A student guide to Christmas shopping

We all know how it is: during this penny-pinching Recession, the festive season is always the worst. Especially for us students. Having scraped through 8th week on the last of our student loan (that is, if we haven’t already had to raid The Parental Bank) the last thing we need is to have to find the cash to buy probably unappreciated presents for the beloved family. Yes, the fully stocked fridge is a perk of going home for Christmas, but after our claims of ‘I’m only going to spend 80 euros all week on Varsity’ proved entirely unrealistic, we think its optimistic that we’ll be able to fund our Christmas socializing, never mind Christmas shopping. But don’t panic, we’re here to help: here are our top tips for Christmas shopping on a shoestring.

An excellent way to save money at Christmas time is to go down the route followed by all primary school children: make it yourself. A handmade present is literally impossible to criticise, whether or not it’s a work of art/useful/eye-wateringly bad. Hand-made pencil organisers or other such almost useful ornaments are a great angle to take. For the full effect why not make a photo frame and fill it with photos from childhood. The sentimentality that this will inspire makes it impossible for any family member to remember that the person who made this is at university, and should actually be able to stretch to a photo frame that hasn’t been made from a cereal box.

In this era of digital music that comes at a pretty low price, that is if you even pay for music, the mixtape is king. A selection of songs that you already own to fit your particular target, the coolest songs on your iPod for the girl you’re trying to impress, a selection of songs from The X Factor for the parents, Steps’ greatest hits for someone who has wronged you in the past, burnt onto a cd that you’ve stolen from the study. To make it look like you’ve really gone the extra mile, print out a cover and tracklisting and stick it onto a case. It’s not even as if making the thing is an issue: there’s no more carefully preparing a cassette. Just drag and drop the playlist from iTunes.

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Charity shops are an excellent way of making your money appear as though it has gone further than it actually has. It’s also good for making yourself look that little bit alternative. Just go to a charity shop and look for what looks the most current/the most retro/the most wearable/the most hideous thing possible. People have different aims when they go to charity shops. And if they don’t like it, you were doing it for the orphans anyway.

One word: regifting. This is probably the best way of ensuring that you don’t have to spend any money, and that the person in question might actually get something they want. With a few minor precautions, this route can be foolproof. Firstly, don’t give the present back to the person who gave it to you. Obvious, yes, but still important. Secondly, check the present for a personal dedication: there is almost no way of talking your way out of it when cousin Jonny gets a book ‘To Nick, Christmas 2009, love Grandpa’. If this works for you this year, then it’s worth making a note of the presents with potential for next year’s regifting. After all, being prepared is half the battle.

This next idea involves some serious considerations, as it could quite easily come across that you’re either too lazy or too cheap to go to the effort of finding an actual present. This, of course, is true, but it’s key that you maintain the illusion of genuinely thinking the person in question would prefer a ‘voucher’ for something rather than a material good. By ‘voucher’, we mean something along the lines of ‘three night’s babysitting’ or ‘I’ll clean your room for a week’.

If worst comes to worst, there’s always theft. We don’t mean for you to take up a life of crime, and start stealing from shops, or strangers for that matter. But we’ve found that if you look hard enough around the house there’ll always be something that has either been forgotten about, or was never wanted in the first place which you can legitimately give to an unsuspecting relative. If said item has lain unused for long enough, it might even be possible to give it back to its original owner. Bold, we know, but worth it for the banter even if it does go wrong.

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A final way of securing a cheap Christmas present is to give something that you already want, making it practically free as a present. This can be done with varying degrees of subtlety: either go for something such as a DVD that you’ve wanted to watch, or just go all out and get your balding father a pair of GHDs. Key to this present idea is making sure you can get some use of the gift, otherwise it may backfire significantly leaving you unable to get your chance to play Call of Duty as it’s never out of your grandparents hands.