Winter break is often a favorite time of year for college students. It’s a chance to go home, visit family and friends, enjoy home-cooked meals, and maybe do a little holiday shopping. Unfortunately, it might be easier to work off that extra helping of pumpkin pie than it will be to pay off your shopping spree if you’re not careful with your spending.
As you prepare to enjoy the holidays, the five tips below can help you avoid spending traps, allowing you to enter the new year without a mountain of debt and regret over your holiday spending.
- Don’t use student loans to pay for a holiday trip or gifts.You might be tempted to use a student loan to finance a trip over the holiday break or a shopping spree. But remember, your student loan is intended for educational expenses. Plus, you really don’t want to take on student loan debt for a short term benefit that you’ll be paying back for 10-plus years with interest.
- Avoid paying for everything with a credit card.Much like using a student loan, you’re better off to simply pay with cash and avoid using a credit card for holiday expenses. Credit cards will typically have high interest rates, especially if you carry a balance. If you can’t pay cash for your holiday purchases, it’s probably not worth the cost.
- Don’t feel obligated to buy gifts for all your friends and family.If you’re a student, your friends and family understand that you’re on a tight budget and may not have the resources to buy gifts for everyone. Simply spending some time with friends and family will likely be more meaningful than any gift you could purchase at the mall. Find ways to do small but meaningful things that will be appreciated.
- Don’t forget to set a budget or spending limit.It’s important to know in advance what you can reasonably afford to spend. It’s a good idea to set a budget for yourself and cap your spending at a certain dollar amount. That will help keep you on track and also let you plan better for the people on your gift list, and possibly help you cut back on the number of people on your list. Some families draw names for gifts or find other creative ways to help family members keep their expenses down and enjoy their time together.
- Avoid paying for gift wrapping or expensive gift bags and cards.It’s convenient to drop your gifts off and have someone else wrap them. However, there’s a cost for convenience and it simply might not be worth paying for. Buying wrapping paper after the holidays is a great way to save money and plan ahead for the next year. Plus, if you plan and don’t make all your gift purchases at once, you won’t be bogged down wrapping a lot of gifts at the last minute. Often, a card and a gift bag may actually cost more than the gift you’re giving.
With a little discipline and planning, you can set yourself up for a fun-filled holiday season without incurring the stress of spending too much or putting yourself into debt. Remember to enjoy the holidays and the time spent with friends and family. Many times, the best gifts are the ones that don’t cost anything at all.