Plan your holiday spending

The holiday decorations started appearing in stores even before the last of the Halloween candy had cleared away—so it’s no surprise that the season of spending is upon us.

As a college student nearing the end of the semester, your weekly pizza budget is probably getting thin, so you need to be extra savvy about planning for holiday spending. Following are a few tips to help you make it to January without a scary credit card bill following behind you.

Decide your budget ahead of time. This is key. What can you really afford to spend? What do you actually have on hand—in cash? Once you determine that number, stick to it—you won’t be sorry.

Make a list. Next, make a list of everyone you intend to give a gift.  In fact, if you really want to be organized, make a handy chart, with the person’s name, the gift you intend to buy, its expected cost and its actual cost. This kind of planning will keep you honest.

Check it twice. Now that you have a list, check it over very carefully.  This is going to sound harsh, but hear me out. Are there people you can cross off? Could you and all your friends go out to a special holiday dinner together instead of buying each other gifts? I know I opted out the family gift exchanges during my college years and no one minded. Everyone understands that college students don’t have a lot of money to spare.

Go thoughtful, not expensive. Now consider the people that are left on your list. There are ways to surprise and delight them without spending a ton of money. The internet is all bursting with ideas for inexpensive and hand-made gifts, so start Googling. Some of my favorite ideas are anything with photos: a favorite shot blown up and framed, photo books, and photo calendars.

Pay cash. Last but not least, stick to cash if at all possible. At this time of year, it’s easy to throw your budget to the wind once you start putting things on a credit card. If you do turn to plastic, keep a careful record of your purchases as you go.

What are some other ideas for keeping holiday spending in check?

Caroline Hanson

About Caroline Hanson

Caroline is a communications consultant for Wells Fargo Education Financial Services. Although she has been known to forget her own ZIP code, she has memorized the lyrics to every bad 1970s pop song ever written. Unfortunately, she also loves karaoke. Caroline spends her spare time at Target®. She also likes biking slowly and has participated in RAGBRAI. Caroline is a graduate of Iowa State University and has worked in journalism and public relations for the past 14 years. She lives in Iowa with her husband and has a 19-year-old stepdaughter and 2-year-old son.
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