The holidays are a special time of year for most students — and not because it signals the end of the fall semester. They mean you get to escape your dorm room, gorge yourself on holiday treats, and unwrap a present or two with your name on the tags. But as any good merry-maker knows, you would have to be a Scrooge to accept gifts without giving some in return.
‘Tis the season for giving, which can be hard on your student budget — but not impossible. Before the festivities persuade you to spend hand over fist, check in with this quick guide to celebrating on a budget. From money management tips to crafty DIY ideas, these tricks can help you return to campus with your finances intact.
Make a budget
Your first priority is to make a budget — which may seem futile while you’re at school. Most of your finances are tied up financing your campus lifestyle, and your bank balance doesn’t promise much wiggle room. What was once a sizeable sum at the start of the semester has become a tiny figure after you paid for tuition and residence.
These are all the more reason why you need a holiday budget. Without it, your shopping list can stray from the limits of your bank account. Before you know it, you can end up spending more of your student loans and loading up your credit cards to leave gifts under the tree.
Think of your finances like they were a class drawing to a close this semester. You have to put in some time studying if you expect to get a good mark. Likewise, you need to spend some time reconciling your bank balance with your goals this holiday, so you know what you can afford to spend on the holidays.
If you’ve never created a budget before, check in with financial experts like MoneyKey to learn about the different budgeting methods at your disposal. Since they connect people with payday loans, they understand how hard it may be to budget on limited finances, and they’ve adjusted their advice to match the abilities of their customers. As a student, you’ll find their resource center stocked with practical tips to follow a budget, even if you don’t rely on online loans.
Finals week isn’t pretty, especially when you add on your new financial homework. But it’s worth it. You may help you avoid gaining holiday debt — something that Nerd Wallet reports takes the majority of shoppers several months to pay off.
Learn to prioritize
Your Christmas wish list might include toasting with friends, travelling home for the holidays, and a brand new Pixel 3 XL. But fans of the carol “I’ll Be Home for Christmas Goes” know sometimes these wishes are only in your dreams.
When your budget outlines the hard limits of your spending, it’s clear that you won’t be able to tick off every festive must-have of your dream holiday. After you’ve created a budget, you need to support this document with realistic priorities. That means you’re going to have to make some sacrifices; it’s just not possible for you to attend every Christmas shindig, participate in every Secret Santa exchange, and give everyone on your floor a gift.
Take some time to think about what truly matters to you during the season. Anything you leave out of your brainstorming session is something you can skip over this year.
Make use of your student discount
Sure, being a student in 2018 means you’re paying the highest tuition rates ever, full stop. But your college career isn’t all doom and gloom — there are some upsides, too. Take, for example, all the friends you’ve met on campus, and the degree you’re working towards that will someday make you lots of money. (You hope)! There’s also all the discounts your student card gets you.
Your student ID does more than grant you access to the campus library after hours. It could help you shop for gifts without breaking your budget.
Your student federation or college council has worked hard, teaming up with local businesses and services to recognize your ID. You may be surprised to find out just how many places offer discounts or rebates once you flash them your card.
You’ll have to check in with your college council to find out what exclusive discounts your specific ID earns you. You can also check in with this guide to see which national retailers offer lower prices to anyone with a valid student ID — regardless of your campus. Make sure you visit these places when you shop to maximize the purchasing power of your dollar.
If, even after you budget, prioritize, and use your student discounts to your advantage, you’re left wondering how you could pay for the holidays, don’t panic. When it comes to the gifts you give, it’s the thought that counts — not the price you pay.
Remember this as you forgo the typical gifts bought at big box stores and embrace your creative side to make all your presents this year. Here’s your chance to check out sites like Pinterest, Instagram, and Apartment Therapy guilt-free. No longer time-wasters in between studying sessions but sources of inspiration, these sites can help you find a recipe or craft that works with your talents.
At the end of the semester, find what works
Between final essays, exams worth 50 percent of your mark, and finding time to do your laundry, you may start to feel stressed by the end of the semester. With the added work of budgeting and making gifts by hand, the build-up to the holidays may leave you feeling a sense of dread rather than cheer.
Don’t bottle these feelings up inside. Let your family know that things are tight this year, and you’re struggling to balance all your responsibilities before the big day arrives. There’s always a compromise available — you just have to talk it through to find it.
The holidays are supposed to be a fun break between the end of fall semester and the start of the winter semester — not a time when you dwell on finances. Use these tips to help de-stress when it comes to the commercial side of your holiday leave, and you’ll find it easier to celebrate the festivities.