Holiday Shopping on a College Budget

You’re in college, which means you live on a tight budget . . . but you still want to surprise your friends and family members with cool holiday gifts. It’s not an impossible feat, but you’ll need to get creative with your gift ideas. Follow these tips to ensure a happy holiday season full of the joys of thoughtful giving.

Reference a Memory

Some of the most powerful gifts remind the recipient of a cherished memory. If you and your best friend had the time of your lives at Mardi Gras last year, for instance, you could gift a bundle of colorful beads and hand-decorated framed photograph of the two of you in the French Quarter. Think about small, inexpensive objects that will inspire a laugh, a tear, or an exclamation like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe you remembered that!”

Play to the Recipient’s Passions

People love to receive gifts that honor their hobbies and passions — even if those gifts don’t come with a high price tag. Does your sister love fashion? Maybe you can’t afford haute couture but consider giving her a subscription to Vogue magazine. Does your father play golf? Pick up a box of his favorite golf balls.

Take the DIY Approach

You don’t have to look much further than Pinterest to know that people love do-it-yourself projects. Think about ways you can DIY a piece of art or a craft you saw in an expensive catalog. You could also combine this tip with the last one — make something that aligns with the recipient’s hobbies. Is your aunt a foodie? Create a bundle of printable recipe cards just for her.

Shop in Advance

Regardless of an item’s quality or size, you don’t want to overpay. To get the best deal on your gifts, shop before you ever leave the house. Prop your laptop on your dorm-room bed and do your best impression of a private investigator. Compare prices at three or four stores so you know what to expect. If it’s cheaper online, place your order without worrying about your wallet.

Snag a Coupon

Before you start your holiday shopping spree, look for coupons associated with all the stores you intend to visit. Even if it offers just five percent off, your bank account will benefit. If you’re shopping online, look for free-shipping deals. Alternatively, buy most of your gifts from the same outlet so you can take advantage of free-shipping offers for orders that total more than a certain price point.

Get in the Kitchen

Maybe your dorm room doesn’t have an oven and a stove, but if you’re heading home for the holidays, bring your apron. Make your gift-list recipients brownies, cookies, or another sweet treat. Put your frugal college-eating habits to work as you shop for ingredients. Put the edible goodies in disposable, holiday-themed containers to finish off the gifts.

You don’t have to sink yourself in debt to pay for holiday gifts for your friends and family. The people you love understand that you’re living on a college-student budget, so focus on the thought behind the gift instead of the gift itself. And add a handmade card just to take that gift to the next level.

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