Christmas is a great time of year for most of us, with plenty of events and festive things to do. But if you’re a bit worried about how you’re going to afford all the things you want to do and things you need to buy, you’re not alone. It’s hard enough to stick to a student budget any other time of year, let alone at Christmas! However, there are a few things you can do to keep costs down while still celebrating the festive season. Check out our list of how to get through Christmas on a student budget, and still have a Santa-mental time (Sorry we couldn’t help it)!

1. Find free things to do

Christmas events can get expensive, and you’ll soon find your calendar is full of £20+ events jotted throughout the month. This soon adds up, meaning before you know it, you’ve spent £100s on going out. Instead of not going anywhere, why don’t you make the most of the free – and let’s face it wholesome – things you can do at Christmas. There’s of course – the Christmas markets. These can get expensive quickly, but you don’t have to buy anything and can still enjoy it. Why not budget for just one mulled wine or hot chocolate to keep you cosy and you stroll among the chalets and Bavarian stalls.  This way you’ll feel like you’re still experiencing them and their cosy, festive feel, without spending a fortune. You can also check out other local Christmas events such as Christmas lights switch ons, concerts, and more!

2. Affordable Presents

Christmas shopping – you either love it or hate it! But either way, it can add up quickly! So instead of splurging on gifts, why not opt for cheaper alternatives instead. You can still find meaningful gifts for next to nothing, which makes it that much more affordable. Find out how to do Christmas shopping on a student budget, with our range of thoughtful gifts for under £5!

3. Secret Santa

It’s a no brainer – Secret Santa drastically cuts down the amount you have to spend on Christmas gifts. Just in case you haven’t heard of it; Secret Santa is where a group of friends put all their names in a hat. Then each friend picks a name out of the hat and they have to buy a present for that person only. The mystery lies in who is buying for, but the best secret is how much cheaper this makes Christmas!

4. “Bring a meal” feast

Cook to save money this Christmas
Source: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

In a similar vein to Secret Santa, you can still have a huge Christmas dinner where everyone brings one item. This way, the host isn’t expected to pay for everything, and you will only have to buy one meal. The big plus is that you’ll get to enjoy lots of food at the cost of one item. If you’re on a super tight budget – offer to bring the sides. Everyone loves roast potatoes and all they’ll cost you is a bag of potatoes, oil and – if you’re fancy – a sprig of rosemary! Or why not check out some other tasty student recipes to try out that won’t cost the price of a new kitchen.

5. Eat out on student nights

If you still want to get dressed up and have a fancy Christmas night out, you can still do it on a student budget! Plenty of restaurants and bars have student deals and discounts, which makes them much more affordable. Often, restaurants have huge savings for students between Sunday and Thursday, so it might be worth opting for a midweek dinner instead.

6. Drink at home

While we’re not suggesting you get drunk at home and then head out, which is just asking for a hangover, you could have a few drinks at home before hand. Or why not grab a few mates, google some festive cocktail recipes and head back for a cocktail night in with Christmas movies (see below)? Buying from a supermarket and sharing between friends will save you much more than cocktails at a bar! Plus, it’s fun to do (or at least try). Just avoid throwing full bottles of vodka in the air like Tom Cruise – it never works!

7. Have a Christmas movie night

One of the best ways to do Christmas on a student budget is to get on board the Christmas movie train! There are so many to choose from – in fact, we’ve curated a great list of Christmas films to get you started! Choose from action-packed thrillers like Die Hard, or festive romance such as The Holiday. Or why not cosy up to a heartwarming comedy like The Grinch or Elf? Whatever you enjoy, there’s something for every Christmas spirit.

8. Make your own Christmas decorations

Homemade gingerbread men
Source: Pexels: Nick Fewings

A DIY-lover’s dream – handmade Christmas decorations are perfect to stay on budget. Think paper chains, gingerbread cookies to hang on the tree…unicorn baubles?! OK so there’s lots of different ideas to suit different tastes and levels of creativity. So why not get some inspiration online and start crafting!

9. Make shopping lists

Whether it’s for Christmas gifts or food shopping, the 101 on how to do Christmas on a student budget is preparation – aka making lists! If you plan out what you’re going to buy, you’ll know what budget to stick to. You’ll also be able to consider what things you can cut back on if it’s getting too pricey, and generally be much less likely to overspend!

10. Avoid buying unnecessary items

Making lists (see above) will help with this, but it’s generally worth having this in mind. Christmas is a time where people tend to buy lots of things they don’t really need, and this mounts up. Try recycling old wrapping paper, or using newspaper instead.  Buy a roll or twine and give presents a fancy rustic look, instead of buying expensive gift wrap, ribbons and labels. Why not opt for ecards, which you can often get very cheap or for free – and no need for stamps! Having a selective mind and not buying absolutely everything is definitely the way to go when sticking to a budget!

11. Head to charity shops

This Christmas, charity shops are your friend! Not only do they help you save, but they’re more sustainable and give something back. They’re a triple win – for you, for the planet, and for the cause (animals, people, etc.).

12. Recycle old gifts

Refgifting is a great way to do Christmas on a student budget
Source: Flickr: Steven Gerner

And continuing on the sustainability theme, why not consider recycling or – regifting – old presents? If you don’t want, need or use the item, then it’s worth passing it on to someone who might, instead of buying something new just for the sake of it. Just make sure the gift recipient wasn’t the person who gave it to you in the first place!


So here are 12 ways to keep down the cost at Christmas. With these tricks in mind, we hope you’ll know how to do Christmas on a student budget, without missing out (or splashing out)!

Last Updated on December 17, 2023