How To Stay Festive But Frugal This Holiday Season

(Braden Klassen)

Christmas Frugality is an Art Form, So Get Crafty

By Jayne Wright, Contributor

‘Tis the season for peppermint hot chocolate, fuzzy socks, and giving the ones you love gifts of appreciation. But for many of us, the seasonal change doesn’t change the fact that we are still poor students trying to save money by making ramen and baby carrots our main sources of sustenance. In turn, the act of gift giving becomes a little stressful.

Not to worry, fellow students. I have cracked the code to cheap gift-giving, and it’s time to strap on your creative Christmas boots, ‘cause we’re getting artsy!

This might seem silly if you are used to going all out for your loved ones during the holidays and giving them gifts of fancy electronics and nice clothes, but I am speaking from lived experience. Your mom, dad, and grandparents actually will appreciate you giving them something you have made by hand.

I have always been frugal. If there is a way out of spending exorbitant amounts of money on food (I eat a lot of beans and plain spinach), thrifting (hello, Value Village), and yes, Christmas gifts, I am all over it.

Come Christmas, I always make my family their gifts. To some, this might seem like an easy way out, but honestly, it does take a lot of time and effort.

If you’re like me, you’ll probably actually enjoy the act of making these artsy gifts. They show rather than tell your family that you love them by demonstrating that they are worth that extra bit of your time.

Over the years, I have gone many directions with making my gifts. For a couple years in high school I was in a pottery class, so I would just give my family my projects or ask the teacher if she would mind if I made an extra bowl or two for fun. But if you don’t have access to a super-heated kiln to make your gifts, you can take a simpler approach by painting instead.

Painting is an especially easy option. You can get everything you need at your local dollar store,  including canvases and acrylic or watercolor paints and brushes. If you have trouble thinking of what — or even how — to paint, a fun little app called Pinterest has your back. Pinterest is my go-to app for art projects. It has so many DIY ideas, and it’s a cool place to find trendy drawing and painting styles that will get your creative juices flowing.

If the thought of painting seems a little too messy, my last suggestion is knitting. Knitting is actually much easier than you think. YouTube will show you exactly how simple it is to knit in a straight line, and once you’ve mastered that, all you have to do is keep going until you’ve knitted a scarf long enough to wear.

Whichever DIY project you decide to take on this holiday season, the effort, love, and joy you put into something you’ve made will be worth more to your loved ones than anything money can buy. At the very least, if it turns out like shit, you can all laugh about it — which is another priceless gift in its own way.


Scrimp and Save by Budgeting This Christmas

Esther Amankop Udoh, Contributor

Holiday lights are going to be up soon, and shopping centres are going to be filled with the constant sound of Christmas carols, but that’s not all December has to offer. As students, we finally get a break from all the hard work we’ve put in all semester as well.

And while the thought of this has some people sighing with happiness, there’s just one thing I know many aren’t looking forward to: spending money all month long.

Let’s be real, as much as this month has people in the holiday spirit, a lot of people can’t afford to fork out money for attending events on top of buying gifts for friends and family.

December doesn’t have to be so expensive. One thing I like to do is create a budget. I know, some people are tired of hearing this, but budgeting really helps me manage my money during the crazy month of December. I save and plan for how much money I want to spend on gifts and festive events ahead of time, and come up with ideas for homemade gifts as well. If you want to add a little more to the gift, you can always put in a nice holiday card, and consider baking some cookies to go along with it.

Trying to save money during the holidays doesn’t mean you have to miss out on fun activities. You can always plan your own festive day with friends and family. My personal favourite is organizing a classic Christmas movie marathon with yummy snacks.

In fact, Christmas classics can be rented for free at local libraries, so you can save a lot of money this way. You can also make the food yourself, and it can be anything you want. You don’t have to feel the pressure of cooking everything from entrees to desserts. Instead, go for simple snacks that only take a couple of minutes to prepare. Not only is it going to be cheaper to make the food yourself, but also, it’ll be healthier because you know what’s going into the food.

The holidays don’t have to take all of your money from you. It just takes a little more time to plan and execute these ideas, but in the long run, it’s worth it, and you’ll feel much better when you realize how much you’ve saved and how many memories you’ve created without having to drain your bank account.


Cut Costs by Opting for a Smaller Family Christmas

Marcus Jones, Contributor

Looking back, there has been a lot of drama involved in my Christmas family gatherings, and I know I’m not the only one who has experienced this kind of behavior. You start to second-guess grandma’s loving, caring attitude when she starts to loudly berate her husband, or when grandpa starts passive-aggressively bullying the younger children.

Here’s my advice: don’t feel depressed if you just want a simple family gathering with the people you live or grew up with. That could be a gathering of four people including yourself, just enjoying some quiet festivities without breaking the bank on presents and decorations and whatnot.

As an adult, I realize that family drama can overtake the festive joy of family dinners, especially with the added pressure associated with the high cost of getting presents for every single member of the family.

The solution? Stick to simplicity. Don’t resort to overtly expensive gifts or endeavours. There’s nothing more magical than a small group of friends getting together to feast and enjoy each other’s company, and it’s here where the true meaning of Christmas comes to life: togetherness and interaction with those closest to you. Presents are an afterthought.

Less family means fewer expenses, as well as less drama. This might not be the case for other people who haven’t found themselves subjected to a family member’s annual outbursts like I have, but there comes a point when hierarchy and tradition has to be swept aside in favor of enjoying the holidays.

By keeping your group limited to a select number of people that you’re comfortable and familiar with, you can stop this holiday from becoming a wallet-draining fiasco, and make it a time of relief and fun. That’s what Christmas is all about.

Another idea to take into consideration is making sure that everyone, including yourself, limits the number of presents they can give. Remember: this is about moments, not materials.

Most importantly, don’t get down on yourself because you dodged family drama bullshit. Sometimes, you just have to let it go.


Stay Festive While Setting Price Limits for Gifts

Breanna Himmelright, Contributor

The holiday season is fast approaching, and many post-secondary students are feeling the weight of financial anxiety as gift requests come in from family and friends far and wide. So how can you be frugal but festive over the holiday season? Is it possible to be both at all?

For those looking to cut down on expenses over the break, my suggestions would be to focus on a few close friends and family and set budget for all of them. One tradition my family and I have is to assign me and my brothers one sibling each to shop for — with a maximum spending limit of $20.

Afterwards, we usually wander around the mall and build our Christmas lists based on what appeals to us while keeping a lookout for gifts that might work for whichever sibling we were assigned. By keeping the budget to $20, you’re forced to really think about what the other person likes as opposed to being preoccupied with the cost of a gift. As a result, you’re able to remain frugal while getting meaningful gifts the other person truly enjoys.

Naturally, everyone reading this has their own family situation going on. You could be an only child, have one or two siblings, or have multiple siblings. Maybe you’re split between two families or, like me, are living with a significant other and now have another family to consider in your gift giving plans. Perhaps you’re living with relatives this season, or maybe you’re living in a foster home. Maybe you aren’t close to any of your family — biological or otherwise — and are instead choosing to spend this time of year with friends (your “chosen family,” as it were).

Whatever your situation is, the holidays are a time to celebrate and cherish the ones we love and the ones who love us. Unfortunately, retail marketers would have us believe that this translates to dishing out a lot of money on presents for a lot of people. For those who subscribe to this belief, the holidays become more about trying to show people how well off you are and less about showing them how much you care.

By keeping to a set price limit and giving gifts to a few select people, not only are you saving yourself a lot of money and stress, but those who you are giving gifts to will know the true depth of your appreciation for them and will show you that same appreciation for years to come. You can’t put a price on a gift that comes from the heart.