How to survive Christmas in college on a budget
It’s mid-December and you’ve survived 2-3 whole months of college, but now the annual fear felt by all students is starting to settle in: you can barely keep yourself alive, how are you supposed to budget for Christmas and last another month in college? It’s a terrifying prospect but it’s not impossible. Just follow these simple steps:
1. Plan ahead: It’s easy to drown under the wave of Christmas shopping. Living away from home means your budget is stretched to the extreme. To prevent complete financial ruin, plan your spending in advance. Keep enough money aside to cover food, bills and some extra for emergencies and then decide how much to spend on presents from the remaining amount. If you’re lucky enough to be living at home then it’s a bit easier as you probably don’t have bills to pay. However it’s still important to make sure you have enough money to see you through the holiday season. No one ever wants to beg mammy and daddy for a loan!
2. Stick to your budget: This may seem like a no-brainer but it’s far too easy to add “just a few euro more” to an already tight budget. If you buy more things for one person soon you’ll be adding more presents for others. Stick to the budget you’ve planned! You might feel a little bit Scrooge-like but your family and friends will understand how financially strained you are. Buy one thoughtful yet affordable present for each person and they’ll appreciate it more than a dozen pointless stocking-fillers.
3. Shop around: You saw the perfect present for your mother online? Great! However, did you look around your local shops? To combat the appeal of internet shopping many local shops have lowered their prices or have a price promise where they will reduce the price if you’ve found it elsewhere for cheaper. So not only are you getting a bargain, you’re also helping to keep businesses open during a tough recession.
4. Look for coupons or money-back deals: If you must shop online do a quick Google search for offers for the site you’re looking at. Often websites will release coupon codes offering an extra 10% off, free shipping or a buy-one-get-one-free offer. Sometimes you’ll be lucky and get an even better deal. Pigsback.com is a great resource for vouchers and offers for a multitude of online shopping sites while fatcheese.ie offers cash back if you shop through their website.
5. Be prepared for surprise spending. Don’t rule out any Christmas celebrations that you may have to attend this year. Keep enough money aside for work or class Christmas parties, spontaneous ice-skating trips with friends, etc. Just because you’re trying to save your money doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy yourself. Embrace your social life; it’ll keep you sane when the stress kicks in!
6. Eat healthily for less: Don’t forget about your own wellbeing at this time of year. Traditionally, Christmas shopping goes hand-in-hand with excessively studying for exams and writing essays. Ensure your own peace of mind by organising your food for the week. Supermarkets and butchers usually have meal deals that are perfect for students. If you’re going to college in Cork then think about signing up for collegedinners.ie who will deliver four meals a week to UCC and CIT students for only €10.
7. Ask for monetary presents from family and friends: Christmas is a huge financial strain but you can also gain from it. Suggest to your parents that you’d like a voucher for Tesco or money towards bills or books. They’ll be proud that you’re acting responsibly and you’ll be relieved that you have some extra cash. Ask others for books, stationary, clothes and other practical items.
8. Enjoy yourself: Don’t forget to have some fun during your time off. It’s easy to do so without becoming bankrupt. Look at the Christmas lights, throw a few snowballs, enjoy the atmosphere in your local town or city and spend time with your family and friends.
Denise O’Donoghue is a graduate of University College Cork and is currently completing a Masters at Cork Institute of Technology.