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ISSUE 121 VOL 10 PUBLISHED 12/7/2007

Getting gifts on a budget

By Everett Jones
Contributing Writer

Friday, December 7, 2007

Christmas can be a trying time for the college student. As much as one may look forward to the chance to see family and friends, finding the right gifts for everyone often presents a challenge, particularly for a student living on a budget who may wish to give presents to people both at school and at home. As the holiday season approaches ever more quickly, along with exams to study for and travel preparations to make, I thought I would offer a few useful tips on shopping and finding the right presents, both for parents shopping for their kids and for Oles shopping for parents and fellow students.

Rather than shopping, Oles looking for gifts for other students might want to consider more creative options. Knitting articles of clothing like hats, scarves or gloves makes for a particularly apt gift on this campus as we gear up for winter. For the artistically inclined, poetry or drawings can be a unique and personalized gift for close friends.

If your interests run into culinary areas, batches of cookies or other sweets can provide nicely holiday-appropriate study breaks for one's fellow starving students.

This may sound too sentimental for some, but presenting a framed photo of you and your friends gives a nicely personal touch. On the other hand, making a mix CD is a good alternative if the previous suggestion sounds too mushy. Buying unusual or little known board games as presents makes for good opportunities for reconnecting after having been away on break.

If while selecting gifts for friends, consider shared experiences and interests. Select gifts for parents that serve to make them feel more connected to your experiences at school. The St. Olaf Bookstore offers plenty of St. Olaf-themed items, of course, but these can be rather pricey, so you might also consider the creative option for getting presents for parents, such as knitting a scarf in school colors. You might also want to look in downtown Northfield for attractive but affordable items that, whether or not they have anything directly to do with St. Olaf, can still serve as mementoes of sorts.

Parents, likewise, should keep an eye out for gifts that are in some way associated with home, such as some distinctive kind of food. If an inspiration in this field is not forthcoming, you should remember that practicality is always a big plus with college students. Gifts that they might have scoffed at as boring in high school are more likely now to be appreciated. Warm clothing, for instance, comes in handy up here, and, again, cookies and the like are always welcome around exam time or during winter festivities.

With the hectic pace that both students and parents have to deal with at this time of year, it is helpful to keep a sense of proportion about the gift-giving aspect of Christmas.

A good way to avoid that stress is to do a little internet shopping. This seems like an obvious answer, but eBay or its equivalent will offer a good array of gifts, so it would be easy to personalize your friend's gifts.

People tend to get caught up in stress over shopping and selecting the right gift, so you should try to keep in mind that a present's main point is in strengthening the relationship between two people, whether it is a friendship between students or the bond between a parent and child. Don't see Christmas gift-giving as a test, but enjoy it as a chance that only comes once a year.

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