Gifting on a budget

University of Leeds
5 min readDec 1, 2022


If you want to show friends and family how much you care for them and value them, but your funds have been seriously depleted this term, you’ve come to the right place! Check out our top tips for cheap (or even free!) gift ideas that will be sure to make your loved ones feel special without breaking the bank.

Worried about your money? If you’re not sure how to create a budget, want to make the most of your money, or are struggling to afford student life, we can help. Check out our links and guides to help keep your finances on track.

Give your time through coupons

Think about the skills you can share with others for free. Maybe you’re a grammar expert — why not gift some essay proofreading coupons to your coursemate? Or, if you’re the chef in your house, offer to cook a meal for your housemates. You could give your friends Designated Driver vouchers, letting them nominate you to be the sensible one getting everyone home safe after a night out.

These don’t need to be complicated — think about what you can offer to make someone’s life a little bit nicer or bring a smile to their face. Once you’ve got your ideas, you could write them inside a card, or use a free tool like Canva to design an actual coupon to print out.

Plan a day out or an activity

This sounds like it could be expensive, but it really doesn’t have to be. Leeds has loads of great places to visit for free. Just cover the cost of a bus or train and you’re there! Here are some ideas:

  • Visit one of Leeds’ brilliant museums or galleries. Leeds Museums and Galleries include venues across the city, or why not visit one of the University’s own galleries? All are free to enter and have great collections and exhibits.
  • Take a trip to one of our beautiful park spaces. We’re lucky to have around 4,000 hectares of green spaces managed by Leeds City Council, including 8 major parks. Most are well-served by public transport links. Take a picnic and make it a full day out, or treat yourselves to coffee and cake!
  • Plan an Instagram-worthy photo shoot to get the ultimate Leeds feed. We’ve shared our top spots for photos in this article — get dressed up in your finest and make it a full day out.
  • Take them on a self-guided walking tour of the city — Visit Leeds has loads of trails to pick from, including architecture, street art, industrial heritage, and Leeds owls, so there’s sure to be something that’ll interest them.
Leeds Corn Exchange is a great place to visit

Make them something

The best presents show that you really care about the recipient, and that you’ve put thought and care into giving them something special. Sometimes the simple things are the best. Why not unleash your inner artist and make a gift yourself?

It doesn’t need to be perfect — that’s the charm of homemade gifts — and the fact that you made it especially will be sure to make your family and friends smile.

Here a few ideas to get creative:

  • If you’re handy with an oven, why not bake them something tasty?
  • If you’re an artist, you could make them a card or drawing
  • If your person loves music, create a Spotify playlist with songs that remind you of memories together
  • If you knit or crochet, you could make an ornament or something to keep them warm
  • Pick a favourite photo of yours together and get it printed then put it in a nice frame (charity shops are a great place for picking up cheap frames!).

Do a present swap

This one’s a great way to get rid of something you don’t need whilst gaining something you really do. You can either pair up with a friend or do it in a larger group, with everyone pulling a name out of a hat. If you fancy a bit of fun and games you could also do it white elephant style, where people can ‘steal’ presents from others.

Just find something in your wardrobe, kitchen cupboard, or under your bed which you bought optimistically but never use, and wrap it up for someone else to enjoy. It’s the perfect time to get rid of that 3-in-1 avocado tool you were sure would be essential to your university experience.

The great thing about this is that you don’t need to spend anything at all, and you can re-home things that don’t serve you anymore. Has your best friend been coveting a jumper of yours since Freshers Week? Make their day by gifting it to them, and maybe they’ll finally hand over that perfect bag in return.

Make a challenge of it

Buying presents on a budget doesn’t have to be a chore — you could make a challenge of it. Set a £5–10 budget (or whatever your group is comfortable with) and make a trip to the charity shop of your choice. There’s loads all round Leeds, but Headingley has by far the best selection. Buy the best gift you can find under the budget, then get together as a group to unwrap.

If you really want to make it a challenge, add in some awards — vote on the best gift, funniest gift, best bargain, or whatever else you can think of! You could make it into an annual competition and start a new tradition for your campus family.

We hope this article has given you some inspiration to help you get ready for the holidays. For more advice about living on a budget, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Budgeting.