into these pluggable pots that heat to a boil.

While it is tempting to get your morning cup of Joe at a campus Starbucks or other independent coffeehouse, brewing your own coffee is a money saver. Using store-brand coffee and a personal, one-cup coffeemaker like Cafe Uno or the Black & Decker Brew 'n Go, students can get their java fix while saving more than $2 a day, or more than $210 per semester.

Some campuses offer laundry service to students for a price. Another way to economize is for students to launder their own clothes.

Most dorm rooms are too small to handle an ironing board, but there are products -- like the Ironing Blanket, the Dorm Board, or the tried-and-true travel steam iron -- that can help students achieve a crisp, well groomed look for job interviews and community service events.

The Ironing Blanket by Whitney Design takes an old student habit -- ironing on the floor or bed -- and steps it up to provide a silicone surface that results in a better pressing job. The Dorm Board is a 29-by-12.5-inch ironing board that can easily be storied on a hook.

o Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Big Ideas for Small Spaces." Send questions and comments to her by e-mail at To find out more about Christine Brun and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit

2009 Creators Syndicate, inc.

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