Tips for holiday gift shopping while on a college budget
By LINDSAY RUONGRAT
With winter break on the horizon and only a few weeks left to get your gifts ready, here are some tips for how you can tackle your holiday shopping list, without breaking the bank.
Create a plan for your holiday spending. Planning ahead is key to saving money. Know in advance who you want to shop for and create a list of things you think you might like to buy for them. Avoid last minute shopping, as this can lead to overspending and cause financial troubles. Consider shopping early, a few months ahead of time. Spreading out your purchases will make it feel less of a financial burden, as opposed to buying everything at once.
Save money well in advance. Whether you save money from working summer jobs, or put away $10-$20 each paycheck, saving early can help alleviate the worry of preparing a budget for your shopping. Keep this “holiday fund” separate from your everyday funds. This could be a jar where you keep change, or a separate account with your bank.
Set a budget. Determine the total amount you want to spend and stick to it. This can include setting a dollar amount for each person you are buying gifts for. A simple Excel spreadsheet can help you keep track of your spending.
Shop online sales. Shopping online can save you time and money. Do research on products you are looking to buy. Often times you can find a product for cheaper on a website other than the retailer or company’s direct site. Most online retailers also offer deep discounts and free shipping during the holidays. Companies like Amazon or Walmart also offer price matching, so if you find an item cheaper elsewhere, they will match the price.
Use coupons. Both online and in-store. Coupons can be found through internet searches, newspapers, flyers, or apps. There are also companies that offer cash back on purchases such as Ebates, Ibotta, and Shopkick.
Make DIY gifts that anyone can enjoy. Pinterest is a go-to for inexpensive DIY gift ideas. “Recipes in a jar” that include the ingredients with step-by-step recipe instructions, such as homemade soups, hot chocolate kits, or holiday cookies, will please anyone. Homemade pampering items make great gifts, such as bath bombs, lip balms, soaps, or hand scrubs.
Freshly baked cookies. Cookies are a great gift for anyone. Some holiday favorites are chocolate chip, sugar cookies, or gingerbread. Cookies can be made in large batches to be used for gifting to a larger amount of people.
Shop for low-priced go-to gifts. Scarves, gloves, coffee cups are ideal go-to gifts that anyone can enjoy. Department stores typically have these on sale during the holidays, or stores like Five Below, Target, or Walmart also have reasonably priced useful gifts.
Narrow down your list of people to shop for. Most students tend to shop for parents, siblings, and two or three close friends. If you have a large friend group, consider doing Secret Santa so everyone can get a gift and save money.
Look for student discounts. If you are shopping in-store, ask your cashier about any discounts offered to students. If shopping online, some websites, such as Sperry, Adidas, and Victoria’s Secret PINK offer student discounts by verifying your student email.
Holiday shopping can be difficult and stressful for anyone, but even more so for college students who typically live on a limited budget. Planning ahead and budgeting can help ease the stress of holiday shopping for friends and family.
As a college student, most people will understand the financial situation and time pressures you face. Don’t over-stress, especially with finals coming up, and remember that sometimes it’s more about the thought you put into the gift that people appreciate, rather than the gift itself.