Balancing your holiday budget


The holiday season is finally upon us — the one time of year where it seems impossible to escape a handful of spending regrets. It always seems to sneak up, from gift giving to Boxing Day to New Years and all the parties and events lined up in between — for many, this means their money is about to be flying right out of their hands. The holidays should be fun and stress-free, but looking at the way they pan out from the perspective of someone on a student budget, those two descriptors could not seem further off. As unrealistic as it may sound now, there are ways to ensure your credit survives the holidays.

There are the more obvious and straightforward answers — budgeting. It sounds a little depressing and a lot tedious, sure, but with the amount of things on the docket that’ll have to be accounted for, it’s a good place to start. Plan out your December early, including events you need to go to and gifts you need to buy, and stretch it to whether or not new clothes or travel accommodations are in order to match everything else.

One of the easiest ways to get lost in the winter haze is not keeping an eye on how much money the holidays are stealing from you. There are a number of apps and similar services that can do this for you, like You Need A Budget. Even without products like these at hand, if you’ve got a good budget set in place and are sticking as close to it as possible, taking on the holiday season seems a lot less stressful already.

But we can’t forget the looming threat of gift giving. It’s a uniting force around the holidays, lurking behind those who had been doing a good job holding tight onto their wallets up until now. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of seeing the look on a close friend’s face when they’re surprised and delighted by the gift you’d picked out special for them; in my opinion, it’s a tradition worth keeping up. But with the amount of people to check off the list and how outrageous prices can seem at this time, it is money that’s the issue.

At this point, it’s probably tempting to just self-isolate and pick up where you left off with everyone once the holidays are over. Cheaping out and forgoing gifts completely is a worst case, last minute resort that doesn’t even need to be on anyone’s mind. But with a good eye on your money in place, these are barely options and you can spend (almost) freely.

Keep in mind the amount of people you’re intending to buy for and if they even need a physical gift at all; events that pop up around the holiday season are a great way to spend some time with those you love and make memories more meaningful than a bunch of credit card charges. When it comes to physical gift giving, take into consideration what may be the most thoughtful gift you can manage for particular people in your life — handmade and DIY are always a heartfelt option if the time and skill is there. Otherwise, one or two thought out gifts will feel a lot more important than a couple of quick pickups from the mall. Among friends or family, games of White Elephant or a budgeted Secret Santa may be in order. For acquaintances, don’t feel the pressure to offer huge gifts at all — simple things like baked goods or cards could suffice to get the sentiment across. And, of course, keeping an eye out for discounts and sales never hurt — since it’s still early in the season, the wide range of options the Internet affords for holiday shopping may be your best friend right about now.

Don’t feel like escaping the holidays unscathed is an impossible task. With careful budgeting and consideration, there are a lot of holiday options that allow you to make it to January with good credit. Going overboard on Boxing Day might still be a possibility, but at least by then, you’ll have kept enough money to do that with.

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