Exams are over. Papers are written. Projects have been turned in. However, another daunting task awaits us college students this December — finding holiday gifts on a college budget. It’s no easy thing to do but after a few Christmases in college, I hope I can offer you some solid advice on how to come up with some ideas for those hard-to-buy-for individuals. For starters, check out Gizmodo’s awesome Gift Guide for 2010.

Parents and Other Close Family Members

Sure, it’s usually pretty easy to buy for your best friends, siblings, and significant other, but sometimes parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins pose a bit of a problem. You’re not around during the year to see what would be a good addition to their life, since you’re obviously busy making stellar grades in college. But there are a few things you can do or get that will make fairly satisfying gifts. 

Of course, one option is to just ask them what they want. Okay, some people might consider this cheating, but it’s a lot easier to narrow down your options when you have some kind of idea what they’d like. They may not be super surprised when opening your gift, but add a little personality to the design of the item or get a quirky card to make the gift really feel like it’s coming from you.

You should also really make use of your work connections if you’re employed during the school year to get something discounted. I work at the publishing company at my university and am allowed to take a complimentary copy of each book. Hello Christmas gifts. So wherever you work, use your discount to grab something whether it be a scarf or a company mug. It may not be pretty, but it’s really the thought that counts. Also, it is totally okay to get stuff from your school’s book store like universities sweatshirts or hats. Of course, don’t try to do this for every occasion or else they’ll have the store’s entire stock in their closets and will grow quite tired of your universities colors.

Some other generic items that always tend to make good gifts are:

  • Calendars — Well, you need a new one every year, don’t you? Book stores have tons of different kinds of calendars so pick out a fun one to give to a family member.
  • Books — Who doesn’t love a good book? And the most wonderful thing about books? There is one for everyone. Just wander around your local book store and look for something that catches your eye. This is usually my method of picking out books before I go on vacation and it works very well. There are always little tables with more specific categories like, “Pets” or “Best Sellers,” so it won’t be a problem at all to find something for everyone.
  • DVDs — Kind of the same idea as the book. There’s always a movie for everyone. However, keep in mind that with the purchase of the DVD for a family member also comes the gift of spending time with the family to watch the movie. It’s like a double gift.
  • A “Coupon” To Help Them With Electronics – I will definitely be using this one this year. My dad was awesome enough to give my brother and me iPhones this Christmas, and he also got one for himself. Since Apple products are basically brand new to him, my brother and I have agreed to give him a “coupon” for our undivided attention to help him with his new piece of technology. NOTE: This means calm and patient help. No snatching the phone or remote away from your parents every five seconds and telling them they’re doing it wrong. You’ll both end up frustrated.

Relations of Significant Others

If you want your relationship with your boyfriend/girlfriend to keep going smoothly, it is a wise idea to give a gift to his/her parents. To be completely honest, it doesn’t really matter what it is as long as it shows thoughtfulness. The past two Christmases, I’ve given my boyfriend’s parents Marley & Me (which is hysterically funny, by the way, until the very end when you want to just curl up and cry for a month) because they love dogs and dishtowels to match their new kitchen. Nothing fancy, nothing expensive, just something that’s thoughtful. This year I’ll be giving them Sandlot, a favorite family movie of theirs.

DVDs and books, as described above, are usually good ways to go. If you need some help thinking of ideas, obviously ask your significant other to help you out. If they’re being unhelpful, a gift card to a restaurant would be nice for them to use on a date night.

Gifts for siblings of significant others can get more difficult, depending on how well you know their family. Again, DVDs or books are usually fairly foolproof. It;s mostly the thought that counts.

As for more distant relatives of significant others, unless you feel completely obligated to give them a small gift, you’re pretty much off the hook in that department. The most important thing you can do for the holidays for them is to be polite and charming when you’re around them. 


While it’s not always necessary to give your boss a gift, I have found that it makes your working relation with your boss better if you take the initiative and thoughtfulness to give them a holiday gift. Of course, a problem that you will inevitably run into is “What the hell am I supposed to get him/her?”

I stand firmly in the fact that women are so much easier to buy for than men. So if you have a female boss, excellent. Hand lotion is always a lovely gift idea for pretty much any kind of woman, be it your boss or your girlfriend’s sister. Try for something that doesn’t have an overpowering scent as that can be a turn off to some people. Candles also make good gifts. I’ve also recently discovered that very rarely can you go wrong with a nice canister of chocolates.

I am honestly still at a loss for what to give male bosses as gifts. A canister of Godiva chocolate worked for me this year, but I wasn’t able to come up with anything else. If anyone else has suggestions, please post them in the comments for those who are also unsure of what to do!

If you feel that you can’t think of anything at all to give your boss, you can always simply buy them a pretty holiday card and write them a nice note thanking them for a wonderful year of work. As I’ve said all along, it is really just the thought that counts.

Happy Holidays, HackCollege readers! I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and good luck in your gifting endeavors! 

Do you have any last minute holiday gift ideas? Post them in the comments!