Holiday Gift Ideas on a College Student's Budget

Presents for the holidays don't have to be expensive; here are some options to consider.

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While it may be nice to be home for the holidays, it can also be challenging to figure out how to afford gifts for all your friends and loved ones. Unfortunately, the holidays come at a time when many college students' bank accounts are at or near empty because of the expenses of the fall semester.

And even though everyone knows that college students don't have a lot of money, your parents, siblings, and even friends may not view that as an excuse for not at least getting something for them for the holidays. So just what is a financially responsible, but also broke, college student to do?

[See photos of 10 gifts that are perfect for parents.]

1. Get creative: You undoubtedly have some kind of talent that you can use for holiday gifts. You may write poetry; you may sketch; you may be talented when it comes to pottery; you may be an amazing songwriter. No matter what you do creatively, your friends and family will undoubtedly love some kind of gift that showcases your creative talent. And the best part? Creative gifts cost little, if any, money, but are often some of the most cherished presents you can give.

2. Make things yourself: All right, so getting your mom a cashmere scarf sounded like a great idea until you saw how much they were in the department store. But if you know how to knit, you can make a personalized, cute scarf for your mom—maybe even with a matching hat!—for a fraction of the price. Similarly, if you're skilled in other ways—making crafts, baking, taking pictures, for some examples—see what you can create on your own that still makes a huge impact without a huge price tag.

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3. Give an experience: Perhaps, back in high school, you and your dad loved going for hikes. For the holidays, then, you can offer to go for a long hike with just you and your dad as your gift. It won't cost you anything and your father will undoubtedly appreciate the time together. Or perhaps your mom has never been to a poetry slam but you strongly suspect she'd absolutely love it. Offer to take her and give the gift of a great experience instead of, say, another bottle of perfume.

4. Remember that small is OK: Your gifts don't have to be large and expensive to be meaningful and memorable. Most people (especially your parents) know that money is tight for you and that the thought behind your gift is more important than its price tag. Consequently, don't put too much pressure on yourself when it comes to holiday gift giving—and definitely don't make poor financial choices, like putting gifts on your student credit card, that will end up haunting you later. Spend some time digging around the mall to find a really great necklace for your mom that only costs $10. Make your dad a CD from iTunes that introduces him to some new artists you think he might like. In essence, remember that it's not the size of the gift but the thought behind it that counts. Go big with a heartfelt gift and easy on your budget!

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Do you have creative gift ideas that don't cost too much money? Did you receive a gift from a college student that didn't cost much but meant the world to you? Share your experience with other readers in the comments below!

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holidays
personal finance
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