Andy Williams sings: ‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year’. Whilst at studentbeans.com we wholeheartedly agree, we also believe it’s the most expensive. It may well be the ‘hap-happiest season of all’, but it tends to be the most money sap-sappiest season of all too.
Often, the greatest outgoing cost is that of presents – but we’ve come up with a bountiful solution, to save your pennies but also light up your friends’ and relatives’ faces come Christmas morning. Presents you can knock up or find for less than five pounds.
We’ve tried to cover all bases here – from gifts for grandad to your little cousin, ones to let your creative juices flow and ones which are slightly less effort. But rest assured – most of them will look like you’ve spent more than a fiver on them. Nobody has to know. You know the first rule of studentbeans.com – you do not talk about studentbeans.com (except to everybody else). The second rule? Nandos. With everything.
1) A Massage
Admittedly, probably not one to give to your parents/siblings/friends, but we’re sure your other half will love a cheeky back-rub. Get a couple of candles cheap from eBay, and voila, a romantic night in. P.S. Don’t forget the Barry White.
Cost: free; the optional extras (candles, oils) are generally cheap in supermarkets or discount stores. If you want rose petals, you may have to nick them from next door’s garden.
2) A photo collage
Forget an expensive photo frame – you can use up 50 free Snapfish prints, use ten on each person and create a stunning board of memories for five of your mates. Be creative, decorate them with funny quotes and you’ve got a fantastically personal present. Expect tears.
Cost: negligible for a sheet of plywood, about £1 P&P on the photos, leaving £4 to spend on decoration.
3) A box of treats
Find yourself a nice box, decorate it all nice and deep-like, and fill it with all sorts of goodies. You know what your friends’ and relatives’ vices are – pick a variety of colours of chocolates and sweets and fill it with crepe paper.
If you’re feeling particularly creative or want to add an even more personal touch, make the chocolates/sweets yourself – there are some great ideas on the internet (Lorraine Pascale on the BBC Food website has some great looking lollipops and fudge), and it could really give the present that bit extra.
Cost: Varying, depending on the tastes of the receiver.
4) A Sock Monkey/Make Your Own Penguin Kit
Take a look here for directions. Customise colours, clothes, facial expressions to make something cute, cuddly, and unique. Or alternatively, you could try to make the PG Tips one (in which a nice-looking mug from Wilko’s is a must). Your little brother/sister/cousin will love their new simian friend.
We found a similar thing for a cuddly penguin on the Oxfam site, but a DIY version – so if you have a craft-loving friend (or someone with more time on their hands than you), this is a great pressie too.
Cost: Free, if you own a sock and some thread. The Penguin is £4.99, + P&P.
5) Homemade jam
Now, at this juncture, you may be screaming at us ‘HOME-MADE SWEETS? HOME-MADE JAM? I can’t even boil an egg!’ But even if you have the culinary skills of a four-year-old, we’ve found a great article from the Guardian which details everything perfectly. And everybody loves jam.
One point to note is to make sure you sterilise the jars first. Otherwise our friend Mr Mould, with his friend Mr Food Poisoning, may pay a visit to your unsuspecting recipient.
Cost : dependent upon which flavours you make; but if you produce it in bulk, it becomes really cost-effective.
6) A free day out
This is a great one for the other half. There are so many brilliant things out there which are free to do – Google your local museums, art galleries and councils for their upcoming events, which 9 times out of 10 will let you in for a negligible donation. Take a ‘gourmet’ packed lunch with you, and off you go!
And we know what you’re saying: ‘Art galleries? Museums? They don’t sound like fun…’ – believe us, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.
Cost: Travelling (check out TheTrainLine.com for some great group deals), and a romantic milkshake for two.
7) Second-hand books
Yes it’s nice to open up a nice, crisp new book on Christmas day, but, well, they’re pretty expensive. At the end of the day, it’s the story that’s the most important – right guys? Who cares if that used copy of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is a little bit soiled; it’s the intelligent plot, mastery of language and compelling characters which truly make it a great Christmas present.
Which brings us to…
**8) Fifty Sheds of Grey (
Does your dad tut and sigh every time your mum/sister mentions Christian Grey (whilst swooning, obviously)? We’ve found the perfect tonic – providing he owns a Kindle.
Amazon’s description of the book provides us with this postscript to the blurb: ‘WARNING: This book contains graphic shed-based images. Please don't look if you are easily offended.’
Which, if it hasn’t sold it to you, it’s certainly sold it to us.
There is seemingly always a poster sale going on in the Student Union, so why not make the most of it? You know what your friends and relatives like, from Suicide Bunnies to High School Musical, and you can generally get them for under a fiver, or sometimes even three for a tenner.
Cost : Varies.
We know that nobody makes mixtapes anymore, but you can take the same sentiment for the digital age. Lovingly craft a playlist for your boyfriend or girlfriend, full of songs they love and songs you think they’ll love, and stick on a CD or on Spotify.
If you’re feeling really creative, draw out an album sleeve and track listing (but don’t put all the lyrics in, because that’s just weird).
11) A share in a farmyard
Yes, you read that right. Oxfam offer loads of sponsored gifts, which whilst not only benefitting people who seriously need it to survive, gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling too.
So help somebody in need, and own a ‘share’ in an African farm. You’ve gotta admit, that’s pretty cool.
12) Celebrity Cock-a-doodle
We feel that this gift needs to be looked at to be believed.
Suffice to say, it’s probably not one for gran.
Cost: £3.95 + P&P