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How to save for your gap year and still buy christmas presents

Written by The Leap on 16 / 12 / 2014

Gap Year Advice

If you’re planning on doing some travelling after Christmas, chances are you’re probably doing everything in your power to save money ahead of your trip.

Unfortunately, this is the worst time of year to be hoarding the pennies. Although Christmas is fun, sociable and a good excuse to indulge on chocolate and champagne, there’s one thing it certainly isn’t... and that’s cheap.

Or so it may seem.

If you've been worrying about your wallet in the lead up to this festive period, stop. I'm here to give you good news: you can emerge from the holidays with your books balanced and without looking like Ebenezer Scrooge.

That's right, dear reader. There are ways you can do Christmas on a low budget - of course there are! They just involve a bit more time and patience.

From making your own cards and presents, to declining just a couple of those cocktail party invites, here are a few ideas to keep Christmas on the cheap(ish) side this year.

Try Making Your Own Presents

Sometimes the best presents are the ones that cost the least but require a little extra thought - I know I’d certainly prefer to receive a scrapbook of photos over some fancy bubble bath, for example.

Don’t worry if you’re not especially gifted at arts and crafts, either. There are plenty of homemade gift ideas that don’t require exceptional artistic skills. Not sure where to start? Check out this exhaustive resource, 100 Homemade Gift Ideas. Now you've got no excuse, lazy bones.

Make Your Cards Too (Or Don’t Send Any!)

Making Christmas cards is fun and again, it adds a nice personal touch. You'll need coloured card, some pens, and maybe some glue, buttons and other knick knacks depending on how ambitious you want to get. The good news is, there are literally hundreds of guides around the web on making all manner of cards.

I particularly like this thumbprint reindeer one - it's easy enough for a small child to master.

If you simply don’t have the time to sit and make cards for each and every person you want to wish a Merry Christmas, why don’t give the cards a miss? There are plenty of other ways to offer festive greetings. You could send a free eCard like the ones on bluemountain.com, which you can even add voice recordings or Christmas carols to.

Large Family? Try a Gift Exchange

Do you come from a sizeable family and feel obliged to buy something for all your many relatives at Christmas time? Have you considered that it might be better to buy one good-quality gift for someone, rather than lots of cheap and cheerful ones for the entire family?

A gift exchange or Secret Santa arrangement is one way to make holiday gift giving much easier. Agree on a price limit and you'll soon find it's a great way to save money, hassle and provide great entertainment all round.

Use Magazines Instead of Wrapping Paper

Wrapping paper is inexplicably highly priced and, whereas it looks pretty, it’s only going to get torn off the presents you give others and chucked straight into the fire. So what’s the point in spending all that money?

Instead, consider digging out some old magazines and using the best pages to wrap your gifts. That way you don’t have to make the trip to your nearest stationery store, giving you one less thing to worry about.

Decorate Your Tree With Recycled Items

Have you ever considered making your Christmas decorations out of light bulbs, toilet roll or old CDs? I didn’t think so. This is a great way to save money though, plus it helps the environment and is ideal for keeping younger siblings entertained during this period.

Learn how to make recycled Christmas tree ornaments, and you'll end up with a tree that’s green in all senses of the word.

Scour the Internet for Christmas Deals

There are some great deals at this time of year offered by stores across the nation and online. If you want to find the best ones, check out deal websites like hotukdeals.com where you can find and share festive offers, promotional codes and vouchers from on and off the web.

Bake and Sell Festive Goodies

There are plenty of delicious Christmassy treats that you can bake. You're onto a winner whether you use them as gifts for people or make a load to sell and raise a few pounds.

Check out this collection of Christmas baking recipes by BBC Good Food, and a similar effort on the M&S website for some inspiration on what to make. And when you're done, why not organise a cake sale in your town or simply don a festive hat and go knocking on your neighbours’ doors – you’ll probably find that they’re a little more generous at this time of year...

Ask for Presents You Can Take Travelling

Rather than worrying about splashing out on that nice thermal sleeping bag or expensive pair of hiking boots, why not put them on your Christmas wishlist?

We’ve compiled a list of the best stocking fillers for travellers, which you can look at for some inspiration before passing it on those loving family members and friends.

Don’t Accept Every Christmas Party Invitation

I know this isn’t easy, being a bit of a party girl myself. But sometimes we have to sacrifice a few things we want in order to save up for the one thing we want the most.

If you have an epic round-the-world trip planned then it’s worth spending a few nights in over the festive period and avoiding the endless partying. That’s not to say you shouldn’t go to any! But it might be best to attend the ones you simply can’t miss and just have a few friends round to drink mulled wine and watch festive films on the other nights.

Babysit for Busy Parents

Everyone knows people with kids who’ll no doubt need a bit of extra help over the Christmas period. You should be proactive and advertise your services as a babysitter in your local shop, or tell friends with little ones that you’re available to do some child minding so that they can enjoy a much-deserved break.

One thing is for sure: babysitting over key dates like Christmas Eve pays incredibly well, so if you're looking for extra cash you'd do well to get in on the action. The babysitting and nannies section of Gumtree is typically the first place parents looking for help at short notice will go, so start your search there.

Check out our gap year programs

We have award winning programs across Africa, Asia, South and Central America. All include a mix of projects and adventures. All are supported. All involve team work.

Gap year programs

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