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Gift Ideas

Best birthday present ideas 2021

Finding the ideal birthday gifts for your loved ones isn't always easy when you're on a budget. But, we happen to know of lots of presents that are thoughtful, memorable and affordable...

presents tied with ribbon

Credit: Fotosova – Shutterstock

If you've ever found the perfect present for someone which you know they'll love, only to look at the price tag and see it's painfully out of budget, we can definitely relate. Luckily, though, this scenario can easily be avoided – as this gift guide will show you.

Whether you're looking for a birthday present for your best friend, mum, dad, flatmate, partner or just about anyone else you're close to, you're bound to find some gift inspiration here.

Read on for the 11 best birthday presents to give to your nearest and dearest, with a student budget in mind.

As well as treating others, make sure you're also making the most of these amazing birthday freebies when your big day comes around. 🎁

11 perfect birthday gift ideas

These are the best, most affordable birthday presents to buy for your friends and family:

  1. Hamper of their favourite food and drink

    Gift hamper

    Credit: nikkytok – Shutterstock

    Sometimes, the best gifts are ones that are simple, low-priced, but chosen completely with the recipient in mind, like hampers.

    Although you can buy pre-made hampers filled with things like chocolates, wines and cheeses on Etsy and similar sites, it can work out much cheaper to buy each individual part of the gift yourself.

    And, as well as lowering the cost, buying each part of the hamper separately means you can also make sure the overall gift is tailored completely to the person you're giving it to.

    For example, if you know your best friend has been working really hard lately, you could choose items that would help them unwind like a candle, a face mask, a journal and maybe a hand-written note that lets them know how much they mean to you.

    Package all of your items up together in a box or basket, and you've got a low-cost gift that is sure to mean a lot to whoever is receiving it.

  2. Homeware

    We all want to make our house feel like a home, so it's always such a treat to receive home decor items from close friends and family.

    You don't need to spend much to get a great homeware gift. Whether it's a tea towel, a photo frame, a set of coasters or anything else that catches your eye, items for the home can be affordable and really thoughtful.

    Plus, unlike foodie gifts like sweets and chocolates (which, let's face it, will probably be eaten within the day), homeware presents are long-lasting. This means the lucky recipient can be reminded of you each and every time they use their gift.

  3. Handmade crafts

    Cross stitch flowers

    Credit: NDanko – Shutterstock

    Not only are arts and crafts super relaxing to make, but they also make brilliant gifts.

    DIY craft gifts can be as simple or as complex as you like – what matters is that you've taken the time to make something that you think they would love, and you've put the effort into it. It might sound clichéd, but it really is the thought that counts.

    If you're a beginner at crafts, it might be worth getting something like a candle-making kit as this should make it easier for you to get started. Just be sure to closely follow the kit's instructions and you can't go far wrong.

  4. Flowers

    A bunch of flowers is such a lovely birthday present to give to your friends and family – it will brighten up their house and their day.

    You don't need to spend a fortune on flowers to find a beautiful bouquet. If you're on a tight budget, we recommend steering clear of high-end flower boutiques as these will be pricey. Instead, have a look at the ones from your local supermarket – a £5 bunch will still make a great present.

    As long as you pick out flowers that you think will put a smile on your loved one's face, that's all that matters.

  5. A tree planted on their behalf

    tree on hill over landscape

    Credit: Willy Barton – Shutterstock

    For any environmentally-conscious friend or family member, planting a tree on their behalf is an ideal birthday gift. It's not only extremely thoughtful, but it's a good deed that will make both them and you feel good.

    We recommend looking into the tree-gifting options on Ecologi. They have several gifts to choose from, including the option to have 100 trees planted for £12.40.

    If that feels a bit steep, though, you could also consider donating to the National Trust's 'plant a tree fund' for a minimum donation of £5.

    At Save the Student, we plant trees via Ecologi to offset our carbon emissions each month, allowing us to be a carbon-positive website.
  6. Art prints

    If you're talented at drawing, painting, printing or just about any other form of image-making, giving away your artworks as gifts will always be highly appreciated.

    But, for anyone who's not confident at art, don't worry – you should still be able to find art prints for a pretty good price online if you know where to look.

    We recommend heading to Etsy and having a look through the selection of lovely art prints on there.

    For limited-edition, handmade prints (e.g. etchings, lino prints and lithographs, etc.), the prices will vary a lot, but you should be able to find some in a range of styles and sizes for between £20–£50 each.

    But, if you're hoping to spend less than this on the birthday gift, have a look for art prints that are digitally reproduced. You can still get brilliant designs printed out onto high-quality paper without spending a fortune – often for £10 or less.

  7. Scrapbook of memories

    Person holding pink scrapbook

    Credit: photo_mira – Shutterstock

    One of the most thoughtful gifts you can make, while spending very little, is a scrapbook full of photos, memories and notes.

    If you're looking for a birthday present for your best friend, we definitely recommend making them a scrapbook – it's the perfect way to show them how much the friendship means to you, and how special your memories together are.

    To save money on the gift, have a look at the scrapbooks from Wilko – you can get some lovely ones for as little as £4 or less. You can also find lots for a similar price from Amazon.

  8. DIY cocktails in a jar

    If you know your friend/family member's favourite cocktail, a great birthday gift idea is to fill a jar with the ingredients for that drink.

    For example, if you're getting a present for your sibling who you know loves Woo Woos, you could get a mason jar and add in miniature bottles of vodka and peach schnapps, along with a small carton of cranberry juice.

    Then you all you need to do is tie a note around the jar lid with the cocktail recipe and a little birthday message, and the gift is ready!

    And, for more drink ideas, check out our guide to easy cocktail recipes.

  9. Books

    Colourful books with blue background

    Credit: Unuchko Veronika – Shutterstock

    Books can make really special birthday presents. They don't necessarily cost a lot (especially if bought second-hand) but a lot of thought needs to go into them to make sure they're right for the gift recipient.

    It can be difficult to buy novels for people unless you're sure there's one they haven't yet read that they'd love. But, if you have a look for non-fiction books based on their interests, you're sure to find one that they're unlikely to own already, but that's perfect for them.

    Unsure where to start? There are so many great book shops to visit, including Waterstone's, Foyles and Hive (all three of which offer student discount).

  10. Magazine subscription

    Why limit your gift-giving to just one day? Magazine subscriptions give your friend or family member something to keep looking forward to several months after their birthday.

    They don't need to cost a fortune to buy, either. There are loads of magazine subscription sites to choose from but, to keep the costs low, it's worth having a look at Great Magazines as they offer a 15% student discount.

    Please note that the subscriptions from Great Magazines are usually available for either a year or on a month-by-month basis. However, if you'd rather just get a subscription for a set period like three or six months, you could choose the pay-monthly option and cancel after your chosen period (just make sure to set a reminder to end the subscription in time).

    Also, keep an eye on our deals page as we often share magazine offers, including limited-time reductions on subscriptions.

  11. Homecooked meal

    friends dinner party

    Whoever your gift is for, a homecooked meal would be such a thoughtful way to show them that you appreciate them, making their birthday feel that bit more special.

    When planned in advance, the dinner really wouldn't need to cost much. In fact, we have a whole host of recipes that work out as just a couple of quid per head (or sometimes less!).

    Invite over the people you're both close to and throw them all a fun, laid-back dinner party. The time and effort that will go into preparing and making the meal will definitely mean a lot, and it's a gift that will be truly memorable.

    And, it goes without saying, don't forget the birthday cake. 🎂

For plenty more ideas, check out our guide to surprisingly thoughtful gifts for £5 or less.

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