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Jonathan G Meath portrays Santa Claus via Wikimedia Commons

Gift ideas for students

It’s the season for giving, and impoverished students are a needy bunch. So what do you give to the young person who needs pretty much everything?

Here are some gift ideas – things they might like to put on their Christmas lists for this year or, for those who are just applying now, to keep in mind for next Christmas when the penury has set in as bitterly as the winter chill.


It can be hard enough to remember to eat when you’re a student, let alone afford it – or actually want to eat what they serve in the cafeteria. Do your student loved one a favour and make the whole thing less of a chore (and maybe sneak in some health benefits while you’re at it).

A Graze Box each week, for instance, could make them pathetically grateful. It’s full of goodness, a nice alternative to a microwaved burger, and a warming reminder of home every time it arrives in the post.

Any awful meal can be pepped up into something acceptable with the addition of a decent condiment. There’s no harm in walking around armed with a little bottle of chilli sauce.

You can’t beat the zen-like, Voltairian cool of growing your own. Give a student a vegetable and they’ll leave it the fridge for a fortnight, but teach them to grown their own and they will gain a skill that will stay with them for life. You could get them an allotment where they live, and a couple of hours there each week could save them a huge amount of money. They might be able to rope in some friends and enjoy some great bonding moments.

Of course, that depends on whether they will be around to tend it during the holidays – and whether they will actually put the time in. Depending on where they live, maybe a couple of window boxes could at least keep them in tomatoes and lettuce.

Sure, you could give them vouchers for a big-name supermarket, but let’s face it, they will probably just spend it on booze.


Again, vouchers for online retailers could end up being spent on things that will be less… mentally stimulating.

Book tokens are still a thing, and will keep them from frittering.

But there’s always the option of gift vouchers for online services like Google Play, Lulu, and more.


Sure, the little darlings are supposed to get their clothes from charity shops. But something new and sparkly or smart is a great joy every now and then.

But what can you get them that they’ll actually wear? Again vouchers may be safest.

You might find something you know they will love on Etsy – or get them an Etsy gift card so they can enjoy scrolling through the lovingly-crafted things available there until they find something that’s just right.


Every High Street chemist or department store will have Christmas gift boxes of soap, shampoo and other nice-smelling things. Whatever you send, even if it lacks a certain cool, they will quietly use it – for their own benefit and for the friends who have to sit near them on a regular basis!

They don’t get pampered often, so a bit of posh soap, bath bombs or perfume/after shave will be a lovely treat. Do be aware of their ethical concerns over animal testing, sustainability and so on – you can’t go wrong with Lush.


Yes, paper may be soooo last century. But it’s a cheap and effective alternative to breakage-prone technology.

Do they need to get organised? The “hipster PDA” is now an ancient concept, but no less useful for that. There are endless ways to hack a personal organiser out of old oddments of paper, card, leather offcuts, elastic bands, ribbon and so on, and you could make them something pocket-sized that would be cherished and useful.

Or there’s always new notebooks, sketchbooks, organisers, calendars etc. A fountain pen is a beautiful thing that may be with them for life, and it makes a statement.


Assuming they have all the high-end tech they need – phone, tablet, laptop etc – there are still some inexpensive things they could find useful or have creative fun with.

Try a smartphone projector, so they can share their funny videos important study-related presentations.

Phones are great for taking photos, but they still can’t compete with actual cameras for picture quality. Pocket digital cameras are absurdly cheap, but it’s all about the retro now. How about a DIY film camera, for the ultimate hipster cool?

Waking up is hard to do when you’re a student, so how about a clock that will help them actually want to get up and face the day?

There are lots of fun gadgets that don’t have to break the bank.


Students will usually get special cut-price deals for software licences, or may even have access to all the software they need through their uni anyway. You could always check whether there’s something you could help them with, though, like personal finance tools, Adobe’s Creative Cloud, or time/project management apps.

Then there are entertainment apps like Netflix and Spotify, which no young person could be without.

Maybe they need to keep up their membership to their local FabLab or makerspace.

And how about actual magazines, especially if they are relevant to their studies? Good old National Geographic is still an inspiration, whatever subject you’re studying.


Any other ideas? Please leave them in the comments below!

Happy Christmas to everyone.

Posted by Nicholas Manthorpe on Tue, 14 Feb 2017

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Nick was a reporter for the Eastern Daily Press and its sister weekly titles in Norfolk and Waveney, then served as Media Officer for North Norfolk District Council for 13 years. He now works as a writer and PR and media relations consultant. He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, an associate member of the Chartered Management Institute and a member of East Anglian Writers.

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