Hands of three diverse women holding festive hot chocolate mugs at pajama party

How Students Can Give the Gift of Experiences This Holiday Season

Not enough money to buy everyone you love a present this holiday season? Make memories and save money with these fun and festive ideas for students!

Is your student budget getting you down this gift-giving season? Worry not! Just because you’re low on funds doesn’t mean meaningful gifts are out of the question. After all, nothing says “I care about you” quite as well as making memories with someone. That’s why this year, it's time to switch your gift-giving mindset from materialistic to heartfelt. Here’s how to curate holiday experiences for the people you love to show them how much you care while also taking it easy on your wallet.

DIY “gingerbread” houses

My siblings and I grew up decorating gingerbread houses at Christmastime. Even now, it’s a tradition we look forward to every year (though I do most of the work while they eat the candy). If you’re in the market to share a cute memory with someone this holiday season, look no further than making DIY “gingerbread” houses together. All you’ll need is a box of graham crackers, some frosting (no hate if it’s out of a can), and your favorite candies. Then let the competition begin! Assemble your houses using the crackers as walls and the frosting as a binder, then decorate to your heart’s content!

Related: Sweet and Easy Holiday Gifts You Can Make in Your Dorm Room

Knitting festive scarves

Though it may be a tad old-fashioned, knitting is an indispensable skill to have during the holidays. I picked up knitting a few years ago and since then, you can bet I’ve gifted my fair share of handmade beanies, blankets, and bags. But what’s even more fun than knitting a gift for someone this holiday season? Meeting up with a friend to lounge on the couch, watch Christmas movies, and knit festive scarves for each other! Yarn and knitting needles can be found at virtually any craft store, but arguably the most cost-effective option is Walmart. If you’ve never knitted before, don’t fret: this tutorial breaks it all down for you so you’ll be knitting like a pro in no time.

Hot chocolate and lights

This happens to be the simplest idea to execute on the list—and who doesn’t love driving around to look at Christmas lights? Grab some hot chocolate packets from the store and stir up a warm, cozy drink before hopping in the car to go light-seeing with a loved one. (Extra points if you wear fuzzy holiday jammies during the drive!) To level up the experience, do some research on neighborhoods near you that perform synchronized light shows with music, like the 28-house extravaganza in Bainbridge, California.

Related: Crafting Your Own Caffeinated Beverages in 5 Easy Steps

Making ugly Christmas sweaters

Do you have a creative bestie who’s always up for a festive craft? If so, this is a perfect gift for them! Step one: Head over to your local thrift store and find a sweater for each of you. (Don’t worry too much about appearance—you’ll be covering most of it up anyway.) Next, take a trip to Dollar Tree (or a similar store) and choose your supplies: glitter, pipe cleaners, pom poms, bells, ornaments, and anything obnoxiously flashy. Once you’ve collected everything you need, it's time to assemble your ugly Christmas sweaters! For even more laughs, show off your creations in public and ask strangers to vote for who made the best (or worst) one.

Cookie decorating competition

If you have a bigger group of friends, a cookie decorating competition could be just the thing for you! Not much of a baker? No problem. A quick trip to your local Target can get you a pre-made set of gingerbread men cookies and a convenient pack of cookie icing from their signature brand, Favorite Day. With the components and contestants assembled, set a timer, choose a theme (if you like), then race to decorate the most fabulous gingerbread man. When the timer is up, choose a neutral third party to act as the judge. This can go on for as many rounds as you like—or until you run out of cookies.

Related: What Holiday Treat Should You Stress–Bake and Eat?

The holidays don’t have to burn a dent into your wallet. With these five experience-based gift ideas, you can show your loved ones how much you care for them through memory making rather than gift buying. But remember, this list is just the beginning! For a truly heartfelt experience, take time to think about what you love about that special someone and come up with your own gift idea based on your combined interests. With that, I wish you happy holidays!

Find more fun things to eat, watch, gift, and do this season with our “Christmas” hashtag.

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About Hailey Myers

Hailey Myers is a homeschooled high school student from California. She's been drawn to literature and creative activities from a young age and is ecstatic to share what she knows with fellow students. 


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