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Holiday Gift Giving on a Student Budget

Kathryn Katz is a working mom, internet marketer and professional copywriter. Kathryn is a Certified Personal Finance Counselor and works for Consolidated Credit Counseling Services. The non-profit credit counseling agency offers a Holiday Survival Guide to help shoppers navigate through holiday shopping.

The holidays are right around the corner. You’ll be leaving the dorm to visit the family, and as part of the holiday festivities, there will be the traditional gift giving. When you’re struggling to pay tuition and working a part-time job, your budget just doesn’t have a lot of room for holiday gifts. Guess what? You’re not the only one in a financial bind this year. According to the National Retail Federation, 84.2% of Americans are going to be adjusting their holiday spending because of the economy. Many Americans will be making changes to their gift-giving, such as planning to buy more practical gifts (36.0%), buying a joint gift for kids or parents (17.3%), and making more gifts (16.7%).

Practical Gifts

A practical gift doesn’t have to be a lame gift. Before you head to the store to buy a pair of socks or a glitter-soaked sweater, pick up the phone and call your family to find out what they need. Sure, it takes a little bit of the mystery out of the gift giving process, but in the end you’ll be giving them something that they’ll use. Your family will understand that you’re working on a tight budget so they should give you gift ideas that are well within your budget.

Joint Gifts

Why buy a few little gifts when you can get one big gift that the whole family will appreciate. By consolidating your resources, you’re allowing yourself to get a really nice gift. If you don’t have enough money to get what you want, consider calling another family member and asking them to go in halves with you. The more people you get involved with the joint gift, the larger your budget will be. You can get the gift you want rather than a token, cheap holiday gift.

Homemade Gifts

A gift that you’ve taken the time to make yourself will be appreciated by your loved ones. Take a moment, and think about what talents you have. Then craft a gift that will go along with it. Here are some creative homemade gifts:

Make sure to account for the cost, time and supplies needed for your do it yourself projects. Some projects will have a base cost and then as you add more glitter or pizzazz, the costs will go up. For example, a custom photo album from Picaboo that could be used to create your Family Traditions Book starts at $9.99, but the price goes up depending on the style, size of the album and number of pages. Also, make sure you have enough time in your busy schedule to craft these holiday gifts. Starting a needle-point project the day before the holiday celebration probably isn’t a realistic project. In that case, you might want to find a favorite holiday poem, print it on some decorative paper and put it in a simple frame.

If you’re totally broke and unable to spend anything this year, then give the gift of your time. will send a note to your friends and family with the offer to share time, not money this holiday season.

5 responses to “Holiday Gift Giving on a Student Budget”

  1. Tweets that mention Holiday Gift Giving on a Student Budget: Poorer Than You --

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  2. Bobby

    Thanks for your list of great gift ideas for students on a budget. I think the best gift is staying happy during the holidays no matter what. Whether your gift is pricey, or quaint and homemade, a smile and well meant hug is really the most valuable of gestures. These are tough times pretty much for the whole world. A great Christmas attitude would be the most enjoyable and well received present anyone can give this year. However, your ideas are all helpful. Thanks again.

  3. Len Penzo

    Great idea on the joint gifts, Kathryn.

    It’s kind of the same strategy I tell my two kids to use when they go to an arcade and they get those “valuable” prize tickets. They can either both cash in ticket haul separately and get something really cheesy like a Rubick’s Cube key chain or 6 pieces of rock-hard Bazooka bubble gum – OR they can combine their booty and get something a little better, like a whoopie cushion. 😉


    Len Penzo dot Com

  4. Black Coffee: My Favorite Blogs, Money News & Opinions #25

    […] than You… for showing us the secret of holiday gift-giving on a (student) budget.   Obviously this article is for folks who don’t have my dream credit […]

  5. Tom

    Love the gift ideas especially the food ideas. Always a great and thoughtful gift. Thanks

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