4 Tips for Holiday Shopping on a College Budget

Girl holding holiday shopping bags

The holiday season is known for cheerful festivities, memorable traditions, and warm togetherness. But it doesn’t come without stress—a familiar friend to college students who are already balancing hectic demands. One tricky part about this time of year is finances, particularly holiday shopping. You want to surprise your family and friends with gifts they’ll adore, but students are on a tight budget.

Between part-time jobs, food, textbooks, and other expenses, it can be difficult to set aside money for gifts. Don’t worry if you can’t afford lavish name-brand items, you can still find meaningful presents. The following tips can seriously decrease the cost of your gift list this holiday season!

1. Visit Craft Stores for Creative DIY Inspiration

Instead of going the normal store-bought route, show your loved ones just how much you appreciate them with something handmade. Creative gifts are personal and unique, and often the most cherished —especially to our parents. They’ll be touched by the time and effort you devoted to making their present. Plus the only financial investment is the cost of materials.

Pro tip: Most DIY retailers offer seasonal markdowns, so make sure to peruse the weekly coupons, popular discount options include; Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, Joann Fabrics and Oriental Trading.

2. Take Advantage of Online Discount Codes

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have passed, but the internet is still buzzing with holiday discounts if you know where to look. Coupon websites and mobile apps track down the most affordable savings from e-commerce platforms, then condenses them into one location, so you don’t have to search for deals on your own.

Digital coupons and promotional code offers can be found on websites like Frugaa, Honey, Swagbucks, and RetailMeNot, many of which are downloadable on your smartphone for quick and convenient access while you’re shopping between classes.

3. Go Thrifting for Unique and Quirky Finds

Thrift shops are trendy with both Millennials and Gen Z because you can stumble on eclectic, high-quality and even designer items at a fraction of the cost. On average, you can save 50-80 percent off retail prices, according to thrift-expert, Carolyn Schneider.

Visit your local thrift shop for your holiday shopping this year, and check out the selection of home décor, books, clothing, jewelry or accessories. Perfect for the person on your list who has a penchant for vintage fashion, funky decorations, or unusual keepsakes.

4. Use and Abuse Your College Discount While Holiday Shopping

(Hint: Don’t forget Student ID)

Many retailers, from small local shops to large national box-stores offer discounts for college students. Some discounts are limited to in-store purchases, but others can be redeemed online depending on certain retail policies.

Use this student discount round-up blog from RetailMeNot as a basic reference point. Also, don’t be afraid to call or ask at the check-out if they offer savings for students!

Ready to cross folks off your list?

No matter how tight your finances seem around this time of year, it’s possible to surprise friends and family members with awesome gifts. With a little creativity and resourcefulness, you can ditch the money-stress and get everyone on your list!