I am the festive one in my flat. The first of December rolls around and I am ready to jingle my bells (don’t read into that). I’m the kind of person who is tone-deaf, yet insists on giving a full rendition of All I Want For Christmas Is You at any given interval. I will get excited when I see a tree with lights on or a decorated shop window or literally anything remotely Christmassy. I love the month of
Christmas December, but it can pull on my purse-strings a bit. Over the past three years, I’ve worked out how to do it on student budget:
You may only be in your university accommodation for the first part of the month but that doesn’t mean you can’t make the place look snazzy. Poundland, Poundstretcher, Bargain Buys… A.K.A the promised land of cheap decorations. Hang baubles and tree ornaments off door handles, string up battery-operated LED lights with those temporary sticky hooks and wrap tinsel around the bannister. Although it might not be worthy of a John Lewis advert, it’ll still get you feeling festive.
Personally, I love the whole process of Christmas shopping, wrapping presents and giving them to my friends and family. However, most people find it more stressful than anything. Who do you buy for? What should you get? How much should you spend? And as a student, how do you the friends in your flat, on your course and in your various societies fit into your budget?
You can go classic with Secret Santa; names in a hat, set a price limit and then all get together to exchange gift. Even with a £5 limit, you can get them something cute, like Hotel Chocolat’s seasonal chocolates, or you can make it funny and ridiculous. I mean, I bought someone £5 worth of frozen turkey dinosaurs as part of an inside joke (I promise they laughed).
Another option is to work out the money you would spend on gifts and put that towards a night out together. My best girlfriends from home and I book a table at a restaurant or cocktail bar, get dressed up and spend time catching up. We get a fab night out together with food and drinks we wouldn’t normally splash out on, which is so much better than a mug and some fluffy socks.
You could not bother with it but I think cooking Christmas dinner as a group is so much fun. Something always goes wrong. Last year, we put too much cornstarch in the gravy so it was just a thick lump, cooked the vegetables for the same amount of time as the meat which made the broccoli more of a green mush, and we paired it all with tequila. That resulted in one girl throwing up in the gravy pot (it didn’t make much difference to the texture, to be honest). It wasn’t even that expensive – just get a pack of turkey breasts/nut roasts for the veggies, some potatoes, vegetables and a packet of gravy mix. We got everyone to bring their own plate and cutlery but paper plates are always a winner. Divided amongst us, it was about £4 each at the most. All you’ll want is to get some cheap bottles of wine and after a while, it won’t matter what it tastes like anyway.
You might be invited to a more organised meal out or Christmas party, which is when your bank account might start looking a bit empty. Restaurants and bars will increase their drinks prices so be mindful of what you spend. I’m the worst for being generous with my card on a night out: “Let me get this round! Go on, let’s have another one. Might as well, it’s Christmas!” Then I wake up the next morning, wondering why I can now only afford food from the clearance section of Tesco for the rest of term.
Also, in terms of new clothes for parties, don’t bother. No one cares if you’re wearing the same outfit as last year and you’ll not only save yourself money, you’ll also be spared the sweaty horrors of town during Christmas.
What are your plans this Christmas? Hope you’re having a fab start to December!