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It's the holidays and you're heading home from school to spend time with family and friends, eating your favourite foods and exchanging gifts with your loved ones. There's one problem: you're a student and you're low on cash.

You want to participate in gift exchanges because it’s fun, but when your wallet’s feeling a little light, and you don’t have the extra hours to give a part-time job, what can you do?

Quite a lot, actually. With a little ingenuity, some creativity and maybe a glue stick, you can still give thoughtful gifts to the ones you love and not feel like a Scrooge.

Get Crafty

If you’ve got the skills, make something. It could be a card, a painting or a small piece of woodwork. If you need ideas, just Google. Type in, “Holiday cheap DIY gifts,” and you get millions of search results. Head to the dollar store, pick up supplies and start crafting.

Do a Secret Santa

Secret Santa is a great way to participating in gift giving without having to spend a lot of money. Gather friends and family who want to participate, set a budget that everyone can afford and draw names out of a hat. That way you just have to buy one gift, which is way cheaper than buying gifts for everyone.

An alternative is to agree to buy gifts for just the children in the family. If there are multiple children, you could focus on younger siblings.

Donate to Charity

‘Tis the season of giving, and even if you don’t have a big budget for gifts, you can still help others through charitable donations and your time. You can make a donation to a charity supported by your family, or donate your time to help out where it’s most needed. Encourage your family to join you for a few hours during the holidays, and you’ll make more memories while helping others.

Shop Second-Hand

The second-hand economy is worth more than $28 billion dollars and nearly everything flows through it including clothing, accessories, cars, furniture, etc. Places like Kijiji, Facebook groups, consignment and vintage stores are treasure troves of items and many of them are practically brand new. That means with a little effort, you could find gifts for way less than retail price.

Be Honest

You’re a student, most people will understand you can’t afford to buy gifts for everyone this holiday. Instead, buy some holiday cards, write a lovely note and offer to do the holiday dinner clean-up.

The holiday season isn’t about who can buy the fanciest and most expensive gifts, it’s about being with the family who matters the most. Show them you care by giving a gift that has meaning versus dollar signs.

These tips are for the holidays but for year-round student finance tips, check out RBC’s Student Hub.