Inexpensive Gift Ideas for Students on a Budget

You can still enjoy the season of giving with these inexpensive gift ideas

The winter holidays are a special time of year. You may be invited to social gatherings and parties. You may have gift-giving traditions with your friends and family. You might have toy drives or canned food drives that you want to contribute to. While all these events are fun to do, they can be hard on the wallet if you are living on a student’s budget. Here is some advice for making your holiday season less expensive—but still festive and meaningful.

1. Plan a white elephant gift exchange
Have you ever heard of a white elephant gift exchange? These are gift exchanges that hardly cost a dime! In a white elephant gift party, everyone brings one wrapped gift. It should not be a new gift—it should be something fun, silly, or sentimental from your home that you are willing to part with. When it’s time to exchange the gifts, everyone should gather in a circle. The first person chooses a present and opens it in front of the group. Next, the second person opens a gift. The second person can either keep the gift or swap it with the first person’s gift. The gift-opening continues this way, with each new person having the option to swap gifts with anyone who went before them. At the end, the person who went first has the option of swapping their gift with anyone. You never know for sure what gift you will keep until the very end!

2. Do Secret Santa with your family
If you are part of a large family, you may have dozens of people to shop for. This can get expensive and stressful for everyone. This year, why not make everyone’s holiday easier by suggesting a Secret Santa exchange? In this kind of exchange, you put everyone’s name in a bucket. Each person chooses one name, and that is the only person for whom they have to buy a gift. When you give your gift, you can keep your identity a secret if you want. This can be fun as people try to guess who their Secret Santa was. Keeping the gift givers’ identities a secret also contributes to the idea of the gifts being from everyone.

3. Try homemade gifts
Homemade gifts are a great alternative to store-bought gifts because they show the recipient that you cared enough to spend time making them a gift. There are many crafting sites where you can find ideas, and probably the most popular is Pinterest. If you are on a budget, be sure to search for low-cost ideas. Budget out how much your materials are going to cost before starting on the project. Some low-cost ideas include:

  • Decorate an inexpensive pictures frame, and include a photo of you with the recipient
  • Make homemade holiday cookies or breads
  • Make chocolate melts in holiday shapes
  • Create a homemade wreath from leftover tree greens
  • Use a mason jar and include pre-measured cookie ingredients
  • If you have children, frame a child’s art project and give it to a grandparent

4. Share time rather than gifts
Sometimes gift-giving of any sort simply isn’t in the budget. If this is your situation, then simply explain this to your friends and relatives, and suggest that you spend time together instead. Making memories together can be more meaningful than a gift. Here are some ideas:

  • Take a drive to see the holiday lights
  • Invite friends over to watch a holiday-related movie
  • Meet friends at a coffee shop to enjoy a hot chocolate
  • Take a walk in the snow, or find a spot where you can have a snowball fight
  • Watch a football game together
  • Share a pot-luck style meal together

5. Help your community
While gifts are a great way to show you are thinking about others, there are other ways to create meaningful memories. Instead of giving gifts this year, try to coordinate a volunteer event involving your friends. The spirit of working together toward a good cause will be something your friends may appreciate. Ideas:

  • Contact a food bank about running a food drive or coat drive
  • Call a soup kitchen to see if a group of friends could volunteer together one morning
  • Get your friends all to contribute one gift to Toys for Tots

We hope these 5 ideas will help you find low-cost and meaningful ways to enjoy the holiday season this year. Happy holidays to you and yours from all of us at the Salter School of Nursing and Allied Health!

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