It may only be November, but the tinsel is up in my flat, and mince pies have become a staple of the weekly shop. The holidays are undoubtedly on their way. But the most magical time of the year often brings with it the stress of shopping and spending. Food, presents, parties, travelling; it all adds up, and when you’re living on a student budget, it gets tricky quickly. So, here are my top tips on how to make the most of Christmas at uni…
What are you working with?
First things first, start with your budget. Maybe you’re putting in extra hours at your part-time job and saving those pennies, or you’re still stretching that student loan. Either way, find out what you’re working with. There are still a few weeks left of term one, so factor in your basics first, and then look at the rest. How much are you really willing to spend? We would all like to make this a great holiday season, especially given how last year went, but no one wants to break the bank to do it.
The end of term brings with it a whole host of expenses: celebrations with your societies, festivities with your flatmates, trying to keep down the cost of getting home, the list is endless. You have to figure out what is most important to you. Make a list, and yes, check it twice. Who do you want or need to buy gifts for, how much and often do you want to go out, is that jumper with light-up Rudolf really worth it? Sorting this out makes the whole holiday period so much easier.
Make Secret Santa your best friend
Anyone with flatmates knows how tricky present shopping can be. Do you get the same thing for everyone, or anything at all, or just something for your favourites (don’t lie, we all have them)? It’s a nightmare. That’s where the age-old classic of Secret Santa becomes a lifesaver. Organise yourselves early, set a realistic limit, and let everything else take care of itself. Just don’t leave it till the last minute. Not only does everyone get a gift, but you can also organise a flat “Christmas day” – the all-important dinner, present exchanging, everyone’s favourite holiday tunes – if it’s not Last Christmas, you’re wrong.
You can do Christmas dinner on a budget
Secretly, I think this is everyone’s favourite part of Christmas. Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, is it any wonder this is one of the nation’s favourite meals of the year? While we love going home to our parent’s having stocked the kitchen shelves, trying to replicate it at uni can be tricky, to say the least. During my first year, we had a very capable flatmate take charge and give us all jobs to get it done. Me in charge of the turkey, however, is terrifying. He had a thorough list and lead the way to Aldi, and truth be told, I doubt we would’ve succeeded without him. But that’s the way to do it, get organised quickly, and don’t get lost in the ‘Christmas deals’. Gather your essentials, and do it well – there’s no need to go fancy, and you can’t go wrong with the classics. Plus, find out how many you’re feeding, and ask how much everyone is willing to spend, that way you know how much you have to play with.
It really is the thought that counts
Everyone knows how expensive the holidays can be, especially when you have limited cash to spend. No one wants to be the reason somebody is stressed about gifts, or celebrations, and everybody is working to a different budget. I think last year’s festive season really did show that it’s so much more important who you’re spending time with, rather than what they are bringing. I’d always prefer to spend time with my friends, rather than them working extra shifts just to buy me something. If your love language is giving, charity shops and second-hand sellers can have brilliant treasures if you’re willing to look, but it’s not always necessary. Double-check with friends if you’re doing gifts this year, and don’t forget that often people appreciate the sentimental over the pricey.
If there’s one consistent thread weaving through all these points, it’s this: Be organised. If you get ahead of the game, you won’t end up spending loads last minute nor having to pay for next day delivery. We love getting caught up in the celebratory mood that December brings, but we don’t want to dip into our overdraft in the process. Plan ahead, and have a very merry Christmas!