Ho, ho, ho 🎄 Christmas is upon us once again. Every year, the celebration seems to come around so quickly. The year starts, we blink, and before we know it the Michael Bublé songs are out and Coca Cola is telling us that “holidays are coming”. 🎵

Buying Christmas presents has become a staple part of the celebration. You should never feel obliged to buy presents or struggle financially for the sake of buying them.

But plenty of us enjoy giving presents just as much as receiving them. So here are 6 steps to budgeting for Christmas presents so you can play Santa to your loved ones this year.


1. Work out your budget

Seems obvious, huh? But it’s an essential step to have stress-free gift shopping.

This doesn’t have to take huge amounts of time but you need to end up with an amount of money that you’ll allocate to Christmas presents – remembering that, if you have one, your student loan will have to last you until the start of the next term, which could be a whole 4 weeks after Christmas Day! 😬

Running a simple budget, writing down how much money you have and how much you have coming in and going out, can help you to work this out.

You’ll need to account for any rent payments (for most uni accommodation, you’ll still have to pay over the holidays), food, transport and any socialising you’re planning on doing over the holidays.

You’ll also want to make sure you account for any Direct Debits, standing orders or recurring card payments that are planned to come out of your account This might include subscriptions to Amazon Prime and other streaming services that can quickly add up.

You should also include any sources of income you’ll have in the run-up to Christmas. You might be able to spend a bit more now on presents if you know you’ll be able to earn more money between now and Christmas Day.

We want you to come up with an exact number for how much you’re going to spend on presents. Write it down if this means you’ll be more likely to stick to it! 🖋


2. Work out who you’re going to buy gifts for

Here it goes, your own, personal naughty & nice list!

It makes sense to start with the most obvious people that you always buy presents for. These might include:

  • Your parents

  • Siblings 

  • Friends

  • Significant other


Many people only think of buying presents for those closest to them, but that’s not always the case. Here are some ideas of who else you might want to include on your naughty & nice list:

  • Extended family members e.g. grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, that guy Bob who crashes your family Christmas party every year

  • Any young children in your family/close circle 

  • Flatmates

  • Work colleagues

  • Other members of any societies you are involved in

  • Any mentors that you have, or people that have helped you a lot over the past year

  • Secret Santa gifts 🎅


Lots of students do Secret Santas as it’s a fun way to do Christmas present giving that doesn’t involve spending huge amounts and leads to some quite funny gifts. So if you’ve got a Secret Santa, make sure they’re included on your list.


3. Write down how much you’re planning on spending on each person & add this up

Write down next to each person’s name on your list how much you plan to spend on them.

This doesn’t have to be exact, but it should give you a very good idea. 💰

For example, you might say you want to spend:

  • £30 on your significant other

  • £10 on your cousin Karen

  • £5 on your Secret Santa gift


Once you’ve written these amounts down, you need to add them all up to work out the total.

When you eventually go to do your shopping, it’s okay to spend a bit less on somebody than you wrote down. Your list isn’t an obligation to spend exactly that amount on them!


4. Adjust how much you’ll spend on gifts for each person based on your budget

Unless you’ve rigged it, there’s likely to be a difference between the number you worked out in step 1 (how much you have to spend on Christmas presents) and the number in step 3 (the total of how much you’re planning on spending on each person) – usually, you’ll have less to spend than you had planned to spend.

If you have more to spend than you had planned to spend – great! You can move on to step 5. But if not, you’re going to have to do some adjusting.

Either you’ll need to reduce the amount you’re spending on some people’s presents, or remove some people from your list altogether. 🚫

If you really are determined to spend the amount of money you wrote down on your friends and family, the best way to achieve this is by trying to increase your earnings – can you take on any extra shifts for your job? Or do you have any old things you can sell to make some space and earn some extra cash? 💸 Alternatively, you might want to go back to your budget and see if there is anywhere you could cut your spending, or think of making homemade gifts on a budget.


5. Go and buy the presents – and remember to stick to your budget!

You’ve done all the hard work – now it’s time to go and buy your presents! 🎁

Whether you prefer doing this online or hitting the High Street, Christmas shopping can be a really fun experience, but make sure you always have in mind how much you’ll be spending on each person – it’s good to take your list with you so you can stay on track. 


6. Enjoy Christmas & the holiday season with your loved ones

Remember, even though presents are a big part of Christmas celebrations, the holidays are meant to be about spending time with the people you love and care about – the presents are just an extra part of it, which you should only spend on if you can afford to.

Make the most of your time off and have an amazing holiday season, whatever your plans are! 🌟


Further learning:

Savings pathway

The rise and risks of Buy Now Pay Later

Get Money Smart today

Unlimited access to 100s of articles, videos, and funding options.

Register for free

Latest blog posts

View all
  • Your guide to repaying student loans 2024

  • Student finance for part-time students – what you need to know

  • Accu's ‘Building Tomorrow’s Visionaries’ Scholarship: empowering engineers for a brighter future