How to Do Christmas Gifts on a College Student’s Budget

Christmastime is such a bright and merry season. Depending on where you live, you might be experiencing some snow, and hopefully, no matter where you live, you’re getting to experience the wonder and delight of Christmas lights, holiday parties, the advent season, and the general cheer of the holidays.

As you approach the season of giving, you might find yourself in a bit of a “giving” conundrum. Whether you’re doing a gift exchange with your roommates, thinking about what gifts you might give friends back home, or planning for your massive family gift-giving extravaganza, you might be wondering how you’ll buy anyone anything on your college-student budget. If you’re feeling a bit stressed about the funds it will take to buy gifts for all your loved ones, you’re not alone.

We’ve put together a list of ideas for you so you don’t have to head into the holiday season feeling stressed and overwhelmed about how to afford everything.

1. Consumables

What does that mean? you ask. Consumables are anything that you can…consume! Think homemade cookies, baked goods of all sorts, drink mixes, dip mixes, teas, coffees, chocolates—the list goes on. Consumables are a great gift option for those on a tight budget because they allow you to make your gift, and they allow the gift receiver to enjoy something delectable.

Consider shopping for ingredients at an inexpensive grocery store—particularly if you’re going to make mass quantities of something—such as jars of cookie dough mix or a special snack mix. Think about the containers in which you are gifting these consumables as well. Will you need pie tins? Will you need jars? What about ribbons and tags for the gift? Dollar stores have great deals on all sorts of containers, and you can find some beautiful, unique options at thrift stores too.

2. Shop the deals!

This probably goes without saying, but try to get the very best price you can! On everything! There are some great price comparison extensions out there that you can install into your internet browser, and there are loads of coupon-finding extensions as well. Try to make the most of deals on Black Friday, Small-Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday and stock up on the gifts or goods you need to make your own gifts. Some websites will let you purchase unwanted gift vouchers at less than face value, and you might want to even consider the value of a cashback credit card (as long as you are certain you can use it responsibly).

3. Make the same thing for everyone

Mass producing Christmas gifts might not feel like a special and unique thing to do, but it can really save you a lot of money. Consider a craft, such as making candles for everyone, or make consumables—think your grandmother’s famous chocolate pudding pie—for all your friends. If you’re a writer or a designer, write a poem or design a poster for each of your friends and frame it with a dollar-store frame. The same goes for anything you can make or create—a personalized, handmade gift can be something of great value for those you love. Not only might they keep it forever, but they will know that you spent time and thought on creating such a meaningful present.

4. Buy secondhand

These days, it’s incredibly easy to buy amazing things online using Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. People all over are selling new and used items for heavily discounted prices, and you can find just about anything for a great deal. Don’t forget about bartering online. Most people will be willing to come down at least a little bit on their prices. At the very least, just ask and see what they say!

5. Regift 

This has become a more accepted way to gift items in recent years—especially with the onslaught of minimalism and the push to declutter and pare down on all the “stuff” everyone has. Do you have a pair of candlesticks you never use? Great! Pair those with those inexpensive taper candles you found at the thrift store, and you have a fabulous gift! Be careful not to regift things that are too worn or dirty, but if the item is in good shape and you think the recipient might like it, go for it!