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1st December 2023

Budget-friendly Christmas present ideas

With the ongoing cost of living crisis putting strain on students, here are some budget-friendly gift ideas so you can enjoy the holiday season
Budget-friendly Christmas present ideas
Credit: Chad Madden @ Unsplash

For some, Christmas present shopping can be the most stressful time of the year. Personally, I love shopping for gifts, but as a uni student with a budget, it can be difficult to find thoughtful presents for everyone. Here is my compendium for gift ideas organised in categories as well as general suggestions and advice.

For the Cool Girl…

We’re all friends with at least one Cool Girl – up to date with the trends, always dressed to impress, and a brilliant friend who you want to treat to a nice gift. You can’t go wrong with jewellery, whether that’s earrings, necklaces, bracelets, or rings. Check out charity shops for cheap vintage or second-hand unique pieces, or take a visit to Lovisa, which has plenty of budget-friendly choices.

Similarly, claw clips make the perfect gift for the Cool Girl. There are hundreds to choose from at New Look, Urban Outfitters, and Oliver Bonas. They typically range from £5 to £20 making them a great item for every budget. For something a bit different try a deck of cards – something about playing cards just screams Cool Girl to me! You can get classic ones for under a fiver or all kinds of beautifully designed ones at Etsy for slightly more.

Another gift idea is a nice key ring which is perfect for uni students as it might prevent your housemate from losing their keys or picking up yours by mistake! Amazon has tonnes of customisable ones, but loads of high street shops sell quirky ones too. Last but not least, nail polish is, in my opinion, the perfect budget buy for the Cool Girl. You can get some for under £5, but most are less than £10, so they’re a great option for your Secret Santa gift.

For the homebody in your life…

If your best friend is someone who loves movie nights and hosting dinner parties or would just much rather stay in or go to the pub than tackle 256 on a Wednesday night, then hopefully they’ll love these gift ideas.

Firstly, I’d suggest a candle. Whilst some are seemingly way overpriced, you can get plenty of budget-friendly ones that are scented, decorative, or in a set. You could also try making your own! As with everything, TikTok has hundreds of videos on this with people making them from thrifted bowls and jars or even handmade clay pots.

Next up are slippers or fluffy socks. Primark has plenty of both that are under £10 or £5, respectively. They’re cheap and cheerful and perfect for the holiday season. You could also get them a cool mug for those never-ending cups of coffee. Typo has some costing between £6 and £12 with a range of designs making them suitable for pretty much anyone.

Following on from that, you could also buy them some hot chocolate or fruit tea. Supermarkets stock loads of different flavoured teas but you could also get them a hot chocolate spoon like this which costs less than a fiver, or if you’re looking to spend a bit more, you could get them these hot chocolate sachets from Hotel Chocolat. Finally, you can head to your local charity shop to see what unique home accessories or ornaments they have for your friend to use at their next dinner party.

For the dad that’s impossible to buy for…

Dads are undoubtedly the hardest family members to buy for, but fear not. Here are some ideas to make it a little bit easier! Socks are a tried and tested favourite – you can buy a big pack of thermal ones, some joke ones or stick to the classics. Whichever route you choose, you can’t go too wrong with socks.

If your dad loves flexing his general knowledge at pub quizzes or family gatherings, then you could get him a book on a topic he loves or a quiz book. Similarly, you could always go for a new board game or card game to add to the collection! Most card games are usually under £15 but don’t forget to check out second-hand games on Amazon or charity shops.

There are also some budget-friendly Lego sets that would keep your dad occupied for a while at least. Last on the list is a pint glass. Whether your dad prefers a tankard, a branded one, or a novelty one, there are so many to choose from.

For your mum who insists she doesn’t want anything…

Even if your mum is adamant you don’t have to buy her a present, we all know how happy it would make her to receive a little something – especially since she’d love anything you get her. If you’re someone who loves being creative, then I have a few suggestions for you.

Firstly, you could crochet, knit or embroider a present. TikTok and YouTube have thousands of ideas and you can buy patterns for quite cheap off Etsy. Likewise, handmade or hand-painted pottery is a thoughtful gift that you can customise entirely. Not only are they usually cheap to make, but it’s also a great activity to do with a friend. You could also make her a bookmark or buy a nice one from Blackwells, Waterstones, or Etsy.

If your mum is into her skincare, look into buying her something small but useful like reusable cotton pads. Finally, jigsaw puzzles are a fun and practical gift that you can do together over the Christmas holidays.

For your sister who’s very particular about what she likes…

Siblings are also extremely tricky to buy for, and whilst your sister would probably like any of the Cool Girl gifts, here are a few more ideas just in case!

First up is a Jane Birkin-inspired bag charm. These are trending all over TikTok and Pinterest at the moment, so chances are your sister already has her eye on them. You can make one yourself quite easily so pop to your nearest craft store or haberdashery for supplies.

If your sister has a film camera, then she’d probably enjoy new film for it. Urban Outfitters sells plenty of different ones for Polaroid cameras, but don’t forget to check Amazon for a cheaper alternative.

Next is lip gloss. If you’re overwhelmed and have no idea where to start, I’d recommend looking into brands like Maybelline or e.l.f.’s lip stains and oils. Another option is a phone case or charm. Typo and Urban Outfitters have tonnes of cool ones, but just be sure to buy one for the right phone! Lastly, make her a playlist. It’s a free yet thoughtful gift that you can enjoy together when you’re getting ready for Christmas lunch or driving home from uni.

For anyone…

  • 2024 calendar or diary
  • Christmas ornament
  • Chocolate
  • Voucher for a café or restaurant
  • Water bottle
  • Trinket dish
  • Picture frame
  • Wall art
  • Trainer socks
  • Hair ribbons
  • Hat, scarf or gloves

Finally, here’s my top advice for buying budget-friendly Christmas gifts. Check second-hand and charity shops regularly because you never know what you might find. Likewise, Afflecks is the perfect place for unique and fun pieces if you’re stuck for present ideas. Keep a lookout for sales like the upcoming Black Friday deals and gift sets, which are usually better value.

And don’t discount homemade presents even if you’re not that creative because there are so many tutorials and guides online. There’s no need to overthink it – your friends and family will love whatever you buy them.

Imogen Mingos

Imogen Mingos

Head Fashion & Beauty Editor 2023-24 | Winner of Best Newcomer (The Mancunion) at SU Awards 2023 | Written for 10 sections so far spanning culture and current affairs

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