What’s the solution when even handmade gifts are becoming too costly?
Welcome to December — the time of the year where students feel the looming pressure of exam season and the imminent relief of the upcoming holiday break.
It’s also the time of the year for numbers to drop: the temperature gets lower as we get into the full swing of winter, there are fewer and fewer hours of sunlight, and our bank accounts aren’t immune to the holiday spirit of generosity plus the rising cost of living in Victoria.
In my opinion, holiday gift-giving adds a significant amount of stress for students, in more ways than one. The University of Victoria’s exam period runs until Dec. 20, creating a ‘crunch-time’ allocated to traveling home and preparing to exchange gifts.
Amidst the busyness, holiday gift-giving also presents a financial burden. Victoria’s living wage (which is the hourly pay required to raise a small family) has risen by 4.6 per cent from last year and now stands at $25.40. The broke college student trope isn’t an overstatement, and I’ve seen firsthand how people are grappling with the rising cost of rent and food in this city in creative ways. Take the Community Cabbage, for example, a club which creates meals with food reclaimed from dumpsters.
I asked around to see how students are finding alternative ways of holiday gift-giving and how they balanced cost with festivity.
Blythe Paetkau, a third-year student in kinesiology, says that her family has been doing Secret Santa for years with handmade gifts and a $20 budget to buy supplies. Secret Santa is an anonymous exchange of gifts within a group of people, where you draw names to find your gift recipient.
She’s crocheting a small mural for her sister, but says “I do end up making at least one little thing for everybody, because it’s really expensive to buy for everybody.”
It’s hard not to get inspired by this tradition. Handmade gifts are personal and quite often more meaningful than anything store-bought. Personally, I get irked at the rampant push for consumerism around the holidays, though I still cave in and participate because I’m not the craftiest person.
However, handmade gifts still have prices attached. Paetkau laments to me about the price of yarn, the backbone of her gifts. I wondered about making meals for my friends as a present, but the groceries I’d need to buy are just as likely to be expensive as a store bought gift, if not more so.
It’s troubling that gift-giving can be such an undertaking for students under financial stress. If you’re crafty, hand making your gifts is a great idea and doesn’t contribute to the surge of consumerism during the holidays. If making something isn’t really in your wheelhouse, I might suggest planning a fun excursion or day itinerary and gifting your loved ones some adventurous quality time.
There must be more solutions than these. I think that with some brainstorming and work inside each of our communities, we can find them. For now, I’ll plan ahead for next holiday season with a new crafty skill under my belt, so I’m not stuck in the yearly cycle of financial stress.