Tag Archives: shopping

The Grad Student’s Week-Before-Christmas Guide to Cheap, Awesome Gifts

16 Dec

You meant to do your shopping early this year, you really did. But grad school reared its ugly head, the ol’ bank account isn’t looking too hot, and they say that Christmas is happening next week. Not that you would know – your perpetual presence in your windowless basement office prevents you from accurately judging the passage of time.


1. Panic! Panic hard!

2. Check out the ideas on the following list.


Modified board game. I’ve been on both the giving and receiving end for this one, and it makes a pretty hilarious present. Here’s what you do: Go to a thrift store, buy an old board game, and use craft supplies to modify it in a way that makes it specifically pertinent to the recipient. A couple years ago Ted and I replaced all of the faces on the tiles of a Guess Who board with small, glued-on pictures of our friends’ faces, and voila – a version of Guess Who that was instantly way more fun and special than the original. We are also the proud owners of a fabulous version of Apples to Apples that some  friends made for us, modified to include words that remind us of inside jokes and experiences we’ve had together.

Magazine subscription. Many magazine subscriptions can be had for as little as $10, and there are magazines out there for just about every interest imaginable. (Case in point: Sheep! Magazine)

Cupcake making set. A cute gift idea for the budding baker in your life. Pick up a cupcake-related book from the bargain section of Barnes & Noble (there’s always at least one, usually for $6 or so), and then go to a craft store like Michael’s or Hobby Lobby to buy a set of cute cupcake liners, an icing tip or two, an icing bag, and if the price is right, a cupcake pan. The whole thing can be done for $15 or less.

A lovely handcrafted item, Dollar Store Style. If you’re the crafty type, check out the craft ideas at Dollar Store Crafts. While some of the projects on the site look… well, like they were made from stuff from the Dollar Store, there are also some surprisingly clever ideas. I especially like this Deluxe Superhero Fort Kit.

Striped umbrella. What I Wore has a cool tutorial for an easy DIY striped umbrella.

Book of Ph.D. comics. A no-fail gift for any fellow grad student. If you can’t find a book at your local bookstore, use your Amazon Prime student account to get one shipped to you in 2 days.

Pretty sugar cookies. If you’ve always wanted to try making those beautiful sugar cookies you see every year on the covers of magazines like Martha Stewart Living, I totally recommend going to your local library and checking out Cookie Craft by Janice Fryer and Valerie Peterson. This book is packed with simple step-by-step directions and gorgeous pictures, and it’ll have you making pretty gift-worthy cookies in no time.

Chocolate mustache pops. The last time I was in Hobby Lobby, I noticed a super cute chocolate mustache mold that could be used to churn out funny, tasty gifts. All you’d need is the mold, lollipop sticks, and a couple bags of candy melts, all of which can be purchased at Hobby Lobby or Michael’s. Better move fast on this one, though. I think the ironic hipster mustache’s days are limited. Next year it’s going to be all about the sideburns.

The gift of your skillz. Got a relative who might like to learn to use Facebook, use Skype, or start a blog? Can you cook a gourmet meal? Do you know a secret hiking spot? Do you have the brawn and experience needed to do a home improvement task your grandmother can’t manage? Are you good at babysitting or pet-sitting? If yes to any of the above or you have other valuable skills that were not mentioned, then for goodness’ sake, you’re golden. Go write up a voucher right now.

DIY coasters. Two Girls Being Thrifty have a great tutorial for beautiful, easy coasters made from tile and scrapbook paper.

Local beer. If you go to school in a city blessed with a lot of microbreweries and have a beer-loving friend or family member back home, find a liquor store that does build-your-own-six-packs and bring them a variety of your favorite brews.

Donation to a charity your recipient cares about. Giving this one is like double-giving, and most organizations will let you donate as little or as much as you can afford.

Fancy bulletin board. Tea Rose Home has a great suggestion for sharp-looking DIY message boards that will dress up any office. All you need is a thrift store frame, some spray paint, and corkboard. Anyone else have ideas for quick, inexpensive presents?

In Pursuit of a Suit

2 Dec

Be here in 15 minutes... and suit up! (image from sodahead.com)

My first internship interview is happening in a little less than 2 weeks, and I’m going to be expected to wear a suit. The suit I owned in college is a flimsy one that suffers from Problematic Gap Syndrome (PGS) in the chest area. I got it from the JC Penny junior section for $25, so I guess I shouldn’t have expected anything better. No, it’s time I owned an Adult Suit, one that will carry me through internship interviews and job interviews and dazzle all who lay eyes upon it.

Unfortunately, shopping for work clothes is really challenging for me. I don’t have a great handle on what’s fashionable, I have almost zilch tolerance for discomfort or inconvenience in the name of fashion, and my list of shopping rule-outs borders on unreasonable. (No clothes that need ironing.  No leather. No clothes that need dry cleaning. No clothes that need hand-washing. No squeezy sleeves. No see-through shirts that always have to be layered with other shirts. No shirts that aren’t long enough to cover pants pockets. No pants without back pockets. No skinny jeans. No clothes that are tight in the wrong places. No clothes that are loose in the wrong places. No sweater dresses. And so on.) Suit shopping has all the challenges of shopping for regular work clothes, with the added pressure of the knowledge that people are going to carefully scrutinize you when you’re wearing this suit. Also, you will probably have to spend a lot of money. Also, you are unlikely to find a suit that is machine-washable and never has to be ironed.

Thankfully, some of my more fashion-adept friends have agreed to go suit shopping with me this weekend and steer me in the right direction. I’m hoping to find a gray suit, since I think a gray one will be formal but less severe than a black suit. It makes me a little sad that suits in nontraditional colors are off the table – I saw a fire-engine red one at Macy’s that I liked a lot – but I don’t think they’d make the impression I want to make. Better to be seen as unique for your accomplishments than for your outrageous attire.

Is anyone else in the process of hunting for a suit?

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