Gift Giving on a College Student Budget

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Rachel Calcote
A wreath made of red and silver globe ornaments is hung on a white door.

The holidays are fast approaching and sometimes that can be stressful. Sure, there are the lights, cold weather, and the festive atmosphere, but the money you spend around the holidays - horror inducing. This can be especially stressful when you’re strapped for cash but want to do something nice for your friends and family. Here are a few tips for gift giving on a college budget.

Tip #1: Create A Budget

This seems fairly basic, but it is often overlooked. Assess your personal financial situation and see how much money, if any, you are able to feasibly set aside for gifts this season. There are some important things to factor into your holiday budget. Travel costs is a big one: Are you going home for the holidays? Are you going on a trip? How are you getting there? Who’s paying for it? Are you paying for all of it, just part, or for multiple people? Other important factors to think about are dining out expenses, living costs, groceries, and anything else you normally spend money on each month.

Tip #2: Make A List of People

Make a list of people you want to give something to this holiday. Once you have a number you can compare that to your budget and decide if you can afford to buy each person something or if you need to think about baking or making something for some or all of the people. This is also an important time to decide if you’re going to spend the same amount on everyone or if you’re going to spend more on your mom than on your neighbor. It’s ok to spend different amounts on people as long as you can afford to and that each gift is heartfelt. It’s often more about how much thought and time went into the gift than how much the gift costs that matters.

Tip #3: Picking Out Gifts

This is the fun part! Don’t look at picking out each gift as daunting. It should be fun and festive! Maybe you’re making everyone their favorite cookies or decorating each cookie specifically for them. Maybe you’re thinking about your practical friend and want to buy them something useful or your trendy friend that loves having the latest cool accessory. Whatever you’re doing or buying make sure it reminds you of the person and stays within your budget! Look for sales at stores you frequent and go on days that you know an item you want to get will be on sale. Look for coupons online before you go, and take only the amount of money you can spend on that gift (+ a little extra for tax). These actions will help you stay within your budget and maybe even save you a few bucks along the way.

These are just some helpful ideas to help you get through gift giving this holiday season. College budgets can be especially tight and need a little extra thought. Really tap into the joy that gift giving brings your loved ones and you. Having a positive attitude will help you pick gifts and stick to your budget.

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