Christmas on a budget

This year has been tough on everyone’s pockets and many of us are worried about the cost of this Christmas this year. Having less to spend doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time though.

Here are some top tips and advice from our students on how you can have a brilliant Christmas on a budget.

Remember, if you’re struggling with your finances, you can learn more about the support available plus ways to save and manage your money on our Cost of Living Support intranet page.

Make a list and budget

Santa isn’t the only one who likes to make a list at Christmas. Making a list of what you need to spend your money on can really help you decide what’s important and what’s nice to have. This will also help you to budget and shop around. Before you start spending, make sure you factor in any bills or pending transactions, so you know how much money you have to work with.

Shop second-hand

You may choose not to do presents this year and that’s okay. If you still want to do presents, then why not consider buying vintage or charity shop gifts like Guild President Acacia?

Acacia, Guild President

“To save money this holiday season I am trying to get as many presents for family and friends off resale websites such as Vinted, Ebay and Depop to not only save money but also reduce waste. You can find items that are almost brand new, and some even still have the tags on!”

There are also lots of charity shops in Birmingham, especially Selly Oak and Harborne which are full of hidden gems. Not only are you being sustainable but you’re also supporting a worthy cause.

Secret Santa


Talking of presents… buying presents for everyone can get expensive which is why lots of people do a ‘Secret Santa’ with friends or housemates.  Gracie lives in a house of five and she shares how they enjoy a secret Santa.

Gracie, third year Politics and International Relations student

“To save buying presents for everyone in our house we’re doing Secret Santa. We’ve set a ten pound limit. We write our name on a piece of paper, fold it in half and place it in a hat. Each person draws a name out and we buy a gift for that person. Before we all go home we always plan a Christmas afternoon to exchange gifts and watch a festive film together. You don’t have to spend lots of money to celebrate and means everyone gets something too.”

Get creative with…



Christmas isn’t about spending lots of money. There are so many opportunities to be creative with things like presents, cards and decorations including at the university events throughout December.

If you have some paper or even old wrapping paper, why not create paper chains, stars, or snowflakes to decorate your digs?

If you have last year’s Christmas cards knocking about, then you can use them to create gift tags. Cut out a tag shape and punch a hole in one end for a ribbon to go through. You can also use old Christmas cards to create hanging decorations.  

Battery-operated lights are a great way to add some festive sparkle to your space without spending a fortune on energy bills. You can find affordable lights in places like Aldi, Wilko or Amazon.


When it comes to gifts, most of you agree that it’s the thought that counts. If you love baking or cooking, why not get in the kitchen and surprise someone with a festive treat? 

Izzy, third year Music student

“You don’t have to spend a lot of money on Christmas presents and sometimes the gifts with the most thought and personalisation are the ones that mean the most. So maybe make your own this year - it could be as simple as framing your favourite photo with the person you are gifting to or baking them their favourite baked good. As the saying goes, it’s the thought that counts!”

Every picture tells a story and in this digital age printed photos are a wonderful idea. We love Olivia’s idea of making a photo scrapbook. If you’re registered with UniDays or StudentBeans check out the student discounts and deals, including free prints, from Photobox.

Olivia, second year Psychology student

“Why not get creative and make some handmade presents? It could be photo scrapbooks or baking some treats. These gifts can be a lot more personable and thoughtful, whilst also saving you money.”

From washing the dishes to making a dinner of their choice, another great tip is making your own Christmas gift IOUs or vouchers like student Clemmie.

Clemmie, second year PPE student

“I recommend making vouchers/coupons to give to people. They can cost nothing or very little and are often much more personal than a material gift. For example, you could give one to your dad that says you will watch any film of his choice with him and even supply the snacks! This would probably mean more than you realise and is a great way of spending time with your family/friends over the holidays”

Festive Food


From mince pies to pigs in blankets, food is an important part of the celebrations, but good food doesn’t have to be expensive. Meal prepping and planning is a great way to keep costs low. Lots of supermarkets have their own brands which are cheaper but just as tasty. Buying frozen will also help with costs as recommended by student Zainab, but if you do want fresh vegetables then shop around the local supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl for discounted Christmas dinner veg.

Zainab, MA Creative Writing Student

“For things like vegetables its usually cheaper buying from frozen, so that you can spend a bit extra on a good quality Chicken/Turkey/meat of your choosing. Bonus tip: Iceland supermarket do wonderful frozen desserts - their £4 chocolate Gateau’s are perfect for big gatherings!”

If you’re having a Christmas dinner with your friends or housemates, then student Issy recommends sharing the responsibilities and getting everyone to chip in so you’re not doing or paying for everything yourself.

Issy, third year Politics and International Relations

“Christmas dinner can get quite pricey if you’re doing everything yourself. If everyone’s coming to your house, why not share out the cooking responsibilities by planning a ‘Bring and Share’ Christmas dinner? This way one person isn’t left to pay for all the ingredients and do all the work, but make sure to plan everything out so you’re not left with a table full of Brussels sprouts! Also, some dishes may be more expensive than others, so it might be a good idea for everyone to contribute a set amount, say £10, then pool the funds and do one group grocery shop. Or divide the tasks Secret-Santa-style. Get everyone together to pick one dish each at random, so it’s a surprise to see who’s cooked which meal during dinner!”

Whatever you decide to do this Christmas, and however much you decide to spend, we hope you all have a wonderful time. If you have any other tips you’d like to share with us, why not email it in to


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