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Financial Literacy

Frugal Festivities: Budget-Friendly Ways for Students to Celebrate the Holidays

December 21, 2023Back to Learning Centre
Khanysha Coppin
Khanysha Coppin

As students, December not only means scrambling to finish the semester on a good note, but also getting ready for a much-needed break. While looking forward to the opportunity to catch up with family and friends is top of mind, the holidays can be difficult when gifts, decorations and food seem to get more expensive with every passing year.  

For the budget-conscious student, here is a list of tips, tricks and money-saving ways to enjoy your holiday season and take part in other outdoor winter activities.  

DIY and Inexpensive Decorations 

It’s not really a holiday season without the decorations. They make this time of year feel festive and really set the tone. Snowflakes, lights, candles, anything you can name; as beautiful as these decorations are, they can also be expensive.  

The best place to go for inexpensive holiday themed decor is your local dollar store, which typically has at least one aisle full of anything you could possibly need for typically no more than $3. If you’re looking to get a bit more bang for your buck, the dollar store should also have a myriad of craft supplies for DIY decor.  

With just construction paper, glue, glitter and scissors you can make DIY snowflakes, garlands and a wreath. There are many tutorials online with detailed and simple instructions. You can even invite friends to join you to make a fun holiday themed arts night!  

Potluck Parties 

If you find yourself wanting to host a dinner party this holiday season, a wonderful choice for foodies is to host a potluck party. It’s the perfect way to enjoy time with friends and skip a sky-high grocery bill. Each guest brings something of their own to add to the table, including desserts and beverages, plates and cutlery. This paired with some DIY decorations can make for a fun and cost-effective get together.  

Potlucks aren’t only an effective way to cut costs but also contribute to building friendships. Some students are unable to travel to see their families over the holidays, which can be isolating during a season that emphasizes spending time with your loved ones. In this way, you can have a budget-friendly celebration while supporting community. 

Outdoor Activities  

If you find yourself itching to go outside and brave the cold, there are a few low-cost activities to do in the winter.  

The most popular outdoor activity is skating. Depending on the rinks in your general area it can also be the cheapest as many rinks are free and open to the public, all you need is your own skates. If you don’t have a pair of your own there’s no need to worry as most rinks will have a booth where you can rent a pair of skates for as low as $5 which they will prep and sharpen for you beforehand. 

Prefer something a little less physical? Your local Christmas or holiday market is a perfect way to get your festive fix without spending money. Walking around a Christmas market with candy cane hot chocolate in hand, is a great low-cost way to spend a winter day. 

Gift Exchange 

The fourth and final budget-friendly tip for celebrating the holidays is to coordinate a gift exchange. Also referred to as ‘Secret Santa’, group gift exchanges are an extremely popular and effective way to save money without the risk of being a scrooge.  

By setting a minimum and maximum spending limit that all participants agree on, you can buy anything within that range and stay on budget. Another benefit of gift exchanges is that by drawing names, you’re responsible for the gift of only one person. This removes the possibility of inadvertently spreading yourself too thin or going over budget with gifts for several people at once. This practice can be used on friends or family – especially if there are multiple students in your household. 

The bottom line 

There’s no doubt that the holiday season can be expensive! Thinking about how you could save money before thinking about how you want to spend it is a great place to start in making sure your festivities remain frugal and your return to campus stress-free. 


Khanysha Coppin
Written by Khanysha Coppin

Khanysha Coppin is a third-year psychology student at Concordia University. Khanysha is studying psychology with the intention of opening a practice to provide affordable therapy for BIPOC adolescents and young adults. In her free time Khanysha enjoys reading, writing poetry and short stories, as well as pursuing content creation.