As a member of a family, your goal is to give meaningful gifts this December. As a college student, your goal is to give affordable gifts. As a veteran of the empty wallet, I'm here to share with you a couple of my favorite cheap, creative gifts to get your relatives for the holiday season.
1. Custom Calendars/Stationery
This is my personal favorite, which is why it's at the top of this list. I frequently run into the problem of my relatives having too much stuff, which makes it a pain to shop for any kind of gift, let alone a cheap one. With custom design websites like Shutterfly, you can upload pictures onto templates to create your own calendars, stationery, clothes and more. When my dad was feeling down, I designed him a motivational desk calendar. When my mom didn't understand what a meme was, I made her a meme calendar. Everyone always loves their custom gifts, the adults are always amazed by "technology these days" and the gift is always something useful to the recipient.
2. Custom Playing Cards
There are also websites dedicated entirely to making custom cards — everything from standard 52-card decks to business cards. My favorite thing is to make a deck of standard playing cards with different designs in the center for each number or suit. Last Christmas, I bought all my close family members decks of playing cards where each number had the picture of a different presidential candidate — with Stephen Colbert as the Ace. All it takes is a Google search to find the best images of memes, TV shows or even presidential candidates to add to your deck.
There are plenty of cheap, cool toys out there, especially in the age of the Internet. My personal favorite is Glux, a plastic substitute that can function simultaneously as a magnet, bouncy ball and play dough. Many types of Glux also glow in the dark or change color based on temperature. And each mini Glux is less than $5 off the shelf!
4. Plastic Figurines
If you're still stumped on what to get for the youngin's in your family, plastic figurines are the best way to go. Even in our technology-themed world, many youngsters still love collecting or playing with those little figures. Collections of zoo animal figurines often contain 50 different animals for less than $10, and individuals can be sold for under a dollar. Heck, if you're like me and collected these as a kid, you may still have dozens laying around in your attic.
5. Mold Tray/Cookie Cutters
I didn't know what to get my brother's girlfriend for Christmas, but I knew she liked Harry Potter. Most harry Potter stuff is not what you'd call cheap, but I managed to find a Chocolate Frog mold for less then $5. If she doesn't bake, she can still use it as an ice tray. This spurred my to also get Texas-themed cookie cutters for my uncle and aunt, which were also less than $5 altogether. In fact, there are plenty of cookie cutters or ice trays that come in designs for specific college teams, animals or even fandoms.
6. Origami Money
This should only be for relatives who understand your sense of humor and are relatively forgiving. I once did this for my brother. I knew he wanted money for Christmas, and money was all I could afford to give him, but I still felt bad about just handing over a $10 bill. So instead, I taped a Hamilton to a green sheet of paper and then folded the paper into an origami swan. He then had a choice of gifts: he could keep my origami swan or open it up and take the money. He couldn't have his cake and eat it, too.
But be warned: when my brother tried to tear open the swan, he accidentally tore Alexander Hamilton's face in half. Then he had neither the swan nor the money.
7. Fancy Stationery
We don't know why, but we're all strangely in love with stationery. Patterned sticky notes, book marks, gel pens, sharpies that come in unusual colors — you name it. If you just don't have the time to make custom stationery but still want to give your relatives a gift they can use, it doesn't take long to find cool stationary on Amazon or at the local bookstore.
8. Themed Coloring Books
Adult coloring books are gaining lots of popularity lately, and you can easily find a coloring book to match someone's personality. I always give coloring books with complex patterns to my relatives in need of some meditation. My grandma, on the other hand, is getting a Grumpy Cat coloring book this year.
These are just a few of countless cheap, creative options for your loved ones. You don't have to compromise on getting people fun, useful gifts just because you're in college! If you're willing to spend the time searching or creating, then you'll always be able to make a few people smile this holiday season.
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