Oregon State University's student-run lifestyle magazine

Beaver's Digest

Oregon State University's student-run lifestyle magazine

Beaver's Digest

Oregon State University's student-run lifestyle magazine

Beaver's Digest

Latest issue

How to Christmas shop on a budget

Hayden Lohr, OMN Photographer
Various crochet items made by Ryenne Cordeiro on the fourth floor of the Student Experience Center on Nov. 28, 2023.

For those celebrating Christmas, it is once again that time of year to shop for gifts, however, for some for whom money is tight this brings more stress than fun. 

One thing that most, if not all, college students have in common is that money seems to find places that aren’t in our wallets. This often makes it hard for students to give the presents they want to give.

 “I feel like with gifts, there’s some pressure sometimes, like unnecessary, that people might feel, especially if they’re tied on money like people in college,” said Ciera Johnson, third-year accounting major at Oregon State University.

James Stinson, second-year mechanical engineering major, had similar feelings.

 “I mean, obviously I’m in college, you know, I be broke,” Stinson said.

Here are five tips and tricks OSU students have to save money and still participate in jovial holiday festivities.

  • Set a price limit

The most universal tip students had when budgeting for Christmas was to set a price limit on gifts.

“My friends and I kind of just talk about how much we want to spend and we’ll like set like a max amount,” said third-year English and creative writing major, Ka’ena Cordeiro.

Setting a price limit can help take off the stress of making sure you have enough to buy something for everyone on your list.  

A price limit does not however, mean a limit on what you can get for your loved ones.

“I don’t think the gift matters solely about its price, it’s mainly about I would say just the thought behind it,” Stinson said. “You can do a lot of thoughtful gifts for low cost.” 

  • White Elephant gift exchange

The rules of the White Elephant Gift Exchange are simple. Everyone in the group brings a gift that is then placed in the middle of the group.  

One by one, you and your friends choose random gifts and unwrap them. Those who come after you have the chance to steal your gift or choose one for the pile.

When planning an activity like this, be conscious of how many people are involved.

“It was hard because we had to make this big group chat and everyone had to remember to bring their stuff,” Johnson said.

However, this isn’t to dissuade people from choosing to do White Elephant Gift Exchange.

 In Johnson’s experience, “White Elephant’s pretty good because you just set a price limit, and then everyone brings a random thing,” Johnson said. 

  • Secret Santa

Secret Santa is another group activity that works for any number of people. 

After writing your name on a paper and placing it in a bag or hat, people draw out random names that you intend to keep secret.

Something that Johnson and her Secret Santa group did was, on the paper in which people wrote their names, they would also “write a few things that you want, need, and people can choose to follow that or not,” Johnson said.

Once you know who your person is, you become their Secret Santa, leaving you to pick out a gift for that person only.  

This is another activity in which you can decide the price range for each gift.

“We had a price limit I think of like 30 bucks or 20 bucks,” Stinson said.

The fun comes once everyone discovers who their secret Santa is, along with receiving a gift.

“Every time I do Secret Santa, it’s nice because you feel like you’re doing it with all of your friends and you still have that connection with everyone, but you can also just focus on one gift and making sure that’s a meaningful gift,” Cordeiro said.

In Stinson’s Secret Santa, setting a price range led to some pretty funny and unique gifts. 

“This was like a sentimental gift in a way because he cooked me like the best goddamn steak I ever had.” Stinson said, recalling the apron that said “Grill Daddy,” on it that he gave to his friend.

  • DIY gifts

For many college students, the “do it yourself” trend allows for a more creative and inexpensive approach to gift giving.

“When I was younger, I used to make knit hats a lot. I also like to make drawings for people,” Johnson said.

Cordeiro uses DIY to make crochet gifts for her friends. She’s made mushrooms, bags, coasters, and little animals, such as Pikachu.

“The Pikachu, I made for my friend who’s just really into Pokemon so I was like okay I’ll learn how to crochet that,” Cordeiro said.

Stinson also participates in DIY-ing gifts for loved ones.

“I’ve made gifts before like painted miniatures for my brother and my dad, for instance, you know. I mean, that had cost and like materials, but it was cheap overall,” Stinson said.

It is important to note that DIY gifts usually take much longer to make and may be difficult for those who have crowded schedules.

“I like DIY gifts because they’re more personal but it is hard to find the time to make them,” Johnson said. 

If you still wish to DIY gifts with a busy schedule, Johnson recommends using your breaks from studying or homework to work on the gift.

“It helps that if you’re working towards making a creative gift, and that’s also your break, then that sort of gives you time to do homework and have breaks,” Johnson said.

  • Time is just as valuable as a gift

For many, simply hanging out with friends and loved ones is more about the gift of spending time together.

“I know me and my roommates, like this year we’re just gonna have a dinner where we all chip in and just make a big dinner and that’s gonna be our Christmas event,” Cordeiro said.

No matter the approach you choose, there are plenty of ways to celebrate the holidays with loved ones, whether it’s setting a price limit, creating something, or spending time together.

“I think for people I don’t see very often it’s more like a let’s do this together kind of thing,” Johnson said, “That’s always a good option because it tends to be cheaper than like a concrete gift.” 

The holidays are about connecting with those close to you and sharing the love.

“I think it doesn’t matter where the gift comes from,” Stinson said. “I think it just matters about what the intention is with it.” 

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