Holiday gifts on a budget

Image courtesy of Kari Shea on Unsplash

The holidays are upon us – and we all know what that means. We are all going to have such an awful time buying presents for everyone. You never really fully appreciate how many friends and relatives and distant cousins and goldfish you have until you’re socially obligated to put a price tag on every single one of their heads. And for the broke college student, it seems that any price tag above $20 for anyone, regardless of how close one is to that individual, is unacceptable. What can one do in these desperate times? Is there nothing in the world which is cheap but is still seen as a good present? Fear not! This writer has compiled a list of affordable holiday gifts for socially-pressured college students. 

A Handwritten Letter 

This may seem extremely cheesy, but our college life often takes away from the usual interactions we have with the people we love. A heartfelt and thoughtful letter, written on a nice card, can have a profound effect on the person who receives it, more so than a hastily picked present. Furthermore, you can purchase holiday cards that support nonprofit organizations like UNICEF or the National Wildlife Federation – just check the back of the holiday card.

Tea and Coffee Mugs

According to a study conducted by the University of Kansas, 78 percent of college freshmen consume more than the recommended daily intake of caffeine. While it is not a good idea to quaff four cups of coffee back-to-back in an attempt to get through finals, you might at least be able to get your friends to do so in style. Websites like,, and all have a fun assortment of whimsical mugs to cheer up even the most disheartened of college students. There is also a local tea shop called Anne Marie’s Teas that has a good assortment of loose leaf tea and tea drinking accessories. 

Thrifted Winter Attire

The cold season is upon us and we can never have too many scarves, mittens and beanies in preparation for the unforgiving wind, especially up on the Hill. Nearby thrift stores like Hillcrest and Savers often have a large selection of these winter accessories that come in all sorts of styles – eclectic, classy or vintage, to name a few. This gift is not only inexpensive for you and useful for the recipient, but it also creates a good excuse to go thrift store shopping. 

A Gift Card 

Though this gift may seem rather impersonal, this is actually a really good gift option for our friends and family who are crafters and artists. A giftcard to Michaels or Joanne’s is a great gift for your fellow knitter, embroider or painter. It saves you the potential grief and embarrassment that can come from picking the wrong kind of crafting supplies. A gift card to a person’s favorite restaurant or store is a nice way to show that you care about that individual’s preferences while still allowing them to essentially pick their own present. 


Succulents and cacti are all the rage nowadays. Plants can make a good, inexpensive gift that will be sure to promote mental well-being and home decor for the receiver. Succulent species that are good for beginner growers are haworthias, echeverias, jade plants and aloe veras. Some easy plants for beginners apart from succulents and cacti include peace lilies, golden pothos and prayer plants. Be aware that some plants can be toxic to pets before gifting them. 

Skincare Kits

Facemasks, facemasks, facemasks. These wonderful moisturizing masks help people to relax and feel youthful. Skincare, particularly hydrating skincare, can make a great gift in this cold, dry holiday season. Consider investing in brands like Yes-to, Acure and E.L.F., whose products are frequently vegan and cruelty-free. 

A Good Book

In this increasingly technological world, it can be easy to lose sight of the value of a good story. Most of us have a favorite book which we can curl up with under the covers and relax after a long, tiring day. Websites like,, as well as your local thrift store and Half Price Books offer a great selection of high quality books at low prices.

Agatha Echenique

Agatha Echenique is the Chief Editor for The Hilltop Monitor. He is a senior majoring in Oxbridge: History of Ideas and Philosophy. This is his third year on staff.

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