Christmas is just around the corner and, as the song goes, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.”
There are holiday parties to go to, good cheer to be spread, and new memories to be made with family and friends. If you go to school in another city or province, heading home for the holidays can also feel like a vacation – a time to celebrate the end of exam season and get away from all the stresses of school.
Unfortunately, the holidays can also make December one of the most expensive months of the year. If you’ve been living off student loans or earning a modest income from a part-time job, you’re probably feeling particularly stressed out about how you’re going to pay for everything. We’ve all been there and have compiled a list of ways you can get through the holidays on a
We’ve all been there and have compiled a list of ways you can get through the holidays on a student budget – and still “have the happiest season of all.”
1. Set your priorities
Typically, we’d start by giving you financial advice and saying you should write a budget and stick to it – and you should do that! However, one of the reasons it’s so easy to get out of control with holiday spending is because you haven’t set priorities for what you will and won’t spend money on. Some of the things you’ll have to consider throughout the holiday season are: all the parties you’ll get invited to, coffees and meals out at restaurants, invitations to go shopping and, of course, the gifts you’ll buy for people.
When you’re on a student budget, you probably can’t do it all, so write a list of priorities that can help you decide when you need to say “yes” or “no” to those things. For example, maybe this year you’ll only spend money on $2 coffee dates with friends (no dinners out) and gifts for your immediate family (no friends). Write your priorities down and stick to them.
2. Write a budget (and a shopping list)
Now that you have your priorities set, you’ll need to figure out exactly how much you can afford to spend during your time off school. Remember, you’ll need money for not only gifts but any outings you do as well. When it comes to shopping, though, the best way to stick to a budget is to have a detailed shopping list – and to only buy what’s on it.
Your list can also help you from getting sucked into all the “deals” you’ll see in stores, like 50% off or buy-one-get-one-free offers. Keep in mind that if you don’t have a job, your friends and family will understand if you can’t afford much. The holidays aren’t supposed to be all about gifts; it’s about spending time with the people you love, celebrating the end of a year and beginning a new one. Your parents would be happy if you gave them nothing but a copy of your good grades, and your friends will be happy to sip $2 coffees and spend time with you.
3. Find ways to save money
If you do decide to give gifts this year, look for ways to save money wherever possible. The first way you can do that is by shopping online. If you haven’t missed the “arrive by Dec. 24” deadline yet, shopping online can save you 30% to 50% off lots of items. The bonus: if you pay with one of the best credit cards in Canada or a student credit card, you can potentially earn some rewards points too. Also, if you want to gift an experience (like a dinner out, massage treatment, class, etc.), look at coupon sites like Groupon.
Now, if you want to go the DIY route, use what you have at home to make handmade cards and gifts for the people on your list. If you’re missing a few supplies, look at thrift stores – most people don’t realize they sell unused craft supplies too! And finally, don’t discount how valuable your time is. For example, you could offer to help your parents with something around the house or babysit people’s kids. Time is our most valuable resource, and it makes one of the best gifts.
Of course, if you want to make a little extra spending money during the holidays or for the New Year, pick up extra shifts at work or find other ways to make a little extra money during your time off school. We know, it’s not the most exciting thing to do, but your future self will thank you!
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