A student’s guide to gift-giving this holiday season

With COVID-19 restrictions still in place, gift-giving will be less traditional in 2020

Regardless of budget, there are still ways to give your friends thoughtful holiday gifts.

The days of being able to exchange gifts with friends while sitting on a dorm room floor the week, before winter break, are behind us, replaced with virtual holiday celebrations over Zoom or mere “Happy holidays” text messages. While you may be apart, there are still methods of celebrating the holidays with friends, including ways to exchange gifts with loved ones, regardless of your budget.

Send some snail mail ($0-$5)

Writing and putting together letters to my friends is an activity that’s come to bring me solace over the past eight months. What started as me writing short notes turned into me painting — sometimes hand-making — envelopes and cutting clippings from newspapers and magazines. Regardless of whether writing letters to friends is a one-time event or becomes a part of your weekly routine, the recipient will appreciate the thought and effort behind the holiday greeting. Buy festive cards from the store, create your own, or just use some lined paper: there’s no wrong way to let your friends know that you’re thinking of them this holiday season.

Plan a movie night ($0-$5)

Use Teleparty (formerly known as Netflix Party) to stream a movie together and chat — everyone has to have an account with the streaming service to participate, but Teleparty is now compatible with Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Not everyone in your friend group has an account? Hop on Discord, make a server, and have someone with an account screen share the movie for everyone to see. Is it legal? No, but it is fun. Keep in mind that Macs can’t stream audio on Discord (thanks to an issue with system permissions), so someone with a PC will have to be in charge of screen sharing.

Make a donation in their name ($5+)

As the pandemic approaches a height in its second wave, leaving many out of work and worsening living conditions for already-marginalized groups, it is as good of a time as ever to donate to local organizations giving back to your communities and individuals in need. Plus, donations can easily be made online and from anywhere, making them a great gift to give to far-away friends. Just ask your friend what organizations, movements or individuals they are interested in donating to and give back in the name of the holiday season.

Have a local business deliver a gift ($15+)

Many local businesses are now offering curbside and delivery options as a result of COVID-19 business occupancy limitations, so why not support a local business while showing your friend some love? This option is likely most available if your friend lives in a big- or medium-sized city or town, but it does not hurt to peek around, regardless. Look for local bookstores, plant nurseries, bakeries and gift shops, many of which are offering local delivery — sometimes even for free.

Order them a personalized subscription box ($25+)

There’s pretty much a subscription box for anything nowadays: books, cheese, wine, face masks, video games and whatever else you can think of. Gift your friend a one- or three-month subscription box dedicated to something they love, and you won’t have to worry about putting together the perfect gift: they’ll do it for you. Keep in mind the current issues with shipping speeds through the USPS as you start your search, especially if you are thinking of ordering a box containing perishable goods.