Frugal Student Tip #12 – 5 Free Holiday Gift Ideas

These 5 free holiday gift ideas will take the stress out of your frugal student Christmas.Are you a frugal student stressing about buying holiday gifts? Don’t!

You don’t have to spend a cent with these 5 free holiday gift ideas.

  1. Put the exchange in “gift exchange.”
  2. Make coupons.
  3. Re-gift.
  4. Host a white elephant gift party.
  5. Make or re-make.

1. Put the exchange in “gift exchange”

Wondering how in the world you’re going to afford gifts for all your suite mates or co-workers? Don’t buy a thing! Have a trading party. Invite everyone to bring one item they never wear or use. To keep the cost at zero,  make it a bring-your-own-drink affair and call it a “shop and sip” party.

Whoever is hosting the trading party should have a table or surface cleared and ready, so as people arrive they can lay everything out for viewing. During the party, allow everyone to shop and sip, then everyone goes home with a nice, new (to them) item. Items that work well for trading include scarves (who doesn’t have a scarf or two that never gets worn?), jewelry/accessories, winter hats/gloves, books and even mugs.

Clothing can be fun, too, but be sure there is a specific type suggested and that there is a range of sizes so that everyone can have a wide variety to choose from. You can go with serious, good-quality clothing only, or challenge your friends to bring the tackiest sweater — you can even appoint judges to name the tackiest item there. How much fun would a used prom dress party be? The only limit is your imagination.

2. Coupons

Yes, you know I’m a big fan of coupons, but this time I’m talking about coupons you make yourself. Something thoughtful that doesn’t cost anything but time and kindness. Some ideas follow, but you’ll probably come up with better things for each friend, as you’ll know what they need or would appreciate most if you think about each person individually. This could be the best present one of your friends receives all year. Truly, the value of kindness and thoughtfulness is infinite. Ideas:

  • Coupon good for one stay-warm-in-the-dorm breakfast, brought by me, one cold winter morning.
  • This coupon entitles the bearer to one folded load of laundry. You wash and dry, I’ll fold and deliver to you.
  • Good for one decorated door during the dreary month of January.

3. Re-gift

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with giving a perfectly good-as-new item you own but don’t use — as long as it’s in pristine condition, of course! Everyone has items lying around not being used, and giving one a new life with someone who’ll enjoy it is not only easy on the wallet, but it’s easy on the planet.

As the saying goes, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. I once received a brand new, never opened package of Sharpies in rainbow colors that I recall as one of my best gifts ever. (Am I the only one with a Sharpie addiction?) My hall-mate was thrilled to free up the drawer space, and I smiled every time I had a project come up that gave me an excuse to color with my new Sharpies!

4. Host a White Elephant gift party

The white elephant exchange. It’s a classic for a reason. Just make sure the gift guidelines are clear before people decide what they’ll be bringing. They’ll need to know if you’ll be trading funny/weird items or if it’s expected that everyone will bring nice items that are just collecting dust at home. You can find some suggested rules here.

5. Make or re-make

There are so many great ideas online for DIY gifts. Use that nice sweater you never wear and try one of these 20 Ways to Re-use Your Old Sweaters. Get your Sharpie out and give your friends a one-of-a-kind piece of art with this link.


Have another trade party when you return from holiday break. Could be a terrific cure for the after-holiday blues, not to mention a good way to get rid of some of the weird stuff your relatives gave you while you were on break.

Happy (frugal) holidays!

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