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Five White Elephant or Secret Santa Gift Ideas For Broke College Students

The holidays are approaching. Fast. December’s going to be a great time for building snowmen, drinking hot chocolate, and also gift giving at holiday festivities. Unfortunately, many of us are broke college students who don’t think they can afford to buy ten people ten presents. 

A great way to get around this in your friend group, coworkers, or roommates is to organize a Secret Santa or White Elephant.

For a Secret Santa party, everyone gets assigned someone to buy a personalized present for. In White Elephant, everyone just brings something, and then people take turns picking who gets what. If you’re participating in one or both of these holiday activities, here are 5 ideas for what to get.


Jewelry is one size fits all, unlike clothes. You can pick out a very simple necklace or pair of earrings within a wide price range and depending on what you and your friends agreed upon. Jewelry is the one present that can fit almost anyone’s sense of fashion.

Cute Target earrings for the win! 


Similar to the idea of buying nice lotion or perfume, candles are a go-to-gift. If it smells good to you, it probably smells good to everyone else at the Christmas party.

If you only need to spend a little money, buy one candle. If you the price range is higher, buy a whole basket of scented goodies from Bath and Body Works.


School Supplies

This gift idea is PERFECT if you’re a college student engaging in a gift exchange with other students. Buy some packs of fancy pens, or those thick mechanical pencils that never break. It’s not bling, but whoever gets this gift is sure to use it for classes next semester. 

For those who think out of the generic school supply box, look for things you don’t know you need them until you REALLY need them like a mini stapler, or a label maker. You’ll be a lifesaver. 

Cute notebooks are a win-win

Makeup tools

For the most part, makeup can be a tricky white elephant. Everyone has different complexions and color preferences, and buying a palette can quickly become expensive. Consider opting for a pack of beauty blenders, a brush set, or an eyelash curler. Even a friend who’s not makeup obsessed would still get general use out of these basic tools.

A cute pack of supplies never hurts

Gift Cards

Gift cards are slightly more acceptable than just bringing a ten dollar bill. Plus, what college student wouldn’t be excited to receive a gift card for Starbucks or Uber? 


Paige is a sophomore at DePaul University studying English creative writing. Her parents were /this/ close to naming her Hermione but wasn't sure if the name would fit her. They regret this decision more everyday.
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