It’s almost here — your holiday break. After the rush of studying for exams, the holidays offer a chance to relax and enjoy gatherings with friends and family.
Of course, this is also a time for exchanging gifts, and it may be tempting to spend more than you can afford. With a little planning, you can stay on budget and keep your credit cards on ice.
Here are some tips to keep in mind.
THOUGHTFUL GIFTS DON’T HAVE TO BE EXPENSIVE
Consider giving a framed picture of a great memory you shared. A magazine subscription related to their favorite hobby, a movie gift certificate, or even a handmade gift are thoughtful, yet affordable options. Get creative—Pinterest offers lots of ideas for homemade gifts that have a personal touch. Y
our on-campus resources may have great advice to keep your budget on track, too. Plymouth State University in New Hampshire has a Gifts from Heart and Hand blog with ideas and directions for making handmade gifts, and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln offers helpful strategies for spending less during the holidays.
SET A BUDGET AND STICK WITH IT
Make a list of people you want to buy presents for and decide how much to spend on each person. As we all know, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are great times to get special deals. Some other tips are to shop during off-hours, as many stores have specials running weekdays or Saturdays between the hours of 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Don’t leave home without checking store websites to get coupons, and consider sites that offer rebates. Also look for free smartphone apps that can help you find the lowest price for items in your area.
CONSIDER A HOLIDAY JOB
Restaurants and retailers often look for seasonal employees to help with the holiday rush. In many areas, the demand for help is so great that you can work as few or as many hours as you’d like. The extra money can really help with the added cost of holiday gifts and set you up financially for next semester’s expenses.
AVOID CREDIT CARD DEBT
It’s tempting to use a credit card and decide to pay it off later, but with interest and fees, you can end up paying much more than the original purchase price. For instance, charging just $400 at a 16 percent interest rate can take almost three years to pay off, with close to $100 in interest feesadded to the original prices. Save your credit cards for emergencies and make a plan with your current budget to avoid overpaying in the long term.
It’s easy to get caught up in the spirit of giving that surrounds the holidays, but as a college student, you already have the skills to make your money stretch further. If you plan ahead and stick to a budget, you’ll be able to enjoy the holidays and ring in the New Year without worrying about paying for your purchases.