The Daily Illini

Easy gift ideas for penny-pinching students

By Melissa Niemiec, Staff Writer

If gift-planning has not entered your mind at this stage of the holiday season game, I regret to inform you that you will not be getting those Black Friday deals. However, even without lots of planning, it’s possible to celebrate the holidays without breaking the bank.

The crafty gift

Handmade gifts send a special message, showing that you cared enough to actually make something with your bare hands. Don’t worry if you’re not Martha Stewart, as there are a multitude of DIY gifts that are relatively easy to make with items that are found in most kitchens. The easiest of these is a sugar scrub.

All you need to make it is sugar (white or brown works equally well), coconut oil or olive oil and essential oil or cooking flavoring  if you’re feeling extra fancy. Mix the ingredients together and put it into a nice jar. It’s low cost, looks nice and portrays that you made an effort. Examples of other good DIY gifts are soaps, bath bombs, coasters or picture books. You can find tons of how-to tutorials online.

The collective gift

Sometimes when it consists of a singular item, your gift can look a little lame. This can be remedied by spending less on a lot of small items. It allows someone to unwrap a multitude of gifts, making up for the fact that they’re each a little cheaper.

Good places to find small, cheap items are the dollar section of Target, local dollar stores and discount counters. These places have gifts that are good quality but would be too small on their own. Examples are candles, stationery, soaps or fun dishware. Wrap up everything in a nice gift bag for a collective gift. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can even follow a theme such as sports, wine night or bath time.

The experience gift

Instead of just buying or making something the person will probably throw away or forget about, give them the gift of your time. The expense of this type of gift can vary, but it is possible to keep it on the cheaper side with some creativity. Examples could include making a meal together, getting tickets for a movie, having a picnic or going to a zoo or museum on a free day.

The fact that you aren’t contributing that much in regard to money is overshadowed by the contribution of your time, which often ends up being worth more. The gift of an experience can be inexpensive and fun, and it allows you to spend quality time with you friends or significant other.

The funny gift

Finals are approaching, the semester is wrapping up and you haven’t had a single second to spare for this Secret Santa your friends dragged you into. It’s the day before the exchange and you don’t have a lot of cash to burn. This is when your saving grace is humor.

Walk into Walmart. Pick up something completely random off the shelf: Hot Wheels, a baby bottle or a fun pair of patterned boxer shorts. The goal in this gift is to be so lame it’s funny. Be sure you know the gift-receiver’s sense of humor so you don’t create an awkward situation for them. If you’re going to buy something cheap at the last minute, you might as well own it.

There’s a lot of pressure to give the perfect gift to the person you love or to the random stranger you received for Secret Santa. But the perfect gift doesn’t always mean the most expensive gift, and as always, it’s the thought that counts.

Melissa is a sophomore in LAS.

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