Being a college student for the past couple of years, I've had to figure out ways to decorate my apartments I've lived in to not only represent my style, but do it cheaply. And the answer is very clear, especially for those living in college towns: dumpsters. Yes, those big ugly green monsters that hold our least-wanted items. But I've found dumpsters hold a plethora of great decorating items.
For instance, in the past few months alone, I've found and incorporated the following items: a compact entertainment stand for my bedroom TV, a 50's style barstool (metal and red leather), another short entertainment center with glass doors (which I converted into a dish-holding caddy), a nice dinner table with a great pattern painted on the top (I cut the legs down and now have it as a coffee table), and several appliances that I've taken the "guts" out of and made into a type of industrial-art.
I have also noticed the best time is around mid-June/early July when college kids start moving out of apartments/dorms/wherever for the summer. Last year I was fortunate enough to get a couch that someone had gotten from our university's surplus sale, and now it's sitting on my balcony as an outside entertainment area. So next time you walk by a dumpster, take a peek inside/next to, because you might just find a cheap alternative to a decorating dilemma.