8 Cheaper Alternatives for College Students Buying Christmas Gifts on a Budget

By Danni White on December 9, 2017

Shopping during the holidays for all of our family members and friends can be extra stressful and can quickly become super expensive when you’re in college. With only a few weeks left before heading home for the relatively long holiday break, what to purchase for whom and where to purchase it from become the thoughts that form front and center in our minds. We must get gifts for our dorm room and dorm hall friends, our friends who we will see back home, our family members, our significant others, our favorite people who are totally unrelated to anything, and even our pets—and they can’t be cheap.

So, how can you balance getting and giving the best gifts possible with your budget and bank account limits? Here are some alternatives to consider:

Image via Pixabay

1. Paint or draw a professional picture.
If you are artistically talented in painting or drawing, you can think about something that represents a family member or friend and draw or paint that picture for them. Wrap it like you would any other painting or frame it so they can put it on the wall in their house or room. Some people don’t have to do anything or wear anything; they just simply like to look at nice things.

2. Frame something special or important.
Speaking of framing pictures and paintings, you really can frame anything you think is important or special to someone. Picture frames are not just for pictures. For example, you can frame quotes, events or themes that remind you and the person of something that happened or a place you went to. Get some plain stock paper or colorful paper, design the words of a quote or make a collage of things you think are special to the person you intend to give it to.

3. Get creative
Nearly all of us can find an inkling of creative talent to develop something unique and different for the people in their lives if we want to. Perhaps you can sing or play an instrument and/or maybe you can write songs. If so, write a short song, sing it and play the music, and record yourself. Maybe you can write poems. If so, write a poem on special paper and give it to everyone. One Christmas many years ago, I wrote a poem about Christmas, wrote it multiple times on special Christmasy paper, and gave it to all my family members for Christmas. They loved it. Do you like to build things? If so, build a miniature Jesus as a baby manger scene or a lit-up neighborhood or park and give it to your friends and family.

4. Time
The best gifts are not always things that we can hold or see, but the things we can’t. One special gift is time. Consider volunteering during the holidays with a family member or friend. Plan to babysit younger siblings, cousins, or nieces and nephews. Hang out on the back porch with your grandparents. Go with your parents on a walk, hike, or car ride to a part of the city or state they have never seen before.

5. Jewelry
We all know that friend who has costume jewelry for every outfit in her closet. Creating something that you wear to reflect your relationships with friends, family members, or significant others is an amazing idea. You can perhaps get jewelry kits for no more than $10 and add things to it like symbols, words, letters, or colors. Or, you can make your own jewelry from scratch.

6. Experiences
Material things don’t always last forever but experiences and the memory of those experiences do. Perhaps, your family likes to go on evening or afternoon drives. Get everyone in the car or van and drive through the neighborhoods, parks, and nearby cities taking in the Christmas decorations and lights. Maybe your mom likes to window shop. If so, you can offer to go with her, browsing through all the stores and taking pictures of the things she wants to get when it is on sale. Or, maybe a friend wants to go to a specific concert and hear a singer who she has never heard live. If so, buy tickets and surprise her. It is the thought and the experience that counts.

7. Change it up
Let’s say that you and your significant other always tend to go to dinner together. Perhaps, you can try going to breakfast or doing lunch together. Or maybe you two typically go to the movies late at night. This holiday season, try going to the matinee which is not only less crowded but less expensive. If you are always going for coffee, try going for tea. If you always go for car rides, try going for bike rides.

8. Leave out the adults
It might not be the greatest idea, but if you always get every single person something for Christmas, try to make a change to that strategy. Get something only for the kids, ages 18 and under. Everyone over 18 can simply experience the joy of giving to others and seeing the happiness on the faces of the younger ones.

Danni White is a developmental psychology graduate student at Liberty University. She works in the digital publishing, media, and technology industries. After this degree, she will go on to work on a PhD in social psychology in which she hopes to do research on perception and social cognition’s impact on human behavior. She hopes to apply this research in corporate HR departments and community-based organizations. In her otherwise limited spare time, she blogs, writes and reads. She loves coffee, sports, music, cooking, meeting new people, and binge watching Netflix.

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