Features

Christmas on a student budget

Christmas is a time of perfection: perfect decorations, perfect food and perfect company. But perfection costs. Indeed, in these benighted days of corporate capitalism, parting with large wads of cash is almost the only way in which yuletide adequacy may be achieved.

But here at Concrete, we are serious about consumer advice. We want to save you money. So with the limits of the student budget at the forefront of our minds, we present our top tips for pulling off a university Christmas on a shoestring…

Food & drink
It is perfectly possible to cook a turkey breast, and a fairly sizeable one at that, in those crappy little microwave ovens they give you in halls. We managed it in Norfolk Terrace when I was in first year. Granted, it takes a fair amount of time – in fact, you’ll likely want to start a week or so in advance – but surely what matters is that you get there in the end. Just make sure to double check its cooked all the way through.

If you want brussels sprouts, I’m afraid you’ve missed the boat. If they are to be in any way edible by the 25th December, you need to start boiling them in October. They are, however, a cheaper way of filling yourself up than eating more expensive foods such as proteins. So get going on that boiling, and gorge yourself on cheap festive greens.

Mulled wine is a must at Christmas. Aldi does a very nice line in glüwein, which doesn’t cost nearly as much as it could do. Indeed, the amount you stagger back with will probably be limited more by how much you can carry than by its price.

Of course, the centre piece of any self-respecting Christmas dinner is the wine. Now it’s probably best to accept from the off that chateau-neuf-du-pape will be somewhat over the hill price wise. But, again, and if you can stomach the cloying sweetness, Aldi does a range of drinks which, if you blithley ignore your better judgement, might be charitably described as sparkling wine. And if you’re feeling really fancy, you could even draw on your own label in the style of one of the more respected champagne houses.

Decorations
Cut-out snowflakes on the window are simply the best way of adding Christmas cheer to your house or flat. (They are also the perfect way to recycle your avidly read, old issues of Concrete that no doubt litter your room.) Christmas trees, either artifical or real, would be a little on the pricey side, but peer-pressuring your well-off flat mate to bring one from home is a good way of avoiding the inconvenience of paying for one yourself.

Other forms of decoration are, unfortunately, going to be too expensive. But all need not be lost. For the duration of your Christmas dinner, take advantage of the early sunset and learn to love the half light. Just as a night club would look far from its night-time glory when viewed in the hard glare of day, so bargain-bucket decorations may be best appreciated in the gloom. And this would also be a brilliant opportunity to keep those energy bills down.

Presents
Don’t go buying lots of presents, for there is no better way to nose dive into your overdraft than running around the city purchasing gifts for everyone from your parents to your flatmate’s boyfriend. For the conspicuously hard up, Secret Santa is the answer. It’s benefits are twofold. Firstly, you need only buy one piece of Christmas tat, where else you might feel obliged to buy a small arsenal of stocking fillers.

But secondly, the requirement to give gifts of any quality is instantly removed. With secrecy being the name of the game, you can give that person in your flat whom you haven’t spoken to since Freshers’ Week – heaven forfend that you be tasked with buying a present for someone you know – any old piece of toot that you pick up in Wilkinsons. A new set of tea towels, plastic cutlery for parties and picnics, a door stop: anything goes.

Of course, the one person you might have to buy something decent for is your partner, should you have one. Being single myself, this is not something with which I have to concern myself. (It goes without saying that my continued single-ness is purely the result of my financial acuity, and in no way reflects badly on my social skills or standards of personal hygiene.)

My one piece of advice is to make the wrapping really damn impressive. Make sure it’s the most creatively wrapped present you’ve ever given. Bows, ribbons, fancy little tassley things. Let Rowan Atkinson in Love Actually be your guide. Would you like that gift wrapped, sir? Yes – yes you would. Only you have to do it yourself.

Festive spirit
Now Christmas is one of those seasons which it would seem you are ordained from the heavens to partake in. Don’t get me wrong: I love Christmas. But there are certain ways of doing things which can prevent you from dying of tinselitus.

Everyone loves Christmas songs – we learnt this much from Will Ferrell when he told us that the best way to spread cheer is to sing aloud for all to hear. This is charming in theory, but when you’ve heard Last Christmas for the fifth time before you’ve opened the second door on your advent calender, it can seem as though the 26th December couldn’t come sooner. There is only so much Christmas everyone can take. It’s not like Halloween: you can’t ignore it if you close your eyes tightly and count to ten.

Festive spirit isn’t something which is constrained to your student budget, so it is perhaps one of the easiest things to really throw yourself into whilst you busy about on campus. Bring out your Christmas jumpers, festive hats and winter scafs, and warm yourself with a jolly hot chocolate.

What can dampen your festive spirit whilst you wait for the holidays to roll around once more is the stress of the semester: deadlines close in and the lack of sleep begins to catch up with you. The holidays begin in only ten days, but you’d be forgiven for thinking that Christmas hasn’t really started.

But remember: festive cheer and goodwill are part of the True Meaning of Christmas. And they’re absolutely free. So warm those cockles, whack on Love Actually, and sing those carols loud: Christmas comes but once a year, so throw yourself into the jollity and conviviality with all the force you can muster. At least it will stop you thinking about your overdraft.

01/12/2015

About Author

Peter Sheehan Still faffing around after three years at Concrete, Peter is back for a second year as deputy editor. Presumably that means that last year wasn’t a complete disaster, but you never can tell… Peter has pledged to spend this year delegating as much work as possible to his colleagues, thus leaving him free to further his long-standing efforts to become Concrete’s one-man answer to Peter Mandelson and Malcolm Tucker.



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