A Scrooge’s guide to Christmas

Christmas is a time when we are encouraged to spend excessive amounts, but studenthood brings with it the burden of not having that much money to spend.

This festive dissonance leads us to feel we are not embracing the season’s feelings if we don’t spend enough. Or, we do spend enough, and have to live with the stress of going deep into our overdrafts.

Except we don’t – there are many ways to continue to be a cheapskate even in this season of excess.

Beyond Black Friday

The savings are never as much as you think they are – retailers can be very misleading when it comes to offering discounts. Not only are their savings focused on higher-range items like electronics and jewellery, not typical gift items, research suggests that other days provide better savings (like early November for electronics and the week before Black Friday for Christmas decorations). Be intelligent about spending; don’t just pull the trigger because everyone else is.

Enjoy the festive fairs

You don’t have to spend time in the same old soulless retail prisons and labyrinthine department stores to buy gifts – Christmas markets are on the rise. These feature independent sellers and make for a relatively authentic festive experience to boot! Data in 2014 showed that Christmas markets in the UK saw 24 million visitors, all enjoying the festive atmosphere and variety of vintage and handmade goods.

Love locality

Data shows that around 10 percent of Christmas spending doesn’t go towards gifts, or food, but simple travel. This is about £80 per household: enough money to buy presents for several people – or have a full social life for two whole months.

Sometimes spending is unavoidable, especially in this season of family and friendship, but you could stay in Norwich with your university friends, or use price comparison sites to get the best deals on your travel.

Budget Christmas gift ideas…

  • An IOU – the best cop-out gift of all time, simply write on pieces of paper ‘a pint’ or ‘a home-cooked meal’ and distribute them at random. Although you won’t necessarily save much money, you’ll put off spending money until after your student finance comes in (or the recipient forgets).
  • Charity donation – no-one can fault you if, instead of giving someone a box of soaps, you give a goat to a village in their name. Oxfam and similar charities have loads of inexpensive options like this from as little as £5 on their websites.
  • Home-baked goods – cakes, biscuits, and cookies are easy enough to bake. Personalise them with icing to add a personal touch.
  • Other hand-made objects – if you have a crafty hobby then make the most of it this season, be it knitting, sewing, watercolour. The list goes on. Homemade, individual gifts are unique and personal, and they can really make a loved one’s day.

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