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Cheap Christmas Gift Ideas: Shopping on a Student Budget

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If you’re a student, you live on a tight budget. Translation? You’re usually broke! The good news is that your parents, siblings, and other family members are well aware of this fact and many have even “been there, done that” themselves. As such, they aren’t expecting diamond jewelry or Rolex watches for the holidays this year. Friends are most likely in the same boat and understand your lack of funds.

If you’re in school and shopping on a student budget, it’s still possible to get a little something for the loved ones in your life without breaking the bank or breaking out your credit cards. We’ve compiled some cheap Christmas gift ideas that will still be appreciated this holiday season. After all, it’s the thought that counts!

Have Fun and Make DIY Gifts

No one says you must be able to knit, sew, or paint to churn out impressive homemade gifts. There’s actually no need to super crafty to make your own holiday presents. A few easy do-it-yourself gift ideas:

  • Goody Bags. Put candies into clear cellophane bags, tie with ribbons, and add a cute gift tag. Don’t want to give candy? Try miniature soaps, travel size toiletries, or other small items that people love and will fit into small bags.
  • Hollow Book.Buy a few old books at a thrift store (or take a few textbooks that you know you’ll never use again) and use an X-Acto knife to carefully cut a hollow space in the center of the book for an instant secret storage space. Who wouldn’t love having their own hollow book?
  • Photo Collage.Get some of your favorite photos printed out, buy some construction paper, and make “Memory Collages” with the pictures, scissors, glue, and some stickers or small embellishments. If your budget allows, frame your creations, but this is not necessary. The recipients will love the memories that your photos bring back, and your creativity with show them how much you appreciate them.

For other ideas, hit up Pinterest or drop by a crafts store for inspiration.

Release Your Inner Baker

Warm the hearts of your family and friends by baking a few batches of cookies, brownies, or other goodies. Not Martha Stewart? Don’t stress—refrigerated pre-made cookie dough and boxed brownie mixes taste great and no one (well, except maybe Martha herself) will be the wiser. Divvy up the goods into individual bags or boxes, add bows or ribbon and a gift tag. If you’re incredibly short on time or don’t have your own kitchen, head to the grocery store and pick up a few dozen cookies from the bakery or use packaged cookies like holiday Oreos instead.

Thrifty Gift Cards

Everyone loves gift cards, no matter what the dollar amount is! You could purchase one person a $50 gift card, but ten $5 gift cards will go much further on your list. This is a great cheap gift idea for your friends, roommates, professors, or anyone else that you want to give a little something without spending a fortune.

Cards for drugstores, bookstores, gas stations, fast food restaurants, and coffee shops are great choices that will definitely be appreciated by the recipients. These little tokens of appreciation will help reduce the total cost of items people would most likely be purchasing anyway.

Check out Discount Stores

Dollar stores and outlet stores are both great places to find presents for children, such as younger siblings and cousins. You can also score some great necessities to make goody bags or gift baskets for your friends, such as hair ties, makeup bags, toothbrushes, and other small items that don’t have to be name-brand specific. It might seem a little corny—and hey, it probably is—but most people love dollar stores whether they’ll admit to it or not!

Suggest Secret Santa

Have a huge family or a lot of friends? Suggest taking the Secret Santa route. Get the group together, write everyone’s name on a small slip of paper, put the folded papers in a hat, and have everyone draw a name. This will help everyone involved save money while making sure everyone receives at least one gift. If you do Secret Santa with both family and friends, you’ll only have to purchase two presents.

Donate Your Time

One final idea is to volunteer your time. This gift option is especially helpful for older relatives such as grandparents, but anyone can benefit. Whether you so some light housework, go grocery shopping, or just watch a movie together, the gift of your uninterrupted time will be appreciated. Just be sure to keep your phone tucked away—no texting!

Read More:

How To Thrift: Shopping on a College Student Budget

Father’s Day Gift Ideas for the Budget-Minded College Student

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Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.


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Vicky almost 5 years ago Vicky


Great ideas!Especially $5 gift cards!!!