Managing Finances

5 Budget-Saving Gift Ideas for College Students

Being a college student on a budget is challenging enough, but at holiday time, the added expenses of traveling home, parties and dinners out, and gift shopping is enough to break the bank. As parents of college students, let your student know that you’re not expecting big gifts, and a heartfelt card or quality time is all you want.

You can further help your student save some cash and still let her roommates and friends know she cares with the following budget-saving present ideas:

Secret Santa

If your student has a large group of friends, either at college or from high school, suggest that they draw names for gift-giving. They can have a party to celebrate together, but each person will only buy for one other person. They can decide to have gifts be gag gifts, something they already own, or with a limit to how much money they can spend.

Cyber Sales

With finals looming, students have very little time to shop. Taking a quick study break to peruse or check her inbox for good deals from or, your student can save time and potentially lots of money. Some sites have a minimum requirement for money spent in order to get free shipping, so remind her to order everything she plans on buying at once.

Get Crafty

Encourage your student to make gifts instead of buy them. There are plenty of simple, quick gift ideas on sites like to inspire your student. For example, your student could buy fabric on clearance and cover shoebox lids to create wall hangings for a dorm room or apartment. Or she could print off favorite Facebook pictures, wall posts and tweets to make a “best of 2011” book that captures memories.


Sometimes the best gifts aren’t tangible. Brainstorm with your student on talents she has that could benefit others. For example, she can give away two hours of organizing time if she’s good at keeping things tidy and has a friend whose room is always a mess. Or she can give a friend a coupon good for a home-cooked meal, if she has access to a kitchen and likes to cook.


One person’s trash can be another one’s Christmas gift. There may be something your student already owns that she doesn’t need or like and someone else would. Just warn your student to be careful to re-gift something that the recipient would actual want; it can be hard to shake a bad reputation as a re-gifter.

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