How To Do Christmas On A Budget At University

10th November 2020 Gemma Curtis Finance

Trying not to overspend around the festive period can feel impossible. There are plenty of ways you can do Christmas on a budget when you’re a student, from planning ahead and saving up to making your own gifts. If you’re wondering how to do Christmas cheap, but are worried about missing out, there’s no need to fear. At the end of the day, Christmas doesn’t have to be about spending as much as possible, there’s still plenty of ways to enjoy Yuletide without putting a massive dent in your finances. Here are our Christmas on a budget tips to help you enjoy the festive fun:

Save Money For Christmas

An easy way to ensure Christmas doesn’t harm your finances is to actually save for the festive period. This can include before and during the festive period.


The number one tip for saving money for Christmas is to budget. Make a realistic budget of what you can spend and stick to it. Before the festive period starts, work out an amount you can set aside each week or month that you plan to use solely for Christmas. It might sound a little boring, but budgeting for Christmas is key if you need to have a low-cost Yuletide.


If you’re planning on doing Christmas on a budget, you may have to make some hard decisions. Be prepared to prioritise, as you won’t be able to have it all. Think about what is important to you. Would you prefer to buy everyone a present, or afford every Christmas party? It might be hard, but when you’re on a budget, you have to prioritise.

Start Early

Saving up for Christmas early is a good way to ensure you have some extra cash at Christmas. Another thing you can start early is your Christmas shopping. If you leave it all to the last minute, it’s going to make a dent. However, if you spread the cost over the year, it won’t have as big an impact. If you see the perfect Christmas gift for your uni friend in July, don’t leave it, as long as you have the funds there and then, buy it. Otherwise, you might not be able to find it again and end up buying something not as perfect, or worse, more expensive. Just don’t forget where you’ve put all your early purchases.

Be Wary Of Christmas Specials

Don’t be sucked into the marketing of Christmas; big companies aren’t doing you a favour with their “Christmas specials”. Take advantage of these offers when you can, but don’t buy things for the sake of it just being on offer. Before you buy, think if you have a use for what you are buying, or will it be a waste?

How To Celebrate Christmas On A Budget

Once the festive season starts, it can become quite an expensive, hectic blur. But there are plenty of ways to save on your celebrations. Here are four areas that you can focus on to save money:


Giving is an important part of Christmas, and chances are you’ll want to buy your new university friends and flatmates a gift. However, if you’re on a budget this Christmas, this might not be possible. Here are some ideas for giving presents on a budget:

Secret Santa

The tradition of Secret Santa is extremely popular in workplaces and friendship groups around the country. If you’re not familiar with this tradition, it involves a group of friends setting a budget and then pulling a name out of a hat, whose name is pulled is kept a secret. Everyone gets someone to buy for and everyone gets one gift. A date is set and everyone must buy their Secret Santa present, within the specified budget, by then. On the date, the group comes together and opens their presents. It can be revealed who bought who at this point, or it can remain a secret.

This is a great solution for those on a budget as it means buying only one present instead of lots. And as there is a strict budget, it makes it fair for everyone. It also gives you the chance to get to know people better, especially if there’s a member of your extended friendship group or flatmates that you don’t usually spend much time with.

Students giving secret santa gifts

Related: The Best Secret Santa Gifts for Students on Every Budget

Make Your Own Christmas

Homemade presents are a great way to treat people without a big budget. There are loads of homemade gift ideas you could try your hand at; baking, jewellery, scrapbooks and beauty treatments are just some ideas.

Another area you could save on gifts is to make your own wrapping and gift tags. This can often be more eco-friendly too; especially if you use recycled brown paper and decorate it yourself.

Spend Time, Not Money

Christmas is all about making memories and spending time with loved ones; so instead of buying gifts for your uni pals this Christmas, why not have an experience together instead? Whether this is going to an event like Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland or doing something active like mini golf at Puttshack Mini Golf, you’re sure to have lots of fun. The best part is you’ll only need to pay for yourself which will end up costing a lot less than a sack full of presents.

If you’re super strapped for cash this December, there are plenty of free ways you can make memories around the city. Why not go on a Christmas light spotting tour around Oxford Street, Regent Street and Carnaby Street? You could also explore one of the city’s many parks or experience a free carol concert at Trafalgar Square between 4 pm and 8 pm on weekdays and 2 pm and 6 pm on weekends.

Nights Out

It wouldn’t be Christmas without the annual Christmas party. If you’ve got a part-time job, chances are you’ll have been invited to a festive outing. Nights out can be extremely expensive over Christmas and it’s hard to say no to all the invites. It all comes down to prioritising which outings are more important to you. Nights outs mean spending money on food and drinks, which can be costly. Also, if you are going to more than one event, don’t feel you need to buy a new outfit for each occasion. Instead, just dress your outfit differently.

Instead of having nights out with all your friends this December, you could choose to have a festive night in instead. This is the perfect opportunity to get all your course mates and flatmates together for a movie night or a quiz night. If everyone brings a small plate of food and some drinks, you’ll have a fantastic buffet with minimal effort.

Friends having christmas dinner together

Christmas Dinner

A British staple, the Christmas dinner is probably the biggest part of Christmas day. But going out for a meal at this time of year can be expensive. If you have international friends that you’ve made through your course or halls of residence, cooking them a traditional roast dinner could be the perfect way to make them feel at home.

Alternatively, you could celebrate everyone’s heritage and have a festive feast. Get your friends together and each brings a popular festive dish from your home country. This is a great way to make sure everyone feels at home during the festive season.

Communal Cooking

Whichever Christmas dinner you opt for if everyone chips in you can really make it special. By having a communal meal you can save money and put on a big spread. Communal cooking can really help to spread the costs of a big meal and ensures that it is fair. If you all put in the same small amount, it still all adds up to a decent food budget.

Don’t Waste

Be sure to plan your Christmas meal properly. Though try not to go too crazy with the amount of food. Waste is bad for the budget.

If you do have leftovers don’t just throw them away. You can always freeze some bits for later or make a soup out of the veg, there are plenty of ways to make use of Christmas Dinner leftovers.


In most cases, you’ll only stay in your halls or student accommodation for one year before moving to a different property. Buying a Christmas tree and decorations can cost a lot of money, and it’s unlikely that you’ll take it with you when you leave.

Instead of buying a tree that will just get left behind, why not make some decorations yourself? There are some cheap decorations that you can easily make that look super chic and stylish

For example, making brightly coloured pom poms out of wool will brighten up your room and add some festive cheer. To do this, all you need is some card and wool.

  • Cut two circles out of card, each with a circle in the centre (like a doughnut). The bigger your circles, the bigger the pom pom will be;
  • Wrap the wool all the way around the ring until there is only a tiny gap left in the middle of the doughnut shape;
  • Take some scissors and cut around the edge of the ring, ensuring all pieces of wool are cut and keep the card templates pressed together so no pieces fall out;
  • Slide a piece of string between the two card templates and tie around the pieces of wool in a tight knot;
  • Remove the card and fluff out the wool to create your pom pom shape.

Pom pom decorations in different colours

Other, more traditional decorations include classic paper chains and paper snowflakes. These are fun to make with your flatmates and are also much better for the environment.

Check out this House Beautiful article for 26 DIY decoration ideas to make your accommodation feel festive this season.

We hope this helps make your Christmas less stressful and more enjoyable! Click here for more on student accommodation in London.

Gemma Curtis

Gemma Curtis

For more great posts from Urbanest about accommodation, London life, study tips and much more, visit the Student Journal.