Holiday season is coming; a season usually associated with joy—but also with spending. Students initially excited by the prospect of a well-deserved break and looking forward to some quality family time might feel overwhelmed when thinking about gift giving and the expenses associated with it. Making our loved ones happy during the holidays may seem hard, but gifting on a budget is absolutely possible. Below are a few recommendations to make the most of the holiday season without breaking the piggy bank.
Make a budget—and stick to it
Set a realistic budget and prioritize. It is easy to get carried away with all the holiday sales and buy yourself a well-deserved gift along with all other presents for the family, but remember that the goal is to get through the holiday season without stressing about money. In others words: family and friends will probably have to come first. The good news is that retailers usually have big sales after the holidays, so if you are patient, you may be able to reward yourself when January rolls around! If your budget is particularly low—or your family is particularly big—consider organizing a Secret Santa gift exchange. In any case, be sure to start by knowing your limits, and continue reading to know what to do next!
Decide who’s on your list
After deciding on a budget, make a list of the people you need to buy gifts for. Giving presents is a common way to show affection, and it may be easy to get carried away and want to show we care—to too many people. But if you are on a budget, then keeping your list short is key. Aim to start this conversation with family and friends before the holiday season begins, and agree on who you’ll buy presents for. Kids are usually on the list, but probably some adults can be either left out or shown affection in other ways. You can also pair up and share the expense of more costly gifts with a sibling or other relative—meaning you can give a more expensive gift than what you’d be able to afford on your own!
Consider alternatives to gift giving
Spending quality time with loved ones is also a way to show affection—especially if you live far away, as is the case for many students. Organize a movie night or a cookie baking session, or consider book of coupons to do free activities together, like taking a walk or playing a board game. Gifting homemade food is a popular option at this time of the year, and you could prepare brunch or dinner for the ones you care about. If your family is the type to exchange gifts for family pets, consider creating a cute IOU message for a post-holiday sales gift that Fido can use in the coming year.
Shop in advance – and compare prices
Once you have your budget and your list, your search can begin—the earlier, the better. Stay on the lookout every time you go shopping, even at the grocery store. Isolated sales can be life-saving when you’re holiday shopping on a budget. But stay alert: even though many retailers offer sales before the holidays, products can still be more costly than normal due to the festive season. Make sure you know the real price of what you are getting. Compare online and in-store prices, as sometimes the same retailers might be selling an item for less via a different portal.
Make your own gifts
Depending on your imagination and artistic skills, doing something with your own hands might be more meaningful than purchasing it. Some thrift stores have good craft supply sections, where you can pick up knitting needles and yard, paper and glue, sewing kits, and lots more for very little money. As an added bonus, many students enjoy crafting as a way of releasing all the stress that comes with school, so you may save money while also getting a much needed distraction from finals and a little bit of mental peace!