You’re not a Scrooge, you’re a student

By in Opinions

Gift-giving etiquette for students is something of a mixed bag. More and more, students are looking to participate in the year-end festivities without opening their wallets. This can be done and, perhaps, should be done more often than not.

The holidays are fast approaching and you’re probably broke. Many of us are wondering what we can do to limit the amount of dough we spend on our loved ones and when we can get away with not giving gifts.

Under normal circumstances, it is generally accepted that the proper response to a gift is to give another of equal value in return. The work-around for students is that gifts don’t have to cost a lot to be valuable. It’s the thought that counts — and thoughts are free.

Not buying gifts for your family is relatively easy to deal with, as heading home for the holidays empty-handed is not taboo when you’re a student. Everyone in your family knows you’ve been living off of noodles and breakfast cereal. Your parents might have even bailed you out of debt already because you forgot to budget for Starbucks.

Chances are, nobody’s expecting anything from you. Refraining from giving gifts might feel a little indecent, but at the end of the day, your family will forgive you for being the holiday freeloader.

When it comes to gifts for friends, if you absolutely must give something, just steer clear of the traditional one-on-one exchange. Buying a metric tonne of trinkets for multiple friends only to receive the same number, slightly personalized, in return, is not a worthwhile endeavour.

There are a plethora of ways to dodge those awkward gift transactions with your friends. Go the secret Santa route or arrange a white elephant gift exchange where you each provide one gift and then compete with each other to see who gets what.

Whatever you do, make it explicitly clear to them that you are not interested in buying gifts for everybody. This is much easier than saying that all of their presents got lost in the mail.

When it comes to your significant other, talk and make a plan to progress your mutual spending caps in a way that is realistic and doable for the both of you. As with anything, communication is key. You don’t have to spoil the surprise, but it might be a good idea to set some guidelines and limitations to avoid any disappointment or conflict.

Most holiday movies have a common denominator: there is an underlying message that the reason for the season is love, hope and togetherness. You can use this to justify your complete lack of material offerings in any relationship or as a defense for haphazard homemade gifts.

Homemade stuff gets a bad rap, but at the very least, no one decent is going to turn something down. In fact, most people will genuinely appreciate the fact that you put a little thought and effort into your yuletide contribution — keep in mind, they’ll know you’re broke too.

Use the holidays as an opportunity to hone in on your talents. Draw a picture, write a poem or bake some cookies with whatever ingredients you have left in your pantry. Getting creative is also a healthy way to de-stress. You’re basically guaranteed warm, fuzzy feelings of accomplishment and the fulfillment that comes with giving someone something you made with your own competent hands.

Gift giving over the holidays is a prime opportunity to evaluate all of your relationships, from grandpa to your significant other, to that one bus driver who sometimes doesn’t suck.

When you have a very limited amount of money to spend, you’re forced to consider other ways to show that you care about your loved ones. Saving your cash this holiday season doesn’t make you colder than Frosty the Snowman. You can be cheap without remorse, as long as you give all the love that you can.

Emily Migchels