Getting festive on a budget

University of Leeds
4 min readDec 7, 2022

The winter holidays are coming up, and although some of us may be feeling the squeeze of rising costs, you still want to get festive. Here are some budget-friendly ideas for creating your cosy grotto at home.

Worried about how to manage your money? The University can help you. Check out our links and guides to help keep your finances on track.

Decorating

Making your room look festive is one of the most fun things you can do this time of year. It’s tempting to go all out on fancy baubles, but you don’t need to splash a load of cash to make the grotto of your dreams.

The cheapest decoration is the one you’ve already got. There’s not a student room out there without fairy lights — give them a starring role for the season.

You could go old school with homemade decorations — pick up a copy of The Gryphon on campus and once you’ve finished reading it, upcycle it into paper chains, classic paper snowflakes, or some paper bows.

You could invite your friends round and have a crafty afternoon making decorations together over a bottle of something mulled — that’s sure to get you into the festive spirit. This origami wreath looks complicated but is actually pretty simple once you get the hang of it!

If you’re not feeling crafty, check out charity shops for second-hand decorations! You’ll get that warm fuzzy feeling from putting your money to a good cause, plus you’ll come home with some pre-loved and eco-friendly ornaments which you can re-donate in January (or keep them packaged away safely for next year).

Dressing for the season

Don’t waste £20 on that one ugly jumper for the Christmas party you’ve been invited to. Charity shops are absolutely chocka with jumpers, some of which are already festive, and others which can be made into a one-of-a-kind piece with a few little touches.

Why not add some tinsel, bells, or even wrap some fairy lights around yourself? You can be sure that nobody else will turn up wearing the same thing!

You can improve your value-for-money by skipping the novelty factor and buying a jumper you’ll wear into February. Avoid anything that ties it to December only — like Santa hats or elves. Instead, stick to something classic like a fair isle pattern.

Wrapping paper

The shiny and sparkly paper on offer this time of year can be really tempting. However, there are other options than spending crucial portions of your budget on stuff to wrap your presents in! Why not reuse paper bags to wrap presents? You can use stamps or draw designs to make them look more festive. Or, after you’ve enjoyed the latest issue of the Gryphon, you could use that to wrap your presents. It’ll give them the Leeds touch!

Both these ideas have the added benefit of being recyclable (as long as you don’t use glitter or glue, and remove all tape before putting the paper in your green bin). You could also try saving your wrapping paper this year to re-use next year — another tip that’s great for your bank balance and for the planet.

Food

You might want to host a big meal with all your pals to celebrate the end of term. It sounds great, but it’s also a lot of work and a lot of cash to be the one to host. You and your friends could split up the tasks so you can share the load, and everyone gets to contribute.

You could divvy it up by:

  • All chipping in funds for a big joint of meat to roast, and everyone bringing a vegetable
  • A cheese course where everyone brings their favourite cheese
  • Doing a course each — starters, main (maybe split this between a few people!) and dessert
  • Having a fuddle (a Yorkshire tradition where everyone brings a dish to contribute)
  • A ‘bring a board’ party — think cheeseboard, charcuterie, fruit, picky bits, pick n mix…

Presents

We’ve previously shared our top tips for presents on a budget. Don’t get carried away thinking you need to spend loads on everyone you know — you can give something meaningful and thoughtful without spending a bundle. Why not consider a regifting swap, plan a day out together, or make them something special?

Don’t be afraid to talk about your budget for the holidays with the people in your life. Ask if they’ll consider joining you in a no-spend presenting pact. Minimising spending can be a great opportunity to get creative, and can often result in more thoughtful gifts.

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