Insight: Festive giving leaves half of students in the red – VoucherCodes

With the Christmas break on the horizon, many students will be looking forward to indulging in gifts and too much food. However, research has revealed how difficult the season of giving can be for students hoping to take a break from university and join the festivities. discovered almost half of students (47%) have less than 10% of their loan remaining following Christmas celebrations with family and friends, causing over a third (36%) to confess they need to borrow money from their parents until they receive their next student loan.

With the average student expecting to spend over £140 so that they can join their family in celebrating Christmas, four in five (81%) admit they have to significantly cut back during December in order to afford the festive season. The average student will spend £34.70 simply on travelling home for the celebrations, £64 on gifts for their loved ones on Christmas Day, and an additional £42.50 on socialising with friends from home.

Financial difficulties at Christmas

With typically less disposable income and a heavy dependence on their loan, the season of giving can be a difficult time for students hoping to embrace the festivities without the means to do so. Two out of five students (43%) even say they consider Christmas an inconvenience because it’s expected they will spend money, causing a third (32%) to confess they sign up for a part-time job in December specifically to afford the festive season.

This pressure to spend money is arguably at its peak when buying presents for their loved ones, with almost a third (29%) saying they spend over £100 on gifts despite three-quarters (75%) saying their family and friends understand they can’t afford to spend too much. This generosity quickly bites back, however, as money is at such a premium that three out of five students (60%) admit they’d rather receive cash than traditional presents from their family.

Student finances at Christmas
I search for discounts when buying Christmas presents 81%
My family understand I can’t afford to spend much 75%
I’m grateful for not having to pay for bills while I’m home 73%
I would rather receive money than traditional presents 60%
I don’t like that I’m expected to spend money at Christmas 43%


Christmas shopping is particularly tough for students. Indeed, with almost a third (29%) having less than 20% of their student loan remaining when they start searching for gifts, four out five (81%) admit they target sales and discounts when deciding what presents to buy. Half (46%) even awkwardly joke that being home from university should be their parents’ present.

Joining the Christmas festivities

Whilst Christmas undoubtedly adds a bit of financial pressure to the average student’s budget, it also represents an opportunity to see school friends for the first time in months and offers light relief from the pressures of studying. Almost half (46%) say they love Christmas so much because they get to celebrate it twice – once with university friends and then again with family when they come home.

But it’s not just socialising that the UK’s students are looking forward to, as three in five (61%) confess that Christmas dinner is the best home-cooked meal they’ve had all semester – with half (49%) believing Christmas dinner is the ultimate highlight of the festive period.  This could be because most students (52%) buy and eat less food at university throughout December so they can afford Christmas.

Best things about Christmas for students
I come home to see my family 56%
I have a long break from university 52%
Christmas dinner 49%
I celebrate Christmas twice 46%
I come home to see my friends 32%


While the majority of students (56%) say the best thing about Christmas is being home with their family, today’s figures suggest it isn’t long before they miss the perks of student life. The average student is tired of listening to their parents nagging within four days of going home, with a quarter (26%) surviving just 72 hours before they miss the independence of being away from home.

Studying during Christmas

For many students, Christmas is one of few real breaks from lectures and seminars. However, there is little respite from the looming assignment deadlines and January exams waiting on the other side of New Year.

Four out of five students (84%) say it is difficult to work on assignments and revise for exams over the festive period, causing two out of five (39%) to admit they don’t enjoy Christmas as much because they can’t switch off from university pressures. Indeed, the average student starts preparing for exams and/or assignments within just five days of going home for the festive period.

Nevertheless, though most students (52%) say a long break from university is the best thing about Christmas, a third (36%) choose to go back to their university accommodation by New Year because they find it easier to study there than at home (34%).

Anita Naik, Lifestyle Editor at, said: “Christmas is a special time of year to celebrate the festivities with family and friends. For students, it can mean so much more as they try to break free from the stresses of university life and briefly enjoy the perks of being surrounded by familiar faces, not least Christmas dinner and not having to pay bills!

“However, the season of giving can also bring unwanted pressure and become a heavy burden for students looking to nurse their loan through to the next semester. As a student, there are so many discounts available to help make limited budgets stretch that bit further – including some fantastic exclusive offers on the student section of I would encourage students to have one eye on January while they shop for the best deals this Christmas and, as boring as it is, try and resist the urge to spend beyond their means.”

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