Holiday Cheer Without Tearing Your Budget: 7 Last Minute Gift Ideas for College Students

Written by

Claudia Rojas


December 14, 2018


It’s 2018: student debt is on the rise and finding a job is itself a full-time commitment. Not surprisingly, young people are making less money and spending less. The holiday season might frighten you, and maybe you’re shopping last minute because you didn’t think you would shop at all. Or maybe you’re shopping last minute because that’s who you are.

Whatever the case, we at College Mouse have some cool gift ideas for you. This season live by your budget and still manage gifts for friends and family:

Gift Idea #1: Go Personal

A gift that shows careful thought is always in! Try an Etsy art print like Folio Creations, beginning at $12.95 with a range of customizable options: pick a size, color, and text. For t-shirts, try Custom Ink or Spreadshirt to design a shirt anywhere from under $30. Amp up the personalization by adding a favorite photo to a $5.99 magnet, $16.99 mug, or $34.99 pillow at Shutterfly. Compare prices and more photo gift ideas at Snapfish.

When choosing a personalized gift, choose items that would have repeated use. Avoid dating a gift with “2018,” unless there’s significance to that. Make the personalized gift adaptable for the future!

Gift Idea #2: The Perfect Book

Books are a timeless and often inexpensive go-to gift. Do you need some tips on choosing the right book? Read book recommendations for 2018 by librarians. Penguin Random House has staff picks for the sci-fi connoisseur, children, sports fans, and more. For poetry, try the Button Poetry shop with titles beginning at $7. Next year, try the Penguin Random House’s book recommendation feature, The Penguin Hotline. By filling out a short survey open through early December, you receive book recommendations from the staff at Penguin. Once you have the perfect book, search signed copies at Barnes & Noble or Books a Million.

Gift Idea #3: Tech Essentials

A useful and high demand gift, portable chargers, can be bought for low prices; try stores like Five Below or find modest prices online. Earbuds are also an essential, and here’s a list evaluating a few affordable options. What if your gift recipient will need to turn the volume up? Consider wireless speakers, varying in affordability and quality. These gifts are small and portable, which means they are welcome items and will get frequent use.

Gift Idea #4: Gifts that Give

Give the gift of beauty and charity. Pura Vida Bracelets, for example, has a Charity Collection where a small portion of the profits made go to a charity fighting for animal conservation, cancer awareness, education, and a handful of other causes. If Pura Vida’s Charity Collection interests you, Good Housekeeping has a list of 20 gifts that give back. Alternatively, give to a friend or family member’s favorite charity on their behalf. A word of caution: there are some donation considerations to take before going this route—mainly, receiving confirmation that your friend or relative would welcome the gift.

Gift Idea #5: Better Photos

Everyone loves a good picture! Make picture-taking better and inexpensive with clip-on camera lens from under $20 to under $100. There’s a lens for close-ups, landscapes, and even selfies. A mini tripod also does wonders in capturing a moment and getting new angles. Search for these photo tools online or your local Office Depot or Best Buy.

Gift Idea #6: Feel at Home

Give something for their walls: find a movie poster or wall art at All Posters, pricing starts at $6.99. Or gather a mug, marshmallows, and hot cocoa and give the gift of a hot chocolate kit! Take it up a notch and give the gift of stress-relief like a paint by number kit available at Easy 123 Art for $35 or search cheaper options on Amazon.

Gift Idea #7: Gift Cards

Gift-giving can feel like science! Make the task easier on you by giving a gift card that will get use. According to Wallet Hub, this year people want to receive a gift card from the following retailers: Disney, iTunes, Visa, Target, and Walmart. Gift cards are a flexible and versatile choice; from dinner or grocery shopping to an Uber ride, there’s a card for any need and any budget.

We hope these gift ideas move you forward on your holiday shopping. Before you purchase these and other gifts, look for discounts and promotions. Popular discount sites are and Happy searching and shopping!

Disclaimer: College Mouse is not affiliated to any of the forenamed retailers.


Written by:  Claudia Rojas

Claudia Rojas is a freelance writer and a poet with a Bachelor’s in English from George Mason University. She is a proud first generation college student. Claudia’s poetry appears in The Acentos Review, Poetry is Dead, and The Bookends Review.

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