Budget Your Way Through the Holiday Season

The holidays are looming and that can only mean one thing— It’s time to get started on your Christmas shopping! While the hype surrounding the holidays is super fun, the thought of spending so much money on gifts can be quite daunting for some. And when you’re on a student’s budget, it can be absolutely terrifying! Check out these top nine tips for budgeting your way through this holiday season:

  1. Budget. This first step is the least fun, but the most important step of all. You must decide on your Christmas budget before doing anything else, or else you won’t have a clue where to begin with your savings and spendings! To start, budget everything else: Your bills, your slush fund (money set aside for emergencies), your general savings and your “fun money” (to buy and/or do the things that you really want, but don’t really need). Here’s how you’ll do this: Write down every single penny you receive each month, then write down every single penny that you must pay out each month. After necessities, figure out how much money you’ve got left over. If you don’t have a slush fund, begin creating that. If you do have a slush fund, begin adding to that. Once you’ve added to your slush fund, designate a set amount to your savings. What you’ve got left after all of that is your “fun money.” You can either put all of this towards your Christmas gifts budget, or you can put half or even a third of it towards your budget. It’s truly up to you! Check out this easy-to-use spreadsheet from College Life Made Easy to get you started on your budgeting.
  2. Utilize Selling Apps/Sites. This is an awesome way to both declutter your space and make some extra cash. Go room by room, getting rid of anything that no longer serves you. (If you need some help getting started on this project, check out our blog on how to organise your space here.) Then, take pictures of all the things you are getting rid of and list it on sites such as Facebook Marketplace, Ebay and Vinted. If it doesn’t sell after 1-2 months, donate it to charity. All in all, it’s a win-win situation!
  3. Coupon. Grab a copy of your local newspaper (Yes, those are still a thing!) each week and look for any coupons that are of interest to you and your shopping list, then use said coupons. It’s as easy as that! If you aren’t interested in the paper version of couponing, get your laptop out and do some virtual couponing! If you’re looking to book an activity or buy the newest gadget, do yourself a favour and check Groupon first. Often, you can find what you’re looking for on there for a fraction of the price. You can also use different shops’ apps to get the most recent deals and, more than likely, stack the coupons you’ve found. Also be sure to utilize price matching. Whether it’s online or competitors’ prices, if the price you have found is lower than where you are purchasing the product from, ask the shop for a price match. (This is super helpful if you’re trying to get most, if not all, of your Christmas gifts from one place, but you’re also wanting to stick to your budget.) Whatever you do, prior to purchasing anything, be sure to check a shop’s apps and websites for coupons that might get you a better deal.
  4. Shop Around. Don’t settle on the first price that you see. If you have the time, compare prices from different stores or websites and do a bit of couponing. (See Tip 3.) You wouldn’t buy the very first car that you saw and pay the exact price that you saw on the windscreen, would you? No! Another example of this is to do your food shop at a few different places. Make your shopping list, hit up Aldi or Lidl first and buy everything that you possibly can from there, then head to your local butcher for most of your meat next, then finally visit the grocers for the last few bits. It may take a little bit of extra time, but this method should help to cut your shopping bill almost in half!
  5. Get Yourself a Side Hustle. What are you good at that could also make you some money? Are you crafty? Maybe you could make some Christmas ornaments to sell for a bit of extra cash. Are you a talented writer or copywriter? Check out transcribing services such as Rev for some quick and easy cash. (They pay weekly!) You might even be good at voicing your opinion, and you could even sign up to take a paid survey or two. Thirty minutes of your time in exchange for £20-£40 on average? Sign us up! Bottom line: Just find what you’re good at, and use it to your advantage.
  6. Charity/Second-Hand Shop. If you’re feeling a bit iffy about this one, consider just this one thing: Secondhand is not second best. If you’re in need of something any other time of the year, you might just check a charity shop, yard sale or second-hand shop first. So why wouldn’t you do that at Christmastime? Nine times out of 10, you will be able to find what you need there. When you are finished with that item, put it up on a selling site/app (see Tip 2) or pass it on to a friend. Sharing is caring, right? Plus, there are so many other benefits to normalizing second-hand. Read them here.
  7. DIY/Make Your Own Whenever You Can. Are there items that you usually buy that are a tad bit on the expensive side, that you could probably make on your own without spending money, or at least fractioning your price? If so, do it! It’s as simple as Googling “How to Make Your Own _____” and checking to see if you already have the items in your cupboards at home. Besides, handmade gifts are so much more meaningful, wouldn’t you agree? Check out
  8. Utilize Receipt Scanning Apps. Apps such as TopCashback are awesome because it only takes a few minutes of your time to take photos of your receipts and load them onto the app. The app then does the rest of the work for you, working out how many “coins” or “points” you receive per shopping trip (based on where you shop, what you buy and how much you spend), then it converts those coins and points to a monetary value for you! Now, these apps aren’t “immediate money,” but usually you can get around £20-£25 in PayPal money or Amazon gift cards over the course of one year on scanning apps.
  9. Gift Experiences. Hiking trails and local parks are usually free, or only at the cost of parking, and can make for a great day out. Check out any of our “what to do” sections on our website here for a few ideas. Due to current lockdowns and social distancing measures, you might also do a night in or check out some virtual charity events which might only cost the amount that you can afford as a donation to said charity. The possibilities are truly endless!

There you have it: All of our tried and true tactics for budgeting your way through the holidays. Give these tips a go and you will be well on your way to saving (and even making) some extra cash this holiday season!