Christmas Presents on a Student Budget

The holly is hung, the mistletoe is strung, and Christmas is right around the corner. The holidays are always a lovely time of year, and being on a college campus can make everything seem especially cheerful and bright. Twinkle lights sparkle on trees, wreaths adorn school building doors, and Christmas parties (and cheesy sweaters) abound.

The one part of the holiday season that can feel a little less than merry, however, is gift buying while on a student budget. Depending on if you have a large family or a wide circle of friends, the pressure to get the right gift, buy something expensive, and make sure everyone on your list is covered can feel downright burdensome.

So what can you do to share some warmth and holiday spirit with your loved ones without breaking the bank? We’ve put together a list of ideas for you, so you can enjoy the days leading up to Christmas without stressing about money.

1. Make a gift budget

One of the best things you can do on the front end of gift buying is to make a budget. How much will you actually have available to put toward presents? Once you have that number figured out, divide it by the number of people you plan to buy presents for. That way, you won’t even have to spend time at the store wondering if you should drop cash on that super cool gift because you’ll already know exactly how much you have to spend per person. Even if the amount you have to spend per person is quite small, that’s okay. A small token can be a really thoughtful gift, and chances are good that your friends and family will (and they should) love you a lot whether you give them anything at all or not.

2. Make something

Sometimes the most meaningful gifts are the least expensive gifts of all: the ones you make! Your time is worth something too, so try thinking creatively about something meaningful you could make for those on your list. You could make some artwork, build something beautiful, write a sincere poem, or create a unique and usable household item. You can never go wrong with baking or cooking something delicious as well—food can be a wonderful gift!

Think about the types of things your friends and family like, get crafty, and create something significant that they will treasure simply because you made it.

3. Recipe jar

Yes, you can certainly bake Christmas cookies for all your friends to enjoy, but what’s even better is gifting them the recipe! This gift is fairly inexpensive, has a touch of homemade charm, and lasts a lifetime. Measure dry ingredients into a jar in layers, seal the jar with a decorative lid, and tie the recipe to one of your favorite baked goods on the jar. Not only will they get to make the cookies, bars, or cake right then and there, but they’ll be able to treasure the recipe for years to come.

4. Gift an experience

Sometimes the most memorable gifts are things that people can experience rather than “things.” Plan a special date with a loved one or a fun outing with a girlfriend. There’s something wonderful about participating in something with someone that’s been carefully and intentionally planned out. Planning is hard work, and the fact that you put in some serious thought to what the two of you could do together will mean a lot.

5. Gifting multiples 

No, it might not be a gift that is particular to each and every one of your friends, but it will certainly take the stress off of buying many expensive gifts. Instead of buying individual gifts, buy some smaller gifts in bulk and package them together to make a fun combo pack. Baked goods, body care products, chocolates, and other tiny items combined together can make for a sweet and thoughtful gift.

6. Remember this

Above all else, remember that gifts are a nice touch, but they’re not essential and they’re certainly not what Christmas is supposed to be all about. Check your heart, and make sure you’re not buying into the materialism that culture heralds as necessary or trying to people please. You can’t buy love, so make sure you’re not getting stuck in that lie. Gifts can be a nice way to love others, but if you can’t afford it, don’t stress. Get creative, and figure out a way you can spend time together instead, or find a unique way to encourage your loved one. Chances are good that they’ll sincerely appreciate that you took the time to do so!