Student Christmas: 5 Christmas Hacks to Save Money and Have a Great Christmas

Christmas time is coming round again and all of us are caught up in the delights of the season. When you’re a kid, Christmas means waking up early, counting your presents underneath the tree, and probably some forced interaction with relatives you don’t know so well. As we enter adulthood, the meaning of Christmas can change a little bit.

Suddenly, we’re expected to give gifts to our loved ones as well as receive them. Work Christmas parties enter the frame, bringing the possibility of drinking free craft beers and seeing your slightly stiff coworkers tipsy for the first time. And, you begin to realise just how expensive the whole season is.

Christmas doesn’t necessarily go hand in hand with a limited student budget. But, that doesn’t mean you have to compromise on your Christmas or any of the things you want to do. You just have to be a little bit more crafty about doing things yourself and on the cheap. Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of the 5 best Christmas hacks for your student Christmas. Let’s jump in.

Hit up Marketplace for your tree and decorations

A Christmas tree won’t set you back too much dough, but by the time you add on all the decorations, you might be looking at an unaffordable purchase. Fortunately, Facebook Marketplace is full of bulk lots of Christmas decorations for $5-10. There are even pre-decorated trees available for a steal.

The other thing you might find is free trees. Seriously! At the time of writing, I found at least one free Christmas tree on Marketplace - in New Plymouth - as well as several $5-10 trees around Auckland and Wellington. Get online and get your flat a steal. Alternatively, make your own decorations - more on that later.

Make a scavenger hunt

It’s hard to afford expensive presents on a student budget, but you don’t have to sacrifice the whole experience of giving and receiving gifts. While it’s nice to receive a high-quality present, it’s just as memorable to receive something pretty regular in a memorable way. 

A great way to achieve this is to get a bunch of cheap presents and stash them around the flat. Then, make a series of clues directing your flatties to the presents - an old-fashioned scavenger hunt. The gifts don’t have to be expensive - packs of gum, cans of beer, little trinkets from the op shop - but the experience will memorable and that’s really the gift you’re giving here.

Make your Christmas presents

Do it yourself Christmas gifts are all the rage. It’s not just a money-saving tactic - more and more people are getting on board the DIY Christmas gift train because a handmade gift is often more personal and memorable than a storebought one - plus, it avoids the environmental impact of buying all these products from stores and disposing of packaging.

If you’re a whiz in the kitchen, you’re set. Baked goods, like bread, cookies, and cakes, make awesome presents that your friends and family will love. Or, if you have access to any fruit trees, you could make preserves and jams. 

You’re not limited to food, of course - use whatever skills you have. Arts and crafts, letters and poems, and vouchers for a massage from you - it’s all go. Whatever your student-style Christmas gifts are, it’s a deeper experience to receive something handcrafter compared to just another store-bought product. Even when you finish uni and start earning a bit more money, you might find you want to keep this habit anyway.

Go for DIY decorations

For the true Christmas hackers among us, it’s also possible to make your own Christmas decorations entirely. There’s really no limit for the creatives among us,  but here are a few simple ideas to try:
  • Get a bunch of nuts with the shells still on - think hazelnuts, walnuts, and peanuts for starters - and a set of paints. These make great little characters and can be accessorised with googly eyes and other little knick-knacks from the two dollar store.
  • Slice oranges into ½ cm rounds and pat the slices dry with paper towels. Then, bake them until they’re dried up and translucent. These dried citrus slices appear a little like stained glass.
  • Cut ping-pong balls in half and use felt bauble as a nose to create your very own little reindeer ornament! You can cut antlers out of cardboard to add, as well as using googly eyes to complete the face.
  • Use green card to cut out holly leaf shapes, then use a skewer to indent the shapes of leaf veins into your creations. You can add these leaves to a runner to create your own holly leaf runner. Red berries can be added for an extra Christmassy effect.

Go for a tiki-tour to see Christmas lights

Christmas lights are one of the most enchanting aspects of the holiday season. There’s nothing quite as magical as seeing houses all lit up, but you might have noticed that paying for that many lights isn’t easy on a student budget. Luckily, there are likely to be world-class Christmas lights near you, so go touring and see for yourself!

Franklin Road in Auckland, Harrowfield Drive in Hamilton, and Donnington St in Christchurch are well-known for their residents’ Christmas lights displays. If you’re in the area, you could also check out the Light Up Karaka Lakes show in South Auckland.

There are plenty of other public lights shows around the country, too. There are the Tremains Christmas lights in Hawke’s Bay, the Te Papa light show in Wellington, and the Christchurch Christmas Lights show in Shand St. If you’re lucky enough to be in Taranaki over the Christmas or New Years period, check out the Festival of Lights in Pukekura Park. The park is transformed into an enchanting wonderland of lights, water, and sound, and it’s on for 50 days from the 14th of December, so check it out.

It's Christmas time!

So what are you waiting for? Christmas is just under a week away and all these ideas are still do able! Whether your stuck on gifts or want to feel some extra Christmas cheer there’s plenty of options for you, your family, friends, and flatties to do.

Written by Jack Buckley, Wellington