How to celebrate Christmas as a uni student, while still having cash left for presents
Let’s spread Christmas cheer rather than glandular fever
Finally, December at uni! Illnesses are rife, deadlines are relentless, houses are being snatched, and you suddenly realise that we’re halfway through the academic year.
What is meant to be the most joyous month of the year is in reality an absolute nightmare. However, let us not lose all hope; Wham’s Last Christmas is on repeat and the parties are fast approaching. Let’s change the narrative and put the merry back into Merry Christmas!
Here are five pointers on how to achieve a successful uni Christmas in your house or flat without blowing your student loan on unnecessarily expensive decorations and food.
1. The dreaded roast dinner
Trust me, it isn’t as scary as it initially seems. The first thing to do is decide what trimmings you and your flat want. Make sure you choose chicken for your meat, as it’s the best value. Make a strict shopping list and let one person pay and then split the price between all of you. This is fairer than dedicating people to buying certain ingredients – carrots and sausages do not cost the same. Also, I can guarantee you someone will forget to buy their ingredients throwing the whole thing into jeopardy – I mean what’s a roast dinner without a Yorkshire pudding!!
Next, you need to dedicate an entire evening to the cause, as it can take a while. I would recommend you give your kitchen a good tidy before and make sure all previous washing up is done so you have plenty of peeling room.
Make sure to assign people different roles and remember not everyone needs to be involved in the cooking. For example, in a house of six, three can cook and three wash up, set the table, and make drinks. Mulled wine is a fun beverage to tackle if you get put on drink duty. By making sure not everyone cooks, the kitchen will be a calmer environment and will help avoid arguments. It’s also a good idea to have a head chef who takes control and assigns the sous-chef tasks. Democracy isn’t the way to go, or haven’t you heard the phrase about “too many cooks”?
Cooking a roast can seem like an unnecessary use of time and effort, but it is so much cheaper to do it yourself instead of going out for one, and you’ll be super proud of the result. If you want to splash out, buy some Christmas crackers for extra points too!
Don’t buy a real tree; it’s important to remember that most students go home around the 15th December so there is no need to invest in a full-size tree, even if the smell is incredibly festive.
However, that doesn’t mean you have to be boring and do nothing. One cheap decoration idea is to cut out snowflakes using paper. There are loads of tutorials online for cutting the perfect shape, and you will spend no money doing this, especially if you use old lecture notes. You can use Bluetack to stick the snowflakes on windows, fridges, cupboards, and walls. You can also use the paper to cut out candy cane shapes and use a red pen to create the stripy look.
Remember that tacky decorations are perfect for uni homes, you don’t need to buy handcrafted ornaments from Anthropologie. Get yourself some tinsel and whack it on fireplaces, windowsills and door frames. Most homeware shops sell it, and it does bring that little bit of sparkly joy.
If you are someone who thrives off decorating, head to Poundland in Cabot. It has the ultimate selection of tacky decorations for super cheap. If you’re hosting any type of Christmas event, they sell all you’ll need from mini candy canes to inflatable reindeer.
3. Gifts and secret Santa
We’ve all been there – your flatmate is desperate to do secret Santa, expecting you to have a budget of £30, but giving gifts at uni is all about compromise. If you’re doing secret Santa, suggest a budget of £10 as this is more than enough to buy a nice personal gift that isn’t just a tub of Celebrations.
Etsy is a great place to start for cheap prices on thoughtful gifts. Some ideas could be a personalised keyring to help stop your flatmate from losing their key, or a poster to elevate their dull uni room. Another good place to look is the gift section on ASOS as there is so much variation and many affordable bits and bobs.
If secret Santa is too daunting and broad, you can do a gift swap of something specific. For example, a Christmas pyjama gift swap in which you all buy someone a PJ set from somewhere like Primark. You can do this idea with many things like mugs, slippers, and blankets, and it’s a lot more relaxed than usual secret Santa as the gifts aren’t to be taken too seriously.
What’s the point of Christmas if it doesn’t involve some nostalgic, traditional activities from our childhoods?
The easiest is of course a Christmas movie night – if you choose anything other than Elf or Love Actually then you need a serious talking to. To elevate your Christmas movie night from the usual movie night, make sure you have a selection of Christmas sweat treats like Terry’s Chocolate Orange or Matchsticks. Options do an incredible mint flavoured hot chocolate that you should get your flat to try. Invest in some fairy lights to make it super cosy and bring down your duvets for the ultimate movie environment.
The next activity is Christmas baking – mince pies are super easy to make and taste so much better homemade. Christmas cookies are easy too and a Nutella filled pastry Christmas tree is a non-negotiable. The ingredients needed are nice and cheap too, especially split between a couple of you. You can always combine the baking with your movie night and eat them during the film.
If you’re hosting mates for a Christmas-themed night, primary school party games are making a comeback and we’re absolutely here for it. Bring back pass the parcel, hide and seek, Twister, and the fork and knife chocolate game. You can always put an adult spin on them too, introducing drink into the games. I can guarantee everyone will enjoy these games and will add a nostalgic element to the evening.
5. Venturing out
Venturing out doesn’t have to mean spending lots of money. Christmas markets are perfect to mooch around, with Bristol’s one in Cabot Circus. Although they are extortionate in price, you can look and not buy however this will require intense self control. If the Bristol market doesn’t do it for you, take the 10 minute train to Bath which is the ultimate Christmas destination with reasonably priced ice skating and a beautiful tree outside the lit up Cathedral.
Consider going on a Christmas walk – wrap up warm and head to the Christmassy locations of Clifton or Ashton Court Estate for some outdoor enrichment. Go with friends or by yourself with Christmas tunes blasting through your headphones. It’s easy to live on campus in December, but it’s a good idea to take a break from studying and explore during the Christmas period. Another fun game is trying to spot houses with impressive Christmas displays around Bristol.