As a student, your budget may include fixed items like tuition, rent, food, and books, with little left over for holiday merriment and gifts. So what should you do during the holiday season, when gift giving is happening right, left, and all around you?
Step 1: Take a look at your income and spending
If you haven’t been keeping a budget, now is a good time to start. By looking at your incoming and outgoing money and making a spending plan (i.e. a budget) you can identify areas where you can be saving more, and where you may be over-spending.
First, know what money you have coming in — from work on/off campus, and the like — and second, what you have going out. When you look at where you spend your money, don’t just look at the large, fixed expenses like rent, but also take a look at small purchases that may add up to more than you imagine. It is often these small expenses that are easiest to cut, and put toward your holiday savings. If you have a Wells Fargo checking account, a tool like Budget Watch can make it easy to spot where you’re overspending and help you identify opportunities to save.
Step 2: Find opportunities to cut and save
You’ve made a budget, and you’re now seeing some areas where you can cut back and keep a little more money in your account. Make a plan to set that money aside — like in a savings account — so you’re not tempted to spend it. You could also make a goal to automatically transfer a set amount from your paycheck — even if it’s something like $20 a month, that adds up over a year.
Step 3: Estimate your travel costs
Whether it’s the plane ticket to get home or a small trip that you’ve planned during the break, it’s best to plan for these costs ahead of time, so you have time to save up for it and save on costs by keeping an eye out for deals. Look for tickets early in the season and pay attention to when you can find sales.
Step 4: Look for additional sources of income
Whether it’s helping a neighbor hang lights and shovel a driveway, or a seasonal stint at the mall, you have a lot of opportunities to make money in your free time over the holiday break. If you put most of this money directly into a savings account, it’s separate from your checking account and you may be less tempted to use it for everyday spending.
Step 5: Make your list and check it twice
Make a list of everyone you would like to treat over the holidays and start dividing your holiday budget among them. If you have a plan, you can stick to it (and avoid impulse buys). As you start making a plan, gift ideas may start to formulate in your mind, or you might realize that you don’t have enough budget to give everyone on your list lavish gifts.
With more purchase activity going on, be sure to keep an eye on your account balance by setting up account alerts to avoid account overdrafts (spending more than you have available). If you do overdraft, Wells Fargo has a feature called Overdraft Rewind® to help — see if you qualify!
Step 6: Look for savings and get creative
If there is a particular item that you want to buy for someone on your list, keep an eye on sales and coupons to make it more affordable. But don’t be afraid to think outside the gift box: often the best gifts are not about the amount spent, but the thought that went into it. Time together with family and friends is a treat in itself, so offer your grandma help setting up her tech, cook your friends a meal, or give your little sister an at-home mani-pedi. Do something that gives you time with the people you value most, and you may find that to be the best present of all.