The festive season can be a very busy and expensive time of year, especially when you’ve just made a whole new group of friends at university and want to celebrate with everyone. However, you don’t want to find yourself out of pocket in January as reality sets back in.
To keep make sure this remains a time of pleasure (rather than stress) and to save your bank balance, here are seven top tips to help you survive Christmas on a student budget:
1. Organize a Secret Santa exchange
Reduce the pressure by organizing a Secret Santa exchange for your different friendship groups. You can quickly do this by inviting everyone to participate online using a free Secret Santa Generator. Once you’ve got your groups organized, you’ll only need to plan and afford a handful of presents, rather than 20+!
What presents are good for Secret Santa? Set a limited budget and choose small, personal items that can easily be transported by friends who are travelling home for the holidays. If buying gifts for friends you live with, it might be a nice memento to give personalized gifts (such as mugs or phone cases), featuring the name of your student halls or other little clues… just try not to give the secret away completely!
2. Make use of student discounts
As a student, you have an extra way to survive Christmas without breaking the bank – make the most of student discounts. Use your student ID to pick up discounted gifts for your friends and family, with many popular stores offering 10% or other deals.
Use this as a chance to really plan your budget by putting together a list of where you can student discounts, and then match them to who the person you know would love a present from there. As you usually get 10-20% off, the savings are pretty easy to work out and will definitely add up. As ever though, remember not to get too carried away by the deals – you still need to keep track of your spending!
3. Steer clear of expensive shops
Once you’ve prioritized your gift list and know your budget, keep yourself on track and avoid temptation. Window displays are designed to entice you in, so try to steer clear altogether. If you do have some extra cash, it’s best to wait until the Boxing Day or New Year sales to grab yourself a treat. And always check high street prices against those online to make sure you get the best price.
4. Save money when eating out
It’s likely you’ll be invited out A LOT over Christmas for themed turkey dinners. Before anyone gets planning, jump in with restaurant suggestions where you can get a big group discount; try sites such as Groupon as a starting point. Then, when you’re out, see if you can split a starter with a friend and don’t forget the mark-up on drinks so you’re not shocked by the final tally. With this in mind, also agree beforehand how you’re going to split the bill.
Importantly, be honest with yourself. If you’re being invited out for the fourth time and you know your budget can’t stretch that far, politely decline or invite everyone back to yours as an alternative. Everyone can bring a different food item and you’ll all save some cash.
5. Design your own festive jumper
A new necessity, there’s a pressure to get a new Christmas jumper every year and if you want one that actually looks good, it’s gonna cost you. If you’ve already scoured the charity shops with no success, consider going DIY. Buy a cheap, brightly colored jumper from a budget high street store and customize it with fabric pens, sequins and anything else you can get hold of.
Added bonus: you won’t be afraid of anyone turning up in the same outfit! If you find you’re actually quite skilled at this, consider giving some as handmade presents as well.
6. Limit your Christmas travel plans
Christmas tends to be the most expensive time of year to travel, so if you need to take flights at this time – do make sure you book well in advance. If travelling by train, remember that travelling outside of peak hours will save you money – and also mean avoiding the worst of the crowds. Trains over Christmas suffer frequent delays caused by engineering works, and there’s usually a reduced service. In short, cut down on travel as much as you can, stick your favorite Christmas film or album on, and hunker down to relax by the fire… And if you don’t have a real fire to hand, there are plenty of YouTube fireplace videos as the next best thing.
7. Don’t panic
Importantly, Christmas is a time for family, friends and food, so don’t get too stressed over your finances. As long as you keep yourself a bit sensible, you won’t have to miss out on the festivities or find yourself panicking.
However and wherever you enjoy the festive season, allow yourself guilt-free time off from your studies and take a little break from revision.