3 Meaningful Family Holiday Gift Ideas for Broke College Students

meaningful holiday giftsBy Sam Coren
StudentAdvisor.com Staff

While you’re painstakingly figuring out how to pull a successful all nighter to finish those end of the semester projects and studying for exams there’s one thing you’re forgetting, aren’t you? The holidays! Alright, so you didn’t just procrastinate about finals and you haven’t even given two seconds of thought to getting your family holiday presents. Time to suck it up and figure out a game plan with what little time you have left before Winter Break.

Even if you don’t necessarily celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, you can’t help but feel obligated to get your family something that says “thanks for your support!” But if you’re like most college students you’re left with one giant obstacle:  an empty wallet.

So how can you get something nice for your folks without sending yourself into deeper debt? Check out some of these holiday gift suggestions that won’t break the bank:

1. Everyone’s Got to Eat! Make Them Dinner.

Want to make your parents super happy over Winter Break? Just ask them, “What do you want for dinner?” instead of “What’s for dinner?” There are tons of great recipes on various food blogs and websites. Go ahead – raid your parents fridge and whip up some home cooking with an extra dash of love for the holidays! They’ll be proud. Bonus points for throwing out the bad left overs and old milk.

But what if you’re a cooking newbie and don’t want to risk ruining everyone’s appetite with a burnt roast? One of the best ways to prevent cooking disasters is to keep it simple – so no need to crack open the Joy of Cooking unless you’re feeling ambitious. If there’s a family recipe lying around feel free to give it a shot. Do some homework on basic food safety and cooking techniques first! It’s good for you to learn them anyway, and there’s no time like the present.

2. A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Scrap Books and Photo Digitalization

One of the saddest truths about the dominance of digital photography is that it’s making people forget about grandma’s favorite pastime:  scrapbooking. Got young siblings or cousins? Chances are if you have siblings or cousins under the age of ten most of their photographs are digital. Fortunately getting prints made of digital photos can be done for cheap at just about any drug store (or even at home!). Show your relatives you care by organizing their precious memories in a physical album. Not only will this gift have major coffee table staying power for decades to come, but it’s something your family will no doubt appreciate the time and effort you put into it.

What if your family already has tons of photo albums and scrap books lying around collecting dust? Well you can just pull a reverse! You can spend some time scanning them to create digital versions so you can organize your family’s photo collections. If you want extra brownie points you could set up some online photo albums or put together a fun slide show to share the memories.

3. Become the Event Planner!

One of the big reasons why families get so stressed over the holidays is all the event planning. Coodinating with slews of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and family friends can be overwhelming. Tell your folks that you’ll take care of it and you’ll be their ultimate holiday hero.

Even if your family is small, you can still plan all the various family events over the holidays: Yankee Swaps, movie outings, a trip to volunteer at a homeless shelter, decorating, playing games, caroling etc. Think of things that are fun for your family to do together that will maximize the fun and minimize the drama – they’ll all thank you for that big time.


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