Lee Carnihan | Secret Santa for Cash-Strapped Students

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By the time Christmas comes around you will have spent months away from home and settled into the strange dynamic of sharing your living space with several similarly hungover and poor house mates. There are so many great things about being a student but Christmas is right at the top. It’s a great excuse to let go, relax and throw a series of spontaneous parties with your house mates.

Sure, this group aren’t perfect but they are your new family. Working with them to decorate the house on a shoestring budget is sure to be a great laugh. Well, until you come home with a box of faulty fairy lights from the pound shop.

Once the decorations are up and lectures are coming to an end there is the difficult situation of deciding who will get presents begins. It’s too expensive to buy for everyone but it could make things difficult if you just buy for your closest friends and leave someone out, so why not instigate a house Secret Santa? This way there is a set budget, everyone gets a present and you only need to buy one! Perfect!

Of course, in any group there will be some people you like more than others. At this time of year, you can get away with practical jokes in the name of Christmas spirit, so why not take this chance to get your own back on anyone who has wronged you with a joke gift? Just don’t forget to record it so you and the rest of your house mates can laugh at their shocked expression over and over again!

Secret Santa may sound like a cheap way to buy gifts for everyone but it can add up very quickly. By keeping these simple pointers in mind, you will be able to dazzle your house mates with amazing gifts and still have some cash left for New Year’s Eve.

Try not to go crazy

Set a price limit that everyone can afford. A fiver? A tenner? Whatever it is, make sure you’re all ok with that. Yes, it might be the season of goodwill, but you don’t have Bill Gate’s fortune to plunder.

Always re-gift if you get the opportunity

At some point in your life, you’ve probably received a present that you’ve never liked or used, which is why the art of re-wrapping is so handy. As long as the present is in a really good condition (preferably unused) you’re good to go.

So the only thing you’ll have to buy is the wrapping paper, and a card if you’re feeling generous. Just make sure you don’t give the re-wrapped present to the same person who gave it to you originally! That would be awkward, especially if you gave it to the awkward person you don’t get on with.

Give everyone a chance

Get everyone in the house involved, even if it is that one housemate who never seems to leave their room. Knock on their door, introduce yourself (just in case they’ve forgotten who you are even though you’ve been living together for three months) and say; “Hi, I know we haven’t officially met – I think we may have bumped into each other at one point going to the bathroom – but did you want to play Secret Santa?”

Even if they don’t want to play, at least you’ve finally met the ‘other’ house mate. Congrats! Your housemates will be proud of your bravery. Getting everyone involved makes the game much more interesting, and you’ll avoid feeling bad if anyone were accidentally (or on purpose) left out.

Keep it simple

Some people are against buying generic gifts like a pack of scented shower gels or a mix and match makeup kit, but for a student it’s perfectly acceptable. You can never go wrong with buying gifts like these, and not only are they an easy purchase, they’re also worth the money and you can find some cracking bargains.

If you want to get something just a little bit different but still practical, grab a bar of luxury hand-made organic soap. They smell delicious and can even make a subtle point to the person in the house who doesn’t always like to wash as frequently as everyone else!

Never leave it late

Try not to forget about actually buying a gift, otherwise you’ll find yourself in a moment of panic, frantically trying to find something last minute to give them. Giving them a packet of crisps or a pack of jam donuts might seem like a great and useful “gift” but frankly, it’s a bit rubbish and thoughtless. You might be skint and this might be Secret Santa, but there are limits to how low you can go! So don’t leave it until the last minute (you’ve probably heard that from your lecturer plenty of times).

The more the merrier

You may have had a great time with your house mates but don’t forget to include your actual family. They may have been in the background recently but they are just as important to buy for, especially if you aren’t seeing very much of them, so make sure to save some space in your budget to get them something nice. It can also work in your favour; it softens the blow if you have a gift in one hand when you return home with bag of dirty washing in the other. If you have enough money spare, buying one final Secret Santa gift for dad is a great idea. It can be silly and funny or useful from somewhere like Hawkin’s Bazaar and it doesn’t have to be especially expensive. Meanwhile, a simple box of chocolates, some flowers or a bottle of wine will keep mum very happy.

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