It’s a well-known fact among students that Christmas can be the best and worst time of the year. It’ll be the best because you’ll get to enjoy some time away from Uni, but it’ll also be the worst because your lecturers will suddenly decide that Christmas is the perfect time to set you tons of work, so you’ll end up with hardly any free time. Thanks for that.
On the plus side, you’ll get to spend time with your family who you probably haven’t seen since they dropped you off at the start of September! Well, maybe not too much time, otherwise you’ll probably end up killing each other, especially now that you’ve had a taste of independence and the thought of living back at home scares the life out of you.
One of the best parts about being at Uni around Christmas time, is spending it with your house mates. Whether you like all of them or not, you have undoubtedly become a kind of family who cooks and of course, drinks together. Besides, nothing is better than buying a cheap and tacky Christmas tree together, and decorating it with £2 fairy lights and multi-coloured baubles.
The present giving is also a bonus, and seeing as you’re all on a budget, it’s always a great idea to play a good ole’ game of Secret Santa. Without a doubt everyone will be up for this – even the miser in the house - and it’s by far the easiest and cheapest option as opposed to buying everyone individual presents, especially if you’re living in a house with nine other people.
There’s always one or two housemates that you’re closer to and if you happen to pull their name out of the hat, then great! You’ll have the best time picking out presents because you know exactly what they like or what will get them to blush or giggle. But if you find yourself stuck with the awkward housemate (there’s always one) then things can be a bit trickier.
Whether you’re not really that close or you’ve had run-ins with them in the past over spilt milk and stolen biscuits, remember what time of year it is and get something that’s funny, but cheap. You can never go wrong with a classic joke gift: if a bag of chocolate pug poop isn’t funny, what is?
Even though playing Secret Santa with your housemates is meant to be cheap and cheerful, there are still a few ‘Gift Dos and Don’ts’ that you’ll need to know. You didn’t think this would be a free for all did you? Just because it’s a student house doesn’t mean you can abandon all the rules and run amok like the Lord of the Flies!
Don’t go overboard
Set a price limit that everyone can afford. A fiver? A tenner? Whatever it is, make sure you’re all ok with that. Yes, it might be the season of goodwill, but you don’t have Bill Gate’s fortune to plunder.
Do re-wrap presents
At some point in your life, you’ve probably received a present that you’ve never liked or used, which is why the art of re-wrapping is so handy. As long as the present is in a really good condition (preferably unused) you’re good to go.
So the only thing you’ll have to buy is the wrapping paper, and a card if you’re feeling generous. Just make sure you don’t give the re-wrapped present to the same person who gave it to you originally! That would be awkward, especially if you gave it to the awkward person you don’t get on with.
Don’t leave anyone out
Get everyone in the house involved, even if it is that one housemate who never seems to leave their room. Knock on their door, introduce yourself (just in case they’ve forgotten who you are even though you’ve been living together for three months) and say; “Hi, I know we haven’t officially met – I think we may have bumped into each other at one point going to the bathroom – but did you want to play Secret Santa?”
Even if they don’t want to play, at least you’ve finally met the ‘other’ house mate. Congrats! Your housemates will be proud of your bravery. Getting everyone involved makes the game much more interesting, and you’ll avoid feeling bad if anyone were accidently (or on purpose) left out.
Do play it safe
Some people are against buying generic gifts like a pack of scented shower gels or a mix and match makeup kit, but for a student it’s perfectly acceptable. You can never go wrong with buying gifts like these, and not only are they an easy purchase, they’re also worth the money and you can find some cracking bargains.
If you want to get something just a little bit different but still practical, grab a bar of luxury hand-made organic soap. They smell delicious and can even make a subtle point to the person in the house who doesn’t always like to wash as frequently as everyone else!
Try not to forget about actually buying a gift, otherwise you’ll find yourself in a moment of panic, frantically trying to find something last minute to give them. Giving them a packet of crisps or a pack of jam donuts might seem like a great and useful “gift” but frankly, it’s a bit rubbish and thoughtless. You might be skint and this might be Secret Santa, but there are limits to how low you can go! So don’t leave it until the last minute (you’ve probably heard that from your lecturer plenty of times).
The more the merrier
Housemates aren’t the only ones who should be on your Christmas list. Remember to include the people that made moving to Uni a lot easier and a lot less stressful than it could have been. You know, the people you lived with for the previous 18 years of your life? They may be a pain sometimes, but they’re your pain because they’re your family, so get them something nice this year. Besides, if it weren’t for mum you’d probably be sitting around in the same t-shirt you’ve been wearing for the past eight days. So you better treat her to something nice for putting up with you and your dirty washing. Now this doesn’t mean the gift has to be expensive. It could be as something simple as a box of chocolates, a bouquet of flowers, or a delicious bottle of wine. As long as it’s not dirty washing, she’ll love it. And get your dad a Christmas gadget, or something silly or funny from somewhere like Hawkin’s Bazaar, there’s no shortage of gifts out there that won’t cost the earth.
Because at the end of the day, it is the thought that counts.