Giving gifts on a budget

It is the busiest time of the term for many Laurier students, what with paper due dates fast approaching and final exams only a few weeks away. And with Christmas now a month away, many of us will likely experience an added layer of stress – the stress of holiday gift shopping.

I don’t know about you, but a trip to the mall during peak holiday shopping season, only to face off with a thousand other shoppers all on the hunt for the perfect gifts, is not my idea of a good time.

But it’s not just the massive crowds that kick my stress-levels up a few notches when it comes to Christmas gift buying. There’s also the task of deciding upon the perfect present for each of my friends and family members, which in itself is daunting and requires dedication and some extensive thought processing to complete.

I mean, you don’t want to get people the same old crap that you always get them – a gift card to the Gap, a box of chocolates, woolly socks. Boring. But coming up with unique gift ideas every year is hard work.

Then there’s what I consider to be the key to my holiday shopping stress – the fact that I am flat broke. It’s almost the end of the term, all of my “spending” money has been given over to various pubs and bars throughout Waterloo Region or to the new Pink store at Conestoga mall. So now I have slightly less than $200 to my name, and I have yet to start my holiday shopping.

How might stress be eliminated – or at least alleviated – from holiday gift buying you ask? Here’s an idea: skip gift-giving altogether. Instead of exchanging gifts, make the decision with a friend to donate the money you would have spent on each other to a charity, and then make a date to spend an afternoon together volunteering for a good cause. Check out for a list of local charities.

Most of us have participated in a Secret Santa gift exchange, but this idea can be switched up to make things a little more interesting. It’s called the White Elephant gift exchange, or Thieving Secret Santa, and it goes like this: each person brings a gift which could be given to any of the other participants. One person starts the exchange by picking a gift from the pile and unwrapping it. Each successive participant can then either open another gift from the pile or “steal” one already opened by another person. The exchange will heat up as participants battle for the “best” gifts.

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Skip the mall crowds and do your shopping online. You can find products at cheaper prices than in-store and unique gifting opportunities. Check out sites like Zazzle to customize your own beer stein or Personal Creations to design your own Christmas ornament.

Give the gift of an experience rather than a material item. This option may be more expensive, but it is a great solution for those hard-to-buy-for people on your list. Tickets to an event or a gift card for a personal service are options. Check out Medieval Times, an event well worth the price for a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Or book your loved one in for a 30-minute massage. Several salons in the KW area offer them for $50 or less.

Finally, if you are as strapped for cash as I am right now, consider homemade gifts. Make a family scrapbook for your mom and dad; a photo collage for your friends. Make a personalized coupon book for your roommate and actually clean her side of the room when she cashes that option in.

If all else fails, bake some cookies. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love a good Christmas cookie, and baking them will surely get you into the holiday spirit!

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