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Articles > Money December, 01, 2016

Surviving Christmas On A Student Budget

Rosy Evans
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8.11 / 10

With lectures and studying taking up the majority of your time, and rent, food and your social life taking up the majority of your money, it may be difficult to work out how you’re going to afford those Christmas presents for your loved ones. 

Despite the grants and loans given, you’re still a little strapped for cash when it comes to gift giving, seeing friends, family and cooking up an amazing Christmas dinner with your house mates. However there are ways to lower expenses!

christmas on student budget

Just because you’re strapped for cash doesn’t mean you need to miss out on the fun of Xmas!

1. Get joint family presents – something that would suit lots of family members. For example, a single present for your Mother and Father, or Grandparents, or Aunts and Uncles. This may help split the cost instead of giving each member individual presents. You can also team up with a sibling and buy present together, this makes your budget less limited and so enables you to buy better presents.

2. Secret Santa with Friends – This is a must with friends, I will never buy individual gifts again! If you don’t know what ‘Secret Santa’ is, it’s where each individual taking part puts their name in a hat, and each person goes round picking out another person’s name – without looking, and that is who you buy a present for. This allowed us to have a decent budget (between £10-£20) to spend on one friend, instead of giving each one a small, less thoughtful present.

If you are buying presents online then there are a lot of ways you can save money that you probably didn’t even know about. Check them out here!

3. Get cheap but good quality food for your uni Christmas dinner – something that is always memorable about Christmas is the food. Christmas dinner, cake, mince pies, shortbread; everything that you would want. But again, being a student, it isn’t exactly easy. However, within most large stores (Tesco, Asda, Aldi) you can buy fresh or frozen vegetables rather cheaply that will still be good quality, whilst having some left over to use for other dinners too. Gravy, if necessary (which I always think it is) is usually sold for under £1.50 at a good to great quality.

Now, for Yorkshire puddings. Tesco sell decent quality packs of 12 for under £2, which could provide for you and other flatmates. Finally, the meat. Meat is usually expensive, and unfortunately if bought too cheaply can be disappointing. I’d suggest to buy a whole chicken as it is far cheaper than Turkey (but still has great taste), however chicken breast fillets would also work fine! Also, Aldi is your best friend. People may be put off by the idea of buying meat here but honestly I’ve tried the chicken and it’s better than any other shop! That also goes for the sweets and snacks, same exact products but different names and half the price.

4. Organise visits – One issue is seeing friends over the winter break. You all come from different corners of the city or even country and transport can be pricey. Make sure you travel outside of peak hours. Also, this may be obvious, but try to arrange a day where you can all meet up, preferably on a week day where it’ll be less busy and each of you may have more time to spare (especially considering some may have part time jobs on the weekends and cannot meet with you then). You can simply buy one drink in a café or pub and spend hours in there instead of paying to do an activity. This will give you all time to catch up about University without really spending any money.

Also, you’ll probably have a lot of Christmas meals to attend which can rack up quite a bit of cash. Make sure when suggestions of where to go are being made you mention some cheap alternatives, and that instead of splitting the bill you all just pay for your own food. Or, even better than that, have everyone round your house for a night-in where you can buy a cheap takeaway or bring your own food.

Got any tips for surviving Christmas on a student budget? Comment below!

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  1. Erin

    Great ideas! I think Tesco are great, as I managed to live off of £2000 for a placement year because of them. Use freezers as much as you can. Frozen fruit and veg are great, and you can even portion bread in freezer bags. – really good for Summer puddings. Back to Christmas , my housemate and I invited people arounf last year and asked them to provide their own beverages, and they also brought presents – very handy for pudding. Baking ginger bread houses and finding reduced cheeses works well, but if that’s too much, there are never objections to ice cream and chocolate sauce (melted dark chocolate, cream and peanut butter- as long as there are n allergies). To top it off – add honey roasted nuts. Merry Christmas!

  2. francesca

    this article is extremely helpful when wondering what to do for Christmas, it also awakens the inner Christmas spirit in people and makes them look forward to the 25th of december . Xxx

  3. Jija Orka-Gyoh

    A good chistmas dinner I make is filled with banana and egg pancakes which I top with toppings of my own choice such as cheese and tomatoes, honey and blueberries and you get the picture

  4. ayoub

    this article is extremely helpful when wondering what to do for Christmas

  5. Bi chan

    great ideas I quite like the one that secret Santa with friends, thanks

  6. Anon

    well dude, a common dinner with friends is always the best moment. me and my teammates always organize in this way, saving money and spinning the fun!

  7. Dina Abdalla

    It’s a well written article and helpful as well. The ideas of saving money during Christmas are very good and they can be applied even through the year. Crafts is a really fun and nice activity that you can join with your family and friends.

