Holiday. (Illustration by Eri Iguchi, Minneapolis College of Art and Design)

9 Ways To Decorate for the Holiday Season on a College Budget

Use these inexpensive yet festive tricks to brighten up your living space this winter.
December 2, 2020
6 mins read

Twinkling white lights lace the needle-covered tree. Large candy canes line the sidewalk. Green garland popping with brightly colored holly hangs from the porch. At the center of it all, a plump holiday wreath hangs on the door.

Decorated neighborhoods, peppermint Starbucks drinks and Christmas music on the radio are all finally here; it’s the start of another holiday season. Although hayrides and hot chocolate make for a cheerful winter, it seems as though each year the commercialization of the holidays only grows.

The pressure to participate in elaborate holiday decorations can create a financially stressful situation. For many college students, the reality is that tuition and books must take precedence over inflatable snowmen and plastic snowflakes.

With a little creativity, however, it’s possible for students to balance a responsible budget and elaborate holiday decorations. Here are nine ways to decorate on a college budget.

1. Paper Snowflakes

As childish as paper snowflakes may sound, they are simple to craft and can easily turn a drab dorm room into a winter wonderland.

The only supplies needed for this craft are a pair of scissors and some recycled or new paper. Start by cutting the paper into a square shape. Afterward, fold the paper into fourths and cut a design of your choice into the creases. Unfold the paper to unveil a unique snowflake perfect for lining your walls, placing on your doors or hanging from the ceiling. For ideas and patterns, check out Pinterest for more paper snowflake directions and ideas.

2. Miniature Christmas Tree

The center of many holiday home decor arrangements is a Christmas tree. Whether it’s covered in ornaments, laced in ribbons and lights or topped with a sparkling star, Christmas trees are a joyful holiday decorating custom.

However, trees can be expensive and impractical for college students to fit into their dorms or apartments. Fortunately, stores such as Walmart and Target offer miniature sized Christmas trees as a solution. These trees are relatively inexpensive, and splitting the bill between roommates may only cost you a couple of dollars. On top of that, at about three feet tall, these small trees are incredibly easy to carry up dorm stairs and squeeze through a doorway.

This affordable solution is a great alternative to traditional Christmas trees that are usually large, pricey and even messy. They are simple to assemble and certain to tie all of your holiday decorations together.

3. Streamer Candy Canes

Red and white streamers can be purchased for about $1 a pack. By weaving the two together and sculpting a cane shape, you can create a larger-than-life candy cane forest on your wall.

This craft requires little skill and even less money. The only supplies needed are streamers and some scotch tape.

4. Cotton Ball Snowman

This craft used by preschool teachers everywhere can easily be reinvented to add intricate holiday decor to a college dorm or apartment.

The only supplies needed for this DIY activity are a pen, construction paper, scissors, glue, three cotton balls and lots of imagination.

5. DIY Stocking

Stockings have become increasingly more intricate and expensive throughout the years. However, this traditional element to holiday decorating does not need to be overlooked just because a monogrammed stocking may be a bit out of your preferred price range.

Places like Dollar Tree make stockings more than affordable. Gather some glitter, pens and sequins to personalize your stocking into an absolute holiday masterpiece.

Get all of your roommates involved and in the holiday spirit with this craft. Make some hot chocolate, play some Christmas tunes and spend some time together decorating your stockings before hanging them on the mantel or on your dorm room wall.

6. Glitter Snow

Turning a college dorm or apartment into a frosty fantasy only requires a bottle of glitter. This project is on the messier side, but it’s an effortless way to decorate for the holiday season.

Grab some white glitter and sprinkle it around your room or on top of your paper snowflakes. With just a few shakes, simple glitter has turned into glistening snow, and your dorm has become a magical winter wonderland — just don’t forget to vacuum!

7. Handmade Ornaments

Construction paper, card stock or whatever scrap paper is laying around can be easily transformed into a handcrafted original ornament with a couple of markers and some string.

Begin by cutting the paper into whatever holiday shape is desired, and then add some details with a favorite marker or pen. Finally, place a hole at the top of the ornament and string it onto the tree.

8. Pine Cone Basket

This project requires a trip outdoors to a few nearby pine trees.

Gather some fallen pine cones from beneath the trees and place them intricately into a decorative basket of your choice. This simple craft is rustic and fashionable, especially if you top your pine cones with a bit of glitter snow.

9. DIY Popcorn and Cranberry Garland

There’s no need to pay $50 for holiday garland at Pottery Barn when you can make your own with just a few simple and inexpensive supplies.

To make a popcorn and cranberry garland, you will — of course — need some popped popcorn and cranberries, along with a wire, a small needle and a pair of scissors.

Carefully string the cranberries and popcorn in a pattern of your choosing onto the wire using the needle. Afterward, cut and tie the ends of the wire when your garland has reached the desired length. Lastly, hang your garland around the room to create a breathtaking holiday ambiance.

Holiday decorations don’t have to be compromised over a college budget. With a little creativity and innovation, college students can afford both their textbooks and some sparkly snowflake decor this holiday season!

Anna Wurm, Texas A&M University

Writer Profile

Anna Wurm

Texas A&M University
Communication and Journalism

I’m a senior communication and journalism major at Texas A&M! I’m involved in organizations on campus and love living life in College Station. I have always loved writing and am pumped to write for Study Breaks!

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