It’s that time of year: gather the flat/course/housemates round a table with cringe-worthy cracker jokes, share some laughs and enjoy a meal together. “But wait”, I hear you cry, “how can we do all that on a tight budget?” Well over my undergraduate degree I’ve had three Christmases in three different homes and have amassed a few ideas to share. In this blog I’ll give you my tips on exchanging gifts, the dreaded dinner, and buying gifts for the family.
“Secret Santa” is a great way of doing presents without worrying about how much to spend; set yourselves a price limit, even £5 would be fine, pull names out of hat and away you go! Although this amount of money may not be enough to exchange lavish gifts, it’s a great way to buy something a bit more personal or even craft something yourself if you have the time. Alternatively, buy small stockings and fill them with cheaper items, from discount retailers or with a selection of their favourite food. Charity shops are a great way to find obscure items, all the while you can give a little something back to the community at Christmas time.
Now for the main feature: the dinner. If you’re not confident with cooking then making a roast dinner can seem daunting – let alone the Christmas meal! By breaking down the process (and maybe cheating here or there, if you want) it can be a great group activity. To start with work out the budget; in previous years my household, varying between seven and five people, have managed it on a combined total of £20-£30 excluding alcohol. Once you have the pot of money, it’s time to get shopping! I’d recommend going for a frozen joint of meat; turkey crowns can be a great choice as they vary in weight and price to suit your needs, and this will be much cheaper than fresh.
Alternatively there are some great vegetarian/vegan options in bigger supermarkets which can be just as tasty; last year my house served both a turkey crown and pre-made nut roast wellington which went down equally well. As for accompanying vegetables, although most supermarket will offer pre-made/roasted options it’s surprisingly easy to do yourself. Have a look online for countless suggestions about the best ways to prep, boil, and roast just about any vegetable. Whatever ingredients or budget you decide, get everyone to pitch in with peeling, chopping, and inevitably washing up – when it’s a group effort, it doesn’t have to be laborious.
After the meal, or at any time this festive season, it’s nice to do something to celebrate the end of the first semester of the year with your close friends that’s a little different to a night out or movie night – although obviously there’s nothing wrong with either of these. Plymouth offers a host of alternative ways to celebrate: why not head to a pub quiz? The Students’ Union hosts one every Sunday, or local places such as James Street Vaults also host weekly quizzes; quizzes provide a great chance to have a pint as well as bond over your collective knowledge (or lack thereof!). If you fancy some shopping or speciality food items you could check out one of the local markets, such as the campus market, or Christmas markets in numerous places (Plymouth, Totnes, or Exeter to name just a few). As a personal recommendation from this year, Illuminate festival at Royal William Yard was a great evening out with stunning visuals which is easy to access by bus.
However you choose to spend it, hopefully you see that a university Christmas doesn’t necessarily have to be either expensive or difficult! It’s just about spending time with friends. Drink responsibly, safe travels home for the holidays, and have a very merry Christmas.