Holiday shopping can be stressful if you’re a college student strapped for money. Here are a few ideas that are thoughtful and versatile (suitable for family members, friends, or anyone in between), but still easy on the wallet.


Books make excellent gifts for anyone in your life who likes to read because they offer hours of entertainment and there truly is something for everyone. Give a book that reminds you of the recipient, one of your all-time favorites, or perhaps a book related to one of your friend’s or family member’s passions.

Baked goods

Spend a day in the kitchen baking cookies, mini loaves of cranberry or pumpkin bread, or fudge. With some aluminum foil and a roll of decorative ribbon, you can turn your goodies into beautiful, impressive gifts. Or, head to the dollar store to pick up some metal tins with lids.


Coffee lovers will appreciate a unique travel mug or ceramic mug. You can give them alone or add a coffee portion pack (check out this case of 18 House Blend packs from Starbucks), which brews a pot of coffee. Check sites like Zazzle for customizable mugs and other gift items, and don’t forget to watch for sales (they have them often).

Framed photos

Print a 5×7 photo for $2.49 at Walgreens, frame it with a $10 frame from Target, and you have yourself a thoughtful gift for under $15. If your smartphone takes high-quality pictures, it isn’t too late to pull off this gift idea. Snap photos of you and your friends and family members and upload to your computer. Walgreens prints most photos in under one hour.

Memory book or scrapbook

A scrapbook is a touching gift for a close friend or family member, and it takes little more than a scrapbook and your creativity. If you’re feeling less crafty, print pictures from a recent event or trip and go with a photo book instead. You can find inexpensive photo albums at stores like Wal-Mart or Target. Add captions of the memories, and you’ve got a special keepsake that is sure to be cherished for many years.

Recipe book

Buy a colorful three-ring binder and a pack of three-ring sheet protectors, and surf or for delicious sounding dishes to print. This is a great gift for anyone in your life—from your mom to your newlywed sibling to a friend moving into his or her very first apartment. Make it a themed recipe book or divide it into sections: appetizers, main dishes, sides, and desserts. Track down top-secret or traditional family favorites for a personal touch.


The parents, grandparents, or other adults in your life might like a bottle of wine to save for a special occasion or enjoy during the holiday season. compiles Wine Spectator’s 90+ rated wines under $20, and Wine Enthusiast shares its Top 100 Best Buys list each year. Print out the bottle’s review to give with the bottle.

During the college years, it’s understandable that you might not be able to spend a lot of money on gifts. However, gift giving doesn’t have to break the bank. With a little imagination, you can easily come up with a memorable, meaningful gift for every person on your list.

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