Holiday Gifts on a Budget

Every year department stores fill up with masses eager to find the perfect presents for friends and family. But for college students, the task of finding great holiday gifts is often harder.

With tuition, bills, and the season’s travel expenses, most college students can’t afford that sterling silver Tiffany bracelet Mom has her heart set on, or that new video iPod for Dad.

So what does a college student on a limited budget do to get gifts that friends and family will love for the holidays? Because money is tight, it does not mean all hope is lost. You won’t necessarily have to revert back to the days of construction paper greeting cards to make ends meet.

One option often overlooked by shoppers is online bargain shopping. Sites like eBay and Overstock.com offer jewelry, brand name electronics, and designer clothes and accessories for substantially less than retail. You can also find one-of-a-kind items that you may not be able to locate in stores.

You can also search these sites for cheap accessories that compliment things you loved ones already possess. If your big sister has an iPod nano, look online and get her a fun metallic or leather carrying case (99 cents to $7.99 on eBay). If your mother has lots of jewelry, find her a nice silver or wooden jewelry box where she can store her treasures.

If you’re working with even less, homemade gifts are affordable option. Don’t think of the macaroni portraits or paper mache creations of childhood; there are many sophisticated treasures you can make with your own hands that loved ones will truly appreciate.

For the women in your life, try a holiday gift basket. Gather an assortment of scented candles, bath salts and soaps, blushes and eye shadows, and other personal pampering items. You can get these very cheaply in sale bins at Bath and Body Works, The Body Shop, or even some dollar and drug stores. Arrange your items in a creative, attractive way in a wicker basket and wrap it all up in colorful mesh fabric or clear wrapping, all of which can be found at a craft store for just a few dollars. Tie it all up with a ribbon and you have a personalized, affordable gift.

For male family members or friends, fill the basket with nice razor sets from Schick or Gillette, Axe or Tag body spray, more neutral scented candles (think vanilla, nothing fruity), and any other small personal accents you can think of. All of these items can be easily found at Wal-Mart, Target, and drugstores. Try to avoid wrapping the baskets in bright pastels for men; stick to whites, clears, or holiday wrapping.

If cooking is your forte, bake some holiday pastries. Make fudge brownies, holiday cookies, or cupcakes for those on your gift list. Use your own recipe from scratch, or if you’re not a master cook, get some mix from the grocery store and follow the directions on the packaging. Get some colorful or holiday themed plates from Chinet. They’re disposable, but more durable and attractive than average paper and plastic plates. Chinet plates are sold at Wal-Mart and Target, or any other grocery store. Wrap the treats up in colorful clear cellophane or holiday themed plastic wrap.

Whether you look for bargains or make gifts yourself, be creative and original. Make gifts personal for the receiver, and pay attention to the wrapping; presentation alone can make the gift look even more special or expensive.

For more affordable holiday gift ideas, visit essortment.com and betterbudgeting.com.