by John Leung

Low on money this month? That’s pretty understandable because it’s not easy to save money while at university – and basic necessities are expensive here in Toronto. With the holidays just around the corner, many people face the problem of finding the perfect gift without spending too much money.


To help out everyone who is on a tight budget this holiday season, here are seven economical ways to give a meaningful gift to your special someone(s).

1. Personalized Art

If you are good at art, whether by hand or using a computer, utilize that talent to make something unique for your friend. You can draw them a portrait or make a collage of photos in Photoshop; the possibilities are endless.  I’m sure the lucky recipient will admire the art and happily display it.


I am going to make a portrait of a rabbit for my bunny-loving friend.


2. Create Something

So maybe you’re not good at art. Maybe you have another skill, perhaps in woodworking or jewellery-making – then consider making something like a cutting board or a necklace. Love baking? Then why not make some Christmas cookies or cupcakes, because who doesn’t enjoy receiving food for a present? There are other simple things you can make, like soap or a stuffed animal. Putting effort into making a present for someone tells the recipient that you have been thinking of them, and you choosing to devote time to creating something especially for them gives a gift extra meaning. Silver jewelery - GiedysARTvision design-18    

3. Exchange Belongings

Maybe you have been coveting your friend’s sweater for quite a while, and your friend has been admiring your charm bracelet that you don’t wear much. So how about swapping these belongings? If you want to make this more unique and special, then swap personal items that have real meaning for you: this way your special someone will have you in spirit through the personal item.  


I exchanged a stuffed toy dog with my friend for this meditation stone.


4. Secret Santa

This works great with groups of four or more. It might be that you and your friends are all broke this year, so everyone can save money by giving one gift to another friend through a random draw. Instead of getting multiple gifts, you can spend a bit more on one present and everyone will still get something in the end. Collection of Gifts at Rashmi's Desk


 5. Coupon Books

How about putting together a coupon book of favours that can be ‘spent’ over the year? You can make this pretty fun, such as “Coffee is on me this morning” or “One free car wash”. Couples can get creative and do something fun, like “One date of your choice” or “Breakfast in bed courtesy of me.”



6. Customized Framed Photos

Similar to the idea of the photo collage, for those who lack computer skills, there are a lot of editing apps on smartphones that allow you to customize photos. Once you are done editing, you can get them printed out – for example, Shoppers Drug Mart has photo stations where you can get a 6” by 4” photo printed right away for only 39 cents. Afterwards, you can get a frame for the photo – never underestimate the power of combining something personal with the ever-useful dollar store!


Photo Grid is a really simple photo editing app.


7. Show Them How Special They Are

If you want to give a meaningful gift this season, then show the person how special they are to you and just how big of a role they play in your life. To do this, you can write them a poem or write them a short story or a card. Maybe put together a collection that lists things you love and value about them. The best gift I ever received was a book my friend made for me which talks about their ten favourite things about me.


This is hands down the best gift I have ever received.


I hope I’ve given you some good ideas on ways to give a creative and special gift while operating on a tight budget. The best gifts aren’t necessarily the ones with high monetary value, but those with the most meaning. If you have ideas on other low cost or meaningful gift ideas, comment below – we can all use these tips at this time of year when money is tight.

Lastly, I wish everyone safe and happy holidays – stay warm and enjoy the break!