Holiday budgeting tips for college students

Lifestyles, News, Student Life

It is no secret that college students typically struggle with money; from worrying about student loans to balancing work and a full-time class schedule, it can be very difficult to get ahead. This problem is exemplified during the holidays when students are expected to purchase gifts for family and friends.

What should be a joyous time in students’ lives may also be one of the most stressful times of the year. Depending on how many people they buy for, students can spend hundreds of dollars on gifts that they really may not be able to afford.

“I’ve certainly seen the impact of financial stresses on college students,” Susan Kannenwischer, assistant vice president for Enrollment Services, said.

Kannenwischer has worked in financial aid for 23 years and is teaching Personal Finance, BUS-210, in the upcoming spring semester.


Between paying for rent, tuition, room and board, food, textbooks and entertainment, buying presents during the holidays can be very difficult. Below are some tips Kannenwischer recommends to help during the holiday struggle:

1. Plan Ahead

Creating a budget helps plan how you are going to spend your money. Your budget should feature all of your necessary spending, or “big rocks,” as Kannenwischer calls them.

When filling a vase with sand and rocks, it would make more sense to put the rocks in first and let the sand filter around them.

“If you have a limited size vase,” Kannenwischer said, “stack it starting with your non-negotiables and then your sort-of negotiables.”

Your non-negotiables, such as rent, food and bills, are more important than smaller, more negotiable items.

2. Be Realistic

“If it’s not realistic that you can pay cash for that or get the money saved up in advance,” Kannenwischer said, “don’t put it on a credit card or borrow from a student loan refund instead of paying your rent.”

If spending hundreds of dollars on Christmas presents is not feasible, recognize that and come up with an alternative. DIY gifts are always an option, as well as offering services, such as doing chores or being a personal chauffeur for a trip.

3. Be Aware

“So often we spend money and we don’t even think about it,” Kannenwischer said. “[When we] eat, we don’t even think about the calories we’re consuming until we start to track it all. It’s the same with spending money.”

One of the first assignments Kannenwischer requires her students to complete is to keep track of every dollar they spend for two weeks.

“A lot of people avoid looking carefully at money because they just don’t want to know,” Kannenwischer said.

As Christmas is fast approaching and last-minute shopping ensues, it is important to remember what your finances are like. Kannenwischer also mentioned that one of the key points in a student’s life is coming up: a spring break trip, which will also require budgeting for.

Holiday shopping is difficult for college students, but having a budget could help.

“If you want to spend $200 a month at The Zig, that’s fine; own it, but budget for it,” Kannenwischer said.


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