The holiday season can be a challenging and intimidating time of the year for cash-strapped college students. In the season of giving, college students are balancing holiday expenses with the usual. Tuition. Study materials. Food. Textbooks.

Fortunately for college students, the Internet is literally an endless source of creativity when it comes to inexpensive and DIY gifts.

But before you get started, there’s one necessity: budgeting. If you can budget accordingly you won’t have to stress about spending too much during the holidays.

Once you know what your budget is, then you can start shopping around for ideas. When you’re low on funds you can simply compensate with some of the resources you do have available: time and creativity. Here are some frugal holiday gift ideas for college students to get you started.

Prepare a Memorable Holiday Treat

Break out your cookware, no recipe book required. Thanks to Pinterest and some of the other notable recipe websites just a click away, you can easily whip up something that looks pretty impressive given the amount of time and money put into it.

Making a coconut snowman, for example, is just a matter of rolling vanilla ice cream into dried coconut to craft the body, using licorice or chocolate candies for the eyes, buttons and smile, and a top hat made of an Oreo cookie and a roasted marshmallow.

Books of Course!

Used books, even hardbacks and some rare prints, can be very inexpensive care of your local thrift store. It is important, however, to be familiar with the reading interests of the recipient as books can be among the most personal of gifts.  If you haven’t read the book, do a little research and make sure it will be appropriate. A hardback edition with a sincere, thoughtful inscription can make for a unique, sentimental keepsake.

Bonus? You can use vintage books to create other crafts like book shelves.

Get Crafty with Photos

Digital photography is great, but it simply fails to replace the charm of a framed photo print. Many handmade photo crafts such as Instagram wall montages, picture puzzles, coasters, and photo frames can be made with simple and inexpensive materials such as cardboard and colored paper. A photo craft of a family portrait is the perfect (cheap) holiday present for parents.

Pro Tip: is a great resource to find great photo frames or other hand-made gifts at relatively inexpensive prices. Because each Etsy store is individually owned, you can directly communicate with shop owners to discuss timelines for gifts as well as customizing and shipping costs.

A Coupon Book of Promises

College students who have certain valuable skills usually find themselves in high demand during the holidays. Those who know their way around computers, for example, are often tasked to clean and fine-tune the family PC when they are home for the holidays. Skills can be turned into holiday presents by simply writing them down in a colorful coupon book. Students can promise to perform services such as computer repair, oil changes, gutter cleanup, painting, yard work, etc.

What are your tips for getting through Christmas on a budget?

Rose Haywood is an Internet tech blogger, marketing consultant and lifelong student who resides in Atlanta, GA.

December 02, 2013

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