  8. mohammed mansor

    that’s very good

  9. Charlotte Watt

    I think this a very helpful article. Great ideas of how to save money and still get amazing gifts for the people who mean the most.

  10. pradyumn birla

    I think its great

  11. Ale

    Good article 😀

  12. sdsdsd

    I think this is a good idea to help people

  13. huraira

    I think…The festive season can be a very busy and expensive time of year, especially when you’ve just made a whole new group of friends at university and want to celebrate with everyone. However, you don’t want to find yourself out of pocket in January as reality sets back in.

    To keep make sure this remains a time of pleasure (rather than stress) and to save your bank balance, here are seven top tips to help you survive Christmas on a student budget:

    1. Organize a Secret Santa exchange Secret Santa
    Reduce the pressure by organizing a Secret Santa exchange for your different friendship groups. You can quickly do this by inviting everyone to participate online using a free Secret Santa Generator. Once you’ve got your groups organized, you’ll only need to plan and afford a handful of presents, rather than 20+!

    What presents are good for Secret Santa? Set a limited budget and choose small, personal items that can easily be transported by friends who are travelling home for the holidays. If buying gifts for friends you live with, it might be a nice memento to give personalized gifts (such as mugs or phone cases), featuring the name of your student halls or other little clues… just try not to give the secret away completely!

    2. Make use of student discounts Student discount
    As a student, you have an extra way to survive Christmas without breaking the bank – make the most of student discounts. Use your student ID to pick up discounted gifts for your friends and family, with many popular stores offering 10% or other deals.

    Use this as a chance to really plan your budget by putting together a list of where you can student discounts, and then match them to who the person you know would love a present from there. As you usually get 10-20% off, the savings are pretty easy to work out and will definitely add up. As ever though, remember not to get too carried away by the deals – you still need to keep track of your spending

    3. Steer clear of expensive shops Christmas shop display
    Once you’ve prioritized your gift list and know your budget, keep yourself on track and avoid temptation. Window displays are designed to entice you in, so try to steer clear altogether. If you do have some extra cash, it’s best to wait until the Boxing Day or New Year sales to grab yourself a treat. And always check high street prices against those online to make sure you get the best price.

    4. Save money when eating out Christmas meal
    It’s likely you’ll be invited out A LOT over Christmas for themed turkey dinners. Before anyone gets planning, jump in with restaurant suggestions where you can get a big group discount; try sites such as Groupon as a starting point. Then, when you’re out, see if you can split a starter with a friend and don’t forget the mark-up on drinks so you’re not shocked by the final tally. With this in mind, also agree beforehand how you’re going to split the bill.

    Importantly, be honest with yourself. If you’re being invited out for the fourth time and you know your budget can’t stretch that far, politely decline or invite everyone back to yours as an alternative. Everyone can bring a different food item and you’ll all save some cash.

    5. Design your own festive jumper Christmas jumper
    A new necessity, there’s a pressure to get a new Christmas jumper every year and if you want one that actually looks good, it’s gonna cost you. If you’ve already scoured the charity shops with no success, consider going DIY. Buy a cheap, brightly colored jumper from a budget high street store and customize it with fabric pens, sequins and anything else you can get hold of.

    Added bonus: you won’t be afraid of anyone turning up in the same outfit! If you find you’re actually quite skilled at this, consider giving some as handmade presents as well.

    6. Limit your Christmas travel plans Relaxing by the fire
    Christmas tends to be the most expensive time of year to travel, so if you need to take flights at this time – do make sure you book well in advance. If travelling by train, remember that travelling outside of peak hours will save you money – and also mean avoiding the worst of the crowds. Trains over Christmas suffer frequent delays caused by engineering works, and there’s usually a reduced service. In short, cut down on travel as much as you can, stick your favorite Christmas film or album on, and hunker down to relax by the fire… And if you don’t have a real fire to hand, there are plenty of YouTube fireplace videos as the next best thing.

    7. Don’t panic Don’t panic
    Importantly, Christmas is a time for family, friends and food, so don’t get too stressed over your finances. As long as you keep yourself a bit sensible, you won’t have to miss out on the festivities or find yourself panicking.

    However and wherever you enjoy the festive season, allow yourself guilt-free time off from your studies and take a little break from revision.

  14. Marina

    Make something on your own. There are billions of decoration ideas on YouTube for less than £5. That also goes for presents and dinner. All we need is a bit of creativity!

  15. Sumaiya Lawati

    great ideas!

  16. Alison Hulme

    I think christmas crafts are a fun activity and a great way to save money on decorations. Its a nice flat activity like making paper snowflakes and stockings and make the flat look lovely!

  17. michele vezzosi

    well guys, a common dinner with friends is always the best shot! me and my teammates always organize in this way, saving a lot of money and spinning the fun!