As a student, your budget is likely taken up with fixed items like tuition, rent, food, and books, with little left over for entertainment and gifts. So what to do during the holidays season, when there is such an emphasis on gift-giving all around you?
First: take a look at your budget
If you haven’t been keeping one, now is a good time to start. It is helpful to know what money you have coming in—from work on/off campus, and the like—and how much is 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 like your daily cup of coffee that may add up to more than you imagine. It is often these small expenses that are easiest to put towards your holidays savings.
Second: estimate how much you can set aside
If you have been spending $3 a day on coffee, and decide to save that instead, that alone gives you back $183 for all of November and December. Look to see where else you find savings like this in your normal spending and add that to any amount you may already have saved for the holidays to set your gift-giving budget.
Third: estimate your travel costs
Whether it is the plane ticket to get home or a small trip that you’ve planned during the break, make sure you plan for those costs, too. Looking for tickets early in the season and paying attention to when you can find sales will pay off with more room in your holiday budget to spare.
Fourth: look for additional sources of income
Whether it is a neighbor who may need help hanging lights or shoveling driveways, or a seasonal stint at the mall, there are a lot of opportunities to make money while you have free time over the holiday break.
Fifth: make your list and check it twice
Make a list of everyone you would like to treat over the holidays, and start allocating your holiday budget to them. As you do this, gift ideas may start to formulate in your mind, or you might realize that there is not enough budget to give everyone on your list lavish gifts.
Sixth: 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 of the gift box. 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, help your siblings take the dog for a walk. Do something that gives you time with the people you value most, and that may be the best present of all.