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5 holiday budgeting tips for college students

5 holiday budgeting tips for college students

November 24, 2021 at 11:38am

Originally published in 2021, this story has been updated to reflect 2023 statistics.

‘Tis the season of giving, indeed! The National Retail Federation expects overall holiday spending in the United States to reach record levels during November and December and will grow between 3% and 4% over 2022, totaling between $957.3 billion and $966.6 billion, according to the National Retail Federation holiday forecast. Individually, the average holiday shopper will spend in the neighborhood of $875 on gifts, decorations, food and other key seasonal items.

The holiday season runs from November thru December and includes four major holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Gift-giving is a major part of celebrating the holidays. But it can also break the bank if you’re not careful.

“Most college students in general need to be mindful of their expenses,” said Alberto Diaz, assistant director of financial assistance at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. “They have to account for those added expenses like holiday travel to visit family and friends, and buying gifts.”

The College of Medicine’s Office of Financial Assistance shared five holiday-budgeting tips for medical as well as all other students. It's also good advice for anyone watching their finances at a time when inflation, while improving somewhat, continues to have an impact.

  1. Create a holiday budget
    Establish a budget for gifts, décor, and holiday gatherings. Plan to spend no more than 1% to 1.5% of your gross income. So, if your income is $40K/year, you should look to spend between $400 to $500. If it’s $20K, aim to spend no more than $200 to $300.

  2. Create a gift list
    Prepare a list of those you on whom you will bestow presents and assign a dollar amount to each one. And track your spending. There are several free apps to help you track expenses, including Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets. 

  3. Host potlucks
    Save money on parties by hosting potlucks and similar holiday festivities. If exchanging gifts, consider a while white elephant or secret Santa swap, which requires that each person purchase just one item.

  4. Homemade gifts
    If you’re budget is really tight, consider making your own gifts. It will save you money and will be a personally meaningful memento for the recipient.

  5. Look for sales!
    Start shopping early! Make sure to look for deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Price match when possible. And always look for discounts.

If holiday budgeting stresses you out, remember that there is much more to this festive time of year than gift-giving. Instead, consider the priceless ways in which you can make other happy by simply sharing time and kindness.