Christmas is a magical time of year – but let’s face it, when you’re skint and on a student budget it can feel as though you’ve been excluded from all the festive fun. And while a mulled wine at your local Christmas market might equal the sum total of what’s left in your bank account before your student loan comes in, SmartPig is about to reveal why throwing yourself into a cheap Christmas might just be the way to go.
Here are our top six tips for doing Christmas this year on a budget:
#1 DIY Christmas cards
Like carols, cards are pretty old school as far as Christmas goes. But if you want to throw yourself fully into the seasonal activities, don’t be put off from sharing the Christmassy love via Christmas cards just because you’re strapped for cash.
Check out Etsy for Christmas card inspiration and then try your hand at making your own. Check out a YouTube tutorial if you want to be walked through the whole process – and if they turn out looking as professional as you on your internship the morning after a night on the razz then so be it. It’s all part of the fun!
#2 DIY Christmas decks
And while we’re at it, why not give your home a Christmas makeover too? Adding a festive touch to your home décor doesn’t have to mean golden candelabra and fancy lights from Zara Home.
Now is the time to get tacky with tinsel. It will look cheap – because it is cheap. And that’s why it makes the perfect Christmas addition to your student flat. If you really want to go all out, why not get your flatmates to pitch in for fairy lights. Buy them at a discount online or in budget-shops like Poundstretcher.
Got an arty mate or two? Rope them into drawing some fun Christmassy designs and whack them all over the walls. Classy interior design can wait until you’re living the post-uni 9-5 lifestyle.
#3 Get home on a budget
Save your precious pennies for the things that really matter this Christmas (like Irish coffees and Baileys) and plan your journey back to your hometown well.
It’s a bit too late to tell you to book your trains early. But if the prices have skyrocketed try looking into other ways to get there. We know it’s not ideal to travel across the country by bus but using cheap coach services can save you some serious cash.
Look into sites such as Bla Bla Car to try and catch a cheap lift or keep your eye on local and student Facebook pages in your unicity. Often if people have bought a train ticket they can’t refund, they’ll offer it for a discounted price. Alternatively, you can use these pages to find someone with a car going in the right direction – just be smart about this and don’t go landing yourself in dangerous situations.
#4 Make your own booze
Christmas bevvy is delicious – but expensive. Spend some time having winter-themed fun and save yourself some money by making your own instead of buying it out in the bars.
Mix up a pot of mulled wine using a pack of spice mix and some cheap red vino and load it into a flask. It’s the perfect addition to take with you to the Christmas markets. Just don’t blame us for the headache the next morning.
#5 Christmas dinner on a budget
Maybe your family have got this one covered. But if you’re rustling up your own Christmas dinner this year – or if you’re doubling up on Christmas meals and doing an early one with your uni pals – you need to get a budget in place.
It can be easy to go overboard once you hit the supermarket and shopping smart will cut the price of this essential Christmassy feast in half.
Use an app like My Supermarket and figure out where you can get the best bang for your buck. Make a list of all the bits and bobs you need to get in and then discover where they can be bought cheapest.
Making a list ahead of time will also make sure that you’re not tempted to freestyle it and money-mad when you get inside the supermarket.
When it comes to getting value for money, buying a whole turkey works out cheapest. But if you’re dining for two or your oven is too small, just opt for some turkey breast instead. But remember, any leftovers can be used to fill you up for a few days after. Hello, Christmas sandwiches.
If you’re smart, you should be able to get your whole meal and trimmings for four people for under a tenner. Even less if you go for a limited veggie mix.
#6 Save money on Christmas gifts
Even if you’re not a BNOC, Christmas could get pretty pricey, pretty fast if you attempt to buy Christmas gifts for all of your uni friends AND family back home.
Instead, organise a Secret Santa amongst your housemates or friendship group. Set the limit at a fiver and try and think of a fun and quirky gift that you can make or buy for under that amount.
Alternatively, you could give gifts that are actions this year. Cook your mum a meal, spend solid time helping out a sibling with revision, give your girlfriend a massage. You could even make tokens of funny gifts, such as ‘IOU a delicious meal’, ‘IOU a street dance’. Make them laugh and they won’t even care that they’re not swimming in new clothes and video games.
And if you’re set on buying something, check online for the best deals and do some shopping around. Remember that something small and thoughtful is better than spending a lot of money on something lavish that you’ve given little thought.
Try the tips above for a very merry Christmas of minimal spending - and if you’re really stuck? Check out a SmartPig loan.