Christmas on a student budget
By Lois Looker,
We should probably get this out of the way first: ... I. Love. Christmas.
I am definitely one of those people that gets to the middle of November and then wonders why my Christmas tree isn’t up and I haven’t started sending cards yet. One of my favourite parts of Christmas is buying presents for people and getting really excited knowing that it’s something they’ll really love. But being a student can make that pretty hard as it’s an expensive time of year. Between Christmas nights out, buying people presents (there always ends up being more people to buy for than you first anticipated or budgeted for) and then there’s the extra cost of travel if you’re going home for Christmas, too.
Last year I did a lot of overtime in work so that I could afford to spend a little bit more and not worry too much about it. This is a great idea if you’re not doing anything else and your work needs the extra help, especially if you’re working on Boxing Day or at New Year and receive double time (always ask about these things before working them).
This year, however, my work aren’t giving much overtime and I’ve had too much uni work to have been able to do it anyway. So this year, I’m making a list (and checking it twice! - Did I mention I love Christmas?) of everyone who I need to buy for, the nights out I am going on and any new outfits I might need to buy. I’ll put how much I can spend next to each and so when the time comes that I start my Christmas shopping (who am I kidding, I started last month) I hopefully won’t overspend and leave me missing out on other things with family and friends.
Lots of my friends who are also students ask family for their Christmas outfit or winter coat as their Christmas present. This means that they don’t have to worry about shelling out the extra cash and their family don’t have to worry about what to buy them. Once I have my outfit, or just something recycled that I already own, my friends and I can plan our Christmas dinner together and Secret Santa. Our Christmas dinner is something we don’t mind spending a bit more on as it’s something special that we all do together every year, followed by drinks and exchanging of presents at someone’s house afterwards.
This year, we’re all a bit skint and so have found ourselves a deal where we get a three-course dinner and glass of wine all for £20 - bargain! Secret Santa also helps us to save money. Instead of buying something for every single one of them, we are assigned one person each and then given a budget. This year our budget is £20 but could be higher or lower depending on your financial circumstances. Sometimes having a budget of around £5 can be fun to see who can get the best little gift and means no one feels bad if they don’t have as much money as everyone else that month. It’s not really about the presents anyway, it’s just about spending some quality time with your friends.
If you’re staying in halls or in your rented accommodation over Christmas then get everyone together, each with a few pounds and go down to your local high street and see who can get the best decorations for the least amount of money. Use all of the decorations you have to make the place looking nice and festive (or tacky, whatever suits) and then crack open some mulled wine, mince pies and the Christmas songs so ensure that you all have a great, fun-filled time together. Instead of presents, everyone should get a stocking and then you can put little presents inside or little notes of encouragement to help make their Christmas extra special.
If you’re not really that into Christmas, use the time to spend with friends and family anyway. It’s always a good idea to give yourself a bit of a break from studying so use the time to relax and unwind for a bit.
If you’re travelling home for Christmas, think about booking your travel sooner rather than later as last minute travel at Christmas can cost a fortune as places are quickly booked up.
How will you be saving money this Christmas?