How to do your Christmas shopping on a student budget

Emma Seton·17 December 2020·6 min read
How to do your Christmas shopping on a student budget

If you’re a student on a budget, you probably already know that it’s a challenge to make your student loan stretch until the end of the semester – and that’s before you’ve considered Christmas. Perhaps you’ve saved some of your money during lockdown as you’ve been permitted from going on your usual student nights out, but it’s still often difficult to cover Christmas on your student budget. Making your money stretch is a challenge for all students, however at AFS we can offer some tips and tricks to help you make your money last this Christmas.

Manage who you’re going to buy presents for:

The biggest financial strain for students at Christmas is the challenge of buying presents for friends and family. Although you might wish to spoil all your nearest and dearest this year, it’s important to consider who you really need to buy presents for and who you don’t. Perhaps consider offering your friends an alternative to gift giving, like a Christmas games night or a Christmas film night. However, if you really want to get your friends and family a little something, perhaps consider a secret Santa. This is a great way to give gifts while spending less. You can set a budget and you’ll only need to buy a present for one person.

Set a budget:

If you’re buying presents for your friends, family or partner, then consider how much money you can afford to spend on them. Once you’ve worked out this amount, it is a good idea to talk to your loved ones and mutually decide on a budget for one another. Don’t just sink deeper into your overdraft, talk it out and establish where you stand. If you can only afford a small gift this year, then that is okay, you’re a student after all.

Remember Christmas isn’t all about presents:

The spirit of Christmas isn’t all about presents, it’s about spending time with your loved ones and catching up with all the people you haven’t had the chance to see over the semester. It might be a good idea to do extra things for your family members and friends to show your appreciation for them, rather than expressing this through gifts. You could consider cooking a meal to show your gratitude for your loved ones, it doesn’t all have to be about presents.


Making baked goods is often an inexpensive (and enjoyable) way to give gifts to your friends and family. Making a batch of cookies or a Christmas cake is a great way to give presents without breaking the bank.

Go shopping alone:

Often your friends can influence your spending choices and may encourage you to buy more than your budget will allow. Going shopping alone can make sure that you stick to your budget and that you aren’t influenced by others. Although you might be in the festive spirit, try and make sure you stay on budget when doing your shopping.

Consider cutting back on your other luxuries:

If you’re a student who spends time in the library, it’s likely that you’ll be spending money on coffee, food and other comforts to get you through the day. Perhaps consider cutting back in the run up to Christmas. If you cut back on coffee for a week you could save nearly £15, enough for another present. If you usually spend money on travel, consider whether it’s viable for you to cycle or walk into university a couple of times a week.


Think about what’s really important to you, who do you really need to buy something for and where is it best for you to be spending your money? Will your parents just be happy to have you home for the Christmas break, or do you really want to show your appreciation for them through giving them a gift? Think about where you can cut back, and if you’ve got other friends or a partner also in university, perhaps mutually agree not to do presents this year.

Wrap everything up separately:

If you want to create the illusion that you’ve bought more than you really have, then consider wrapping everything up separately. This way there will be lots of little presents under the tree. If you’ve bought someone a pack of 5 pairs of socks, consider wrapping up each pair individually. This is a great way to give people lots of things to open on Christmas morning without having to spend too much.

There are many different ways to save money on Christmas presents, and after all, your friends and family know that all students are often strapped for cash. If the semester is coming to an end this week, and you’re heading out to finish off your shopping, keep some of these tips in mind if you wish to save your valuable pennies.