How to master holiday gift giving...on a student budget
The holidays are coming, and the deluge of gift spending has already begun. And, with average seasonal spending hovering close to $1,000 per person, it's not hard to see how the holidays can put a big hole in your budget. But with careful use of resources like student discounts, promotions, and savvy internet research, you can find the perfect present for everyone on your list...without breaking the bank.
Here are some tips for getting started!
Build a holiday budget—then stick to it
With so much pressure to give, it's easy to spend more money than you planned. Before you start your shopping, consider creating a budget—or using a holiday budgeting app. You also might want to talk to your family and friends about hosting a gift swap, instead of gifting everyone.
After you've created your budget, consider strategies for saving on your holiday gifts. For example, while it's easy to walk into a store and start buying presents, you can end up paying a lot for the convenience. Instead of going to a store, focus on online shopping, which can help you compare costs more easily.
Another thing to consider is gifting your time and skills. For example, making cookies for a friend might be a better gift than anything you'll find in a store!
Take advantage of student discounts
The first tool for cutting your holiday shopping costs may already be in your wallet! Your student ID doesn't just get you into the library—it can also qualify you for discounts of up to 35 percent at many retailers. For that matter, ask retailers if they offer student discounts on shipping, or limited-time deals and other money savers that could further cut your holiday expenses!
When it comes to using your student discounts, the key is to ask. Many retailers have special offers for students but don't advertise them widely. So, before you pay for your gifts, be sure to ask if you qualify for any student discounts or other savings.
Your credit card could make a difference
Many credit cards have special offers, based on your previous purchases, that can help cut your holiday expenses. And some give special cash back deals for online purchases.
When using special offers, it helps to be flexible. If you can't get a good deal on the gift you originally planned to get, see if any of the special offers you qualify for might appeal to someone on your list.
Leverage your internet savvy
One of the best tools for holiday savings isn't even in your wallet: it's on your phone! To find great deals and personalized presents, start with the standard searches, like Google and internet auction sites. But don't stop there—there are a host of other tools at your disposal. For example, consider subscribing to email newsletters from the retailers you love. Many companies appreciate the loyalty, and will give you early access to sales, the first shot at new products, and special discounts.
For that matter, even classic money-saving options like Black Friday and Cyber Monday can be improved with a little internet research. Start by planning ahead to find out which retailers are offering the best deals. Then, once you've got a good idea of what's out there, consider using online shopping apps to compare prices. With a little research, you can find the best deals...then figure out if they're actually worth your time and money!
D G McCullough is a Wisconsin-based reporter, focused on social and business trends. Her work has appeared in the Guardian, the Economist, and the Financial Times.