How to Get Ahead Financially on Spring College Expenses During the Holidays
It's almost winter break for college students. That means a break from homework, extra time to spend with family and friends, tickets to The Nutcracker at the Keller Auditorium, and figuring out how to get ahead financially by hacking the holidays.
The end of the year can be a financial challenge if you're living on a student budget. However, with a little holiday creativity and advance planning, you can keep yourself in solid financial shape for your next semester.
Start with a Reality Check: How Much Can You Spend?
Check now to see how much money you actually have in your checking and/or savings account. A good goal, if you want to get ahead financially for spring, is to use cash instead of racking up credit card debt. Look around your dorm room or apartment for any unused gift cards, prepaid debit cards, or leftover birthday cash you might be able to tap into. And if you work, how much can you realistically expect to earn before the end of the year?
Now add up all of your cash, usable cards, and earning sources. Plan to spend no more than this amount for all of your holiday-related expenses.
How to Get Ahead Financially by Planning Your Holiday Budget
List all of your winter break expenses, including:
- Gifts for family and friends
- How much you'll spend on parties and other special events
- Travel expenses
Assign an estimated dollar figure to each item and person for whom you'll buy a gift, and then total up the numbers. Remember that your goal is to spend no more than the amount you came up with in "Start With a Reality Check." If your estimated expenses exceed the money you expect to have available to spend, consider boosting your income by ride-sharing or looking for temporary job listings on Indeed or Monster.
Trim Expenses, Along with the Tree
In addition to earning more, search for smart ways to spend less on traditional holiday costs including:
- Activities: Your student ID may help you snag discounts all around the area — not just in your college town. Yelp offer lists for student deals on everything from Art Museum passes to discounted manicures.
- Gifts: Save money by talking your friend group into exchanging ornaments or inexpensive gifts, or getting lunch as a group instead of giving presents. When you do shop for gifts online, remember to look for discounts and coupon codes on sites like RetailMeNot, Groupon, and LivingSocial.
- Yourself: It's tempting to buy a few items for yourself when you're buying gifts for others. Resist if you can. Ask for those items as gifts, or wait and see if they go on discount after the holidays.
Remember that friends and family know you're a student and they don't expect you to go all out for the holidays. They'll be even more understanding if you tell them you plan to enter your next college semester without post-holiday debt.