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Tips For Holiday Financial Success

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Snow begins to fall, suddenly you have a hankering for peppermint treats, and soon enough- a much needed reprieve from schoolwork. The holidays can be a glittering wonderland of tradition, warmth, and happiness- but they can also be expensive. It’s hard to enjoy the holiday season and look forward to a new year when you’re feeling financially stressed. So before you deck the halls and start adding gifts to your online cart, it’s important to make a holiday game plan and a budget. Here are some of the Financial Wellness Center’s tips and tricks for successful holiday spending:

Home for the Holidays

For students who need to travel home for the holidays, don’t forget to factor travel costs into your budget. Set a Google alert, or check airline sites often for deals. Flights From Home finds flight deals out of Salt Lake City and nearby airports. Get your flights early (6-8 weeks), and if possible, be flexible with your dates (one day could mean saving hundreds of dollars). If a budget airline is offering low fares, be sure to check the extra fees before buying a ticket. Consider not flying direct to save a few dollars. If you’re savvy with credit, an airline credit card can be a great way to get free flights (check out our blog post on traveling for cheap). Lastly, remember to ask about student discounts!

Deck The Halls

Lights, tinsel, and mistletoe can make your home feel merry and bright, but it can also add up quickly! Maybe this holiday season you can do some DIY holiday decorations (think cute paper snowflakes), and wait for the closeout sales that follow the season to stock up on decor. It can be disheartening to spend a ton of money on gift wrap, only to watch it be promptly  ripped to shreds and thrown into the garbage. Save your money (and the planet) this season, by creating your own wrapping paper out of paper grocery bags or newspaper. With a little creativity, you can create beautiful, personalized gift wrap for free!

paper brown gift wrapping

“Sleigh” Shopping This Year

Many holiday traditions include gift giving, and it may be a priority for you, but it doesn’t have to drain your bank account. First, know who you’re giving gifts to, and decide how much money you can allocate to each present (pro tip: to allow more for those you’re closest to, maybe some neighbors and colleagues could receive an ecard this year). ‘Tis the season for advertisements and sales that pressure us to spend, spend, spend. Frequently revisit your budget, and stick to the amounts you allocated for each gift to avoid unplanned spending! 

Stay safe and healthy this holiday season by doing your shopping online, and save some money by using online tools. Get coupons and cash back by shopping through Rakuten. The browser extension, Honey, makes sure you’re getting the best deal and applies coupon codes at checkout. Take the time to visit a few sites and compare prices. A little extra time online can save you a lot of money. 

Don’t forget shipping! Start shopping early to avoid rush shipping, which can be really costly. Take advantage of Amazon Prime’sstudent discount, which can help reduce shipping costs. If you don’t have a team of 9 reindeer to deliver your gifts this season, you’ll need to factor shipping into your gift budget. 

If you haven’t budgeted money for gifts, that doesn’t mean you need to show up empty handed to your celebrations (or spend money that you don’t have!!). Give the gift of quality time- offer to babysit, to help out around the house, or to have a dinner date sometime during the upcoming year. Send a letter, a text, a card, or an email with your warm wishes will let your family know that you care. It doesn’t have to cost a lot to have a big impact. 

 

Walkin’ In A Winter Wonderland

This season is full of fun festivities and celebrations. My mom always said to put memories before material things, so experiences with my loved ones are at the top of my holiday values list. Luckily, there are many ways to have fun without spending a lot of money. Here is a list of cheap or free holiday festivities to enjoy with your family or friends. Always remember to ask about student discounts when purchasing tickets/admission!

tree of life

The Gift Of Giving

So many people have been affected by Covid-19 this year- it’s such a great time to consider donating some of your holiday funds to those in need. Be sure to make room for charitable donations in your yearly budget. If you intend to give to charity this holiday season, make sure to set aside funds for it. A little foresight ensures that you’re able to make an impact without feeling financially strained. 

Take advantage of 2020 tax incentives. The CARES Act applies a temporary universal charitable deduction for all taxpayers of up to $300. Most taxpayers take a standard deduction rather than itemizing their charitable giving, but under the new provision, even taxpayers who do not itemize can benefit from their charitable cash donations. Additionally, in 2020, there is no limit on cash contributions to charities making them fully tax deductible! The CARES Act increases the typical limit of giving from 60% of your adjusted gross income to 100%.

If your student holiday budget is a little tight, remember that you can always give your time, support, and talents. Volunteer for a charitable organization! You’ll make new friends and contacts, gain new skills, and connect with your community in a meaningful way. 

...And A Happy New Year

The new year is a great time to set goals. A budget should be one of your resolutions. Plan for your 2021 season by creating a holiday sinking fund. Set aside a little bit of money throughout the year, so that by next December, you won’t need to come up with a large sum. The Financial Wellness center can help you create a budget- make an appointment today with one of our counselors! 

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Last Updated: 5/24/21