Christmas shopping tips for skint students

Christmas shopping tips for skint students

How to survive the festive season as a cash-strapped student

The C word can bring a mixture of two emotions – excitement and sheer panic. When you’re a student, the latter dominates. Winter Wonderland, ice skating at Somerset House, wandering through the beautiful botanical gardens of Kew Gardens – ‘tis is the season to be jolly, unless, of course, you’re 32p away from maxing out your overdraft. We’ve all been there.

But, the holiday season doesn’t have to be a total budget-buster. Here, then, are some tips (from one student to another) for those feeling that sheer panic right about now.


Make a list (then check it twice)

This is boring, yes, but crucial for saving money. Try to think of absolutely everybody you might need to possibly buy for, and then do some estimating on how much you’ll need to have. Impulse buying is dangerous and can cost an unnecessary amount of money – jotting down a list will make it a lot easier sticking to a budget.

Decide a budget

Once you’ve booked your train home (the cheapest tickets typically go on sale 12 weeks before) and rent has been paid, it’s time to decide on a budget. Break down how much you want to spend on each person and stick to it. Be realistic – your partner, friends and family know you’re a student, so they probably won’t be expecting anything remotely expensive.

Start shopping early

Depending on when you’re reading this, starting your shopping earlier in the year means you can access more online bargains and avoid the last-minute rush in late December. Make it your aim to try not pay full price for a single one of your gifts this year – TK Maxx is a perfect haven for finding discounted designer gifts and other small gems.


As I’ve gotten older – and further into my overdraft – I’ve discovered something: people really appreciate handmade gifts. From buying cheap frames for personalized photo albums to carefully selected playlists, you’ll find that loved ones will appreciate a more thoughtful present than a random gift card. I go to Bournemouth University, so I’ve decorated a fair number of pebbles from the beach for birthdays. Get creative! It will cost you more in time, but less in cash – and your loved ones will adore it.

Secret Santa

Rather than try and scrounge together enough money to buy a series of mediocre presents none of your friends actually want, suggest secret santa. Agree on a spending limit and you can get some fantastic presents for £5-10. Secret Santa means you only buy for one of them too which is, obviously, glorious.

On your marks, get set, BAKE!

Baking is another affordable and thoughtful gift. You can purchase baking ingredients from Lidl for a ridiculously cheap price and create something delicious. Brownies, cookies, cakes – put your creations in a pretty box with ribbons and you’re guaranteed to impress.


Whether it’s a bath-set sitting untouched in the back of your wardrobe or a candle your mate gave you for secret santa last year – wipe back the dust, re-wrap it, and you have a perfectly good gift to give to somebody. TIP: A friend of mine – who shall not be named – once accidentally gave me nail varnish that I gifted her the year before. Try your best not to do the same.


  •  Charleigh Kirby studies Communication & Media at Bournemouth University, and can be found at your nearby coffee shop immersed in a Margaret Atwood novel.