How to Save Money in College During the Expensive Holiday Months

how to save money in college

If you’re a college student and living on a limited budget, you may wonder what you can do to save money during the holiday season. Gift-giving and attending parties may feel like an obligation, but it’s important not to overdo it.

At CFE, we often hear from our members in the time leading up to the holidays. One of the most common things students want to know is how to save money in college. The good news is that it’s possible. Here are some tips to help you.

Give Time Instead of Gifts

Buying gifts for everyone you care about can get very expensive. This holiday season, why not give the gift of your time instead of hitting the mall? The people you love probably see less of you now that you’re in college. Spending some quality time with them is a good way to reconnect and deepen your relationships.

You can give the gift of time by offering to take your grandmother to a museum or babysitting for your younger siblings while your parents enjoy a night out. It might seem corny, but people will understand that you’re on a budget and appreciate that you thought about them.

Organize a Gift Swap or Secret Santa

What if there were a way for everyone in your circle of friends to exchange gifts without blowing through their budgets? There is – and it has the benefit of saving money and providing lots of fun at the same time.

Secret Santa offers an opportunity to leave small, fun gifts for a friend throughout the holiday season. You can make gifts or pick out items from the dollar store. Often, there’s a finale party where you’ll reveal yourself to your match and give one last gift.

A gift swap involves choosing names and bringing a gift to a gathering for the person whose name you chose. You can do a straightforward swap or try a White Elephant swap where you buy joke gifts, and everyone has the chance to “steal” a gift from another person. Either way, you’ll be saving money and enjoying gift-giving at the same time.

Get Crafty

Another alternative to buying gifts is to make them, instead. If you’re good with crafts, you might consider making holiday ornaments or scarves for the people on your gift list. You’ll likely spend far less than you would buying gifts, and you’ll have the fun of still giving the people you love something to open during the holidays.

If you prefer, you can host a crafting party where everybody sits down and makes something together. This option has the benefit of mixing a casual social gathering with something crafty and fun.

The College Student's Cheat Sheet for Hacking the Holidays

Use Your Cash-Back Rewards to Buy Gifts

If you have a rewards credit card that offers you cash back, then you might designate that money for holiday spending and use it to buy gifts or participate in holiday entertainment. This is a good way to stick to a reasonable budget.

The money you earn as cash back is essentially “found” money. It’s not part of your income and not part of your regular budget. That makes it a good option if you want to buy gifts and still be able to pay your rent after the holidays.

Don’t Forget Your Student Discounts

One big benefit of being a full-time college student is that your student ID gives you access to student discounts on a wide variety of goods and services. For example, you can get discounted museum admission and discounted movie and theater tickets.

What you may not know is that many retailers offer student discounts, as well. If you do want to buy some gifts this holiday season, there is a long list of more than 100 places you can use your student discount to do your holiday shopping.

Look for Free Holiday Fun

Not every holiday event or tradition requires you to spend money. Things like caroling, decorating a Christmas tree, or taking a tour of a neighborhood with lots of holiday lights don’t cost anything at all. Why not create a tradition that’s inexpensive and meaningful to you as a way of celebrating?

You might decide to watch Elf or Miracle on 34th Street with your family, take public transportation into the city to check out the holiday decorations, or host a potluck to decorate the tree. There are lots of options that don’t cost much and can still provide the holiday fun you want.

Saving money during the holidays is mostly about setting a reasonable budget and finding ways to stretch what you have. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to enjoy the season!

To learn how CFE’s Aspire Checking Account can help you manage your finances, please click here.

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College