It’s that time of year again – exams are written, grades are in, and the five blissful weeks off from school have begun. Even though life has slowed down a little from a week ago, my days are still filled with work parties, Christmas shopping, family time and other seasonal
activities. While Christmas can be one of the most wonderful times of the year, it still can be stressful, especially on the pocketbook of a college student. To make your life a little bit easier before you do some last minute shopping and get ready for some holiday parties, I have created a little guide for you on how to celebrate the season on a college budget.
Decorating for Christmas is one of the first things I do after Thanksgiving to get into the Christmas spirit, that and listening to nonstop holiday music! Unless real trees really aren’t your thing, natural evergreen trees these days can be fairly affordable depending on the type and size of the tree. While I personally love to go to Christmas tree farms, many hardware stores now carry real trees. If trees are not in your budget this year, you can still beautify your house or apartment. One of the first places I would check is your local dollar store. They have cheap decorations for a dollar or two. The real bargains are the strands of Christmas lights and indoor extension cords. Finally, for those of you who want to save even more money – make your decorations! String popcorn and cranberry garlands or cut snowflakes out of white paper. These are all great ideas to make your home a little more festive.
One of the best parts of the holiday season is all of the Christmas parties. Parties can not only be inexpensive but a lot of fun too. One of the most popular parties for college students is the “Ugly Christmas Sweater” party. These are great because you don’t have to break the bank and wear a fancy suit or dress, and you can find these “ugly sweaters” at thrift stores like the Goodwill, or just look in your parents’ closets! For even more fun, make it a competition – the uglier the sweater, the better. Another way to save yourself a little money when hosting a holiday party is by making it a potluck. I just did this a few days ago with friends from the dietetics program and it worked out great! Everyone brought a favorite dish to share and there was plenty of food to go around.
This is perhaps one of the biggest expenses during the holidays. While I love finding that “perfect gift” for everyone on my list, it all starts to add up. Make it easier for everyone involved and agree to draw names, do a grab bag or, if you really want to save money, do what we call a “White Elephant” gift exchange. Have everyone bring a gift they found around the house, want to re-gift, or bought at a dollar store. This not only make the gift giving less stressful but the gifts people come up with can be hilarious too! We have had people at our parties get everything from a new deep fat fryer to a toilet seat with a box of toilet paper! The options are limitless!
Finally, there are plenty of other ways to celebrate the season besides gifts, parties, and decorations. Volunteer at a local soup kitchen, help out at food drives, sing Christmas carols at nursing homes, bake cookies for neighbors, or go to local Christmas concerts. Be creative, too! Offer to buy the person’s order behind you in the Tim Horton’s drive through, or try wishing “Merry Christmas” to everyone you meet in one day.
Do you have any other tips or ideas to celebrate Christmas on a budget? What holiday activities do you have planned for you and your family this break? Let me know what you think!