Christmas jingles have been stuck in our heads for weeks now, and it’s becoming that time of year to start holiday shopping. Money is tight for many college students around this time of year since it’s the season for giving.
But how do you know how to tighten your budget without seeming too cheap? LIU Post students break down their holiday shopping etiquette with these five easy tips.
Spend the most on those who mean most. Let’s face it; you’re a college student. Many students in college are still working minimum wage jobs. The majority of people aren’t going to be expecting you to be spending every last dime in your bank account during the holiday season. Take advantage of this before you graduate and get a higher paying job by keeping your list short—a shorter list, means you will likely spend less. “I buy for my family and close friends,” said Becky Baron, a Case Program (for special education focusing on autism) graduate student. If you shorten your list by getting rid of your friends who aren’t as close to, you will have more money left to spend on those who mean more to you. “I could spend a lot if it’s my best friend,” said Amanda Miller, a senior Political Science major.
Remember that it’s the thought that counts. It doesn’t matter how much you spend as long as your gift is thoughtful. Angela Aiello, a senior Speech Pathology major, likes to buy her friends something pretty such as a sweatshirt or a necklace but tries to stay in a low price range. “I’d want to spend $10-$15 on a friend, but I am forced to spend $20 because you can’t get something nice for $10 anymore.” Miller agrees that it’s hard to find something nice without spending too much money. When buying for a friend she often goes to the $1 section at Target because she can find nice things for cheap. In this section at Target you can find miscellaneous things such as colorful socks, picture frames and more. With a little thought, a few not-so-expensive things can be made into a nice gift to receive. One of my favorite low budget gifts to buy is picture frames because you can wrap it with a picture inside of a fun memory that you shared with that person. Frames are a great gift to give because you can find good quality frames at Marshalls for a discounted price, and most dollar stores even sell them.
Talk about spending limits with your friends beforehand. Establishing a spending limit with anyone you are exchanging with is a good route to go, so you don’t seem cheap if they are a lot more generous than you are when it comes time for opening gifts. `Taylor Hole, a sophomore history major, said “it depends who it is,” when she budgets her money for the people on her holiday shopping list. When she exchanges gifts with friends they agree not to spend more than $20. Miller said that when she does Secret Santa’s there is a price limit of $15-$20 so everyone stays within the same budget.
Set yourself a price limit before you start shopping. Karin Oberlander, a Health Care Administration Graduate, said that she usually spends between $20 and $40 on each person on her list. She shops for her parents, boyfriend and co-workers; however, she said that you should spend a little more when it’s your boss. Baron said that she usually spends between $20 and $30 on gifts. Setting a price limit is a useful tool to use because it keeps you from over spending. It’s easy to get caught up in the season of giving and start being really generous, but setting a limit for yourself can help keep that dreaded credit card bill that comes in after the holidays at a manageable balance.
If you receive a gift, reciprocate the action. When you are buying gifts, you are not always thinking about the gift you will receive in return; however, it can be an awkward situation when only one person is giving and one is receiving. “I feel obligated to exchange with friends,” said Aiello. Refer back to tip number two if you get caught in this situation—it’s the thought that counts. The chances are that someone who gave you a gift that was not on your list isn’t a very close friend. Go thoughtful, rather than expensive. Bake cookies and wrap them in cellophane tied with ribbon, grab a clearance piece of sports memorabilia of his favorite team (try Modell’s, Sport’s Authority or Dick’s Sporting Goods), or even a box of their favorite candy. If you put some thought into the gift, you will have something nice to give without going bankrupt. Many people aren’t going to think about how much you spent on them if you got something meaningful, and your friend who gave you the present will be thankful to receive something in return.
Don’t let the expenses or stresses of holiday shopping get your spirits down. The holidays are supposed to be a fun time of year, no matter what you celebrate. With some thought you can stay within your budget and still show that you care about those on your list. So remember—keep those who are closest to you on top of your list, be thoughtful and think about how much you really want to spend before you let your credit card and generous nature get you into trouble.