The student guide to Christmas shopping

By admin
Category: Practical | Date: Sat 06 Dec, 2008

It’s the start of December – and now is a great time to do some Christmas shopping, before you head home from uni for the holidays (and before you’re into the mayhem of Christmas jobs, hordes of relatives, and insanely busy shopping centres).

When you’re on a student budget, Christmas shopping can be a stressful time. These are a few simple ways to keep organised and keep the costs down.

Gifts for friends at uni

You hopefully have a wide circle of friends at uni. Giving presents to all of them is going to see you well into the red by the start of January – but you don’t want to be miserly.

How about organising a “Secret Santa” exchange of gifts? This is great for big groups of friends, as it means that everyone need only buy and give one present. No more agonising over “will s/he be expecting something from me”…

The way it works is very straightforward, though someone does need to take charge:

  • Ask who wants to participate
  • Agree a spending limit (eg. £5/$10)
  • Put all the names into a hat, and (in secret) pull out pairs at random.
  • Inform each person on the list who they’re buying a gift for.
  • Do not tell people who is buying a gift for them.
  • Gifts should be wrapped, with only the name of the recipient on the wrapping.
  • Get together for some booze and gift-giving, and have fun trying to guess who gave what!

It’s a great way to enjoy the fun spirit of Christmas and gift-sharing, without anyone needing to spend a lot of money.

Gifts for folk back home

As well as uni friends, you’ll probably have a lot of relatives who you want to (or feel obliged to) buy presents for.

If you’re stuck for ideas, one incredibly easy way to come up with gifts is to look in your university’s shop. My college bar at Cambridge sold bottles of wine, port, sherry etc – both much appreciated by my parents! CDs produced by uni music societies, scarves with your university’s crest on, even mugs, can all make nice presents as they’ll remind the recipient of you whenever they use the gift.

Alternatively, try buying something unique to the town (or even the country) in which you’re studying, for people back home. I love buying tins of biscuits from Harrods (a very famous department store in London) as they’re a great talking point for relatives, and make a nice gift for grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. (They’re also surprisingly good value, compared to most of Harrods’ goods!)

Get organised early

One of the things I’ve learnt during my years as a student is that things are much less stressful (and often cheaper) if you’re organised about them. You’re going to have to do Christmas shopping at some point, so why not get it sorted out well in advance? Dashing out on Christmas eve to buy some overpriced tat from the one shop that’s still open won’t help your stress levels or your wallet.

Being organised with wrapping presents is also a good idea: you might think that you have a huge amount of time at home over Christmas, but it’s surprising how quickly the days can get eaten up. As with essays, don’t try to pull an all-nighter just before the deadline: get everything sorted out well in advance, and you’ll have lots of leeway to cope with last minute panics.

Over to you

Some of my favourite sites to buy Christmas prezzies from:

  • / – a recent report by The Guardian newspaper found that almost every product that Amazon sells is cheaper on Amazon than anywhere else. (This is because Amazon has no presence on the high street, so has much lower running costs than other companies.)
  • – free DVD delivery, and some great bargains.
  • – a huge selection of posters and prints, great for hard-to-buy-for friends.

Got a great tip on surviving Christmas on a student budget, or any advice on what to buy for tricky relatives? Let us know in the comments…

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