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Hi. I’m Jasmyn Chacko and I’m a college student on a budget. “College student on a budget” – it almost sounds redundant as if everyone knows that college students are in need of some guap (read: money). We get excited at the word “free,” especially if pizza comes after it. We have student loans looming in our already stressed and sleep deprived minds, so when birthdays come around, expensive gifts are just not a thing. We aint about that life. I’ve always been a proponent of thoughtful, inexpensive celebrations and gifts and here I will share some ideas that work for college students.

Scavenger Hunt: Set up a scavenger hunt all around campus for your friend by making a list of clues that reference memories with that person. The fun starts when you send your friend a vaguely ominous text: Meet me at 101 College Avenue at 5 PM. Wear comfortable shoes. Come alone. They will be so confused until you meet and hand them the list of clues! They’ll be so flattered that you spent so much time planning. This could be completely free or you could purchase little candies or gifts for your friend to find at each clue’s location.

On-Campus Resources: Organizations are hosting events all the time! You have acapella concerts and charity soccer games at your fingertips. Everyone has that thing that they always said they would do, but never got a chance to because homework got in the way. Treat yourself! You’ll regret not taking advantage of all that the campus offers.
Surprise Series: Get a group of friends to surprise the birthday guy or girl throughout his or her schedule for the day. Show up at their 8 a.m. class with a coffee. Not-so-creepily wait outside their internship with a cupcake. Meet them at the dining hall with a handwritten card. Or do all three (*gasp*).

Rent a Car: Sounds expensive, right? Maybe not! Many universities are near a Zipcar station, which provides cheap car rentals for limited periods of time. You can usually fit five people, splitting the cost to make it more affordable. You won’t be going too far anyway. Choose a couple of hours to get off campus (with or without a specific destination in mind). As college students, we are often so stuck in our bubbles. It could be nice to just explore – windows down, music blasting, and see what your college’s area has to offer. You could find a place to have a picnic or take a hike. You could go to a nearby city, shop (or window shop if you have the self control), and grab a bite to eat. With a few friends and a tank full of gas, the options are endless.

Sweet Serenade: Friends with someone in the acapella group? Have their group sing your friend one of his or her favorite songs – flash mob style – at a class, dining hall, dorm room, or even in the middle of the quad. Public humiliation? Sounds like a good gift to me.

Makeshift Photo Shoot: Get all dolled up, but one rule: if it is your birthday, you can’t do your own. Let a friend be your personal stylist and makeup artist (if you trust them enough!). Then take one of your flat sheets (preferably white) and hang it on a wall. Add funny props and you’re good to go. Snap away and your selfies will be on a whole new level.

Birthdays are a great excuse to splurge on good food and a memorable way to bond with friends. It is particularly important to celebrate friends’ birthdays in college because for many people, it can be an emotional time. Before college, birthdays had always been celebrated with their families and there are most likely traditions that can’t be recreated at school. Be there for a friend by really making their day special and all of these ideas are very cheap, so you don’t need to stress about money. At the end of the day, I’m sure you could have fun doing anything with the right people – isn’t that the beauty of good friends? Be good, prospies.

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the author

Jasmyn Chacko, a freshman at Syracuse University, is equally nervous and excited to be a new member of The Prospect's writing staff. This position is absolutely perfect for her since she loves quirky and informal writing, as well as the college admissions process. Say what? Yup, she loves it. As crazy as it sounds, her inner teacher fantasizes about correcting personal essays and supplements. Jasmyn studies English, Spanish, and Education with strong interests in Gender Studies and ESL Education. On campus, she's a member of the dance team and the cast of the Vagina Monologues and in her free time, she fails to resist eating candy and takes naps. She hopes her articles provide advice, a break from work, and excitement regarding the future.

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