The Broke College Student's Guide to Giving Holiday Gifts

The holidays can be rough on a broke college student, but there are plenty of low-/no-cost gifts you can give your friends and loved ones to show them how much you care.

The Broke College Student's Guide to Giving Holiday Gifts

You’re a college student, and you don’t have a lot of money to spare. And now that it’s gift-giving season, you might be feeling a bigger pinch on your wallet than usual. After all, how are you supposed to afford next semester’s textbooks (hint: like this!) and nice, thoughtful presents for your five best friends, four younger siblings, three awesome roommates, two loving parents, and your Aunt Partridgina Peartree? (Sorry for the terrible “12 Days of Christmas” joke...)

Of course, it’s the thought that counts, and you don’t really need to give your friends and loved ones presents. But if you're looking for some free/cheap gift ideas, you can show you care this holiday season with some of the items and kind gestures below!

Dinner party

One-pot meals


If you have access to a kitchen and enough space to host people, make your gift to your closest buddies a low-key dinner party. It’s hard to go wrong (or expensive) with pasta for a crowd. Buzzfeed knows what’s up with these one-pan pasta dishes. Or you can all pitch in and make it a potluck holiday party.

Also popular in the food-gift category? Baked treats. Do the right thing: wrap ’em up pretty. Here’s one of our favorite candy cookie recipes. And here are dirt-cheap treat bags.

The Interwebs

Internet collage

Via perezdiego2092

Put your time gallivanting around reddit, tumblr, and the like to good use by curating a collection of the funniest/weirdest/coolest stuff you can find. You can even publish your findings, whether it's a collection of funny GIFs or a YouTube playlist, to a tumblr or Wordpress site. Give it a holiday theme or tailor it to the person. Think about what they person really loves, from sports teams to books to viral dance crazes. You’re sure to find enough fun stuff online to keep them smiling until New Year’s Eve.

Childhood memorabilia

Popsicle-stick frame


This is a good one for Mom and Dad or anyone else with a sentimental side. See if you can dig up a hand-drawn picture or note from your kindergarten-ish days—a list of “reasons why I love my mommy/daddy at Christmastime” would be peeeeerfect. Then find an inexpensive frame and boom. Adorable gift. Bonus points if you get an unfinished frame from a craft store and personalize it with your own artsy paint job. Which brings us to our next idea...

Arts and crafts

Hand-knit scarf


Do you knit or crochet? Cketch or paint? What about just artfully writing your intended gift recipient’s favorite song/movie/book quote on a mug? Whatever your abilities, you can make simple homemade gifts sure to make your friends say “Aww!”


Coupon book


You saw this one coming, didn’t you. We know they’re corny, but they can also be the cute kind of corny—as long as you don’t give “Good for one free hug” coupons and call it a day. Instead, think about some of the more meaningful things you can offer: an afternoon spent hiking, just quality time between you and your BFF. A month of emptying the dishwasher for your roommate. Helping your little brother set up his first blog. An hour-long foot rub for...whomever you’re comfortable enough with to touch their feet. And you can get all crafty with your coupons too, whether it’s using your digital design or glue-and-glitter skills or both! (Or you can just use the template above, found here.)

No one expects you to give cashmere sweaters as a poor college student, so don’t stress about holiday gifts. Instead, just enjoy the season and have fun celebrating the people in your life. Santa would be proud.

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