Being a student is expensive. Putting aside the costs surrounding college and university, such as tuition and textbooks, many students also have to contend with living on their own for the first time, and the costs with which moving out is associated.
Buying groceries, remembering to get paper towels – these are things most students have never done before, or at least, never done without an adult. Now we’re the adults, and we can buy our own bread.
I managed pretty well the first few months of university. I have two jobs– one with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News, and another with the University of New Brunswick’s student publication, The Brunswickan. Between those two incomes and help from my parents back home, this young British Columbian was doing decently with her finances in Fredericton.
Then came the holidays.
The holidays are the most financially stressful time of the year, and not only for students. The pressure to purchase gifts for other people is inescapable.
Personally, giving gifts is my favourite part of the holiday season – getting to watch someone tear apart the wrapping paper and pull out whatever bizarre thing I decided would make a good gift (I once brought my boyfriend home a can of creamed corn from the store because the picture of the farm on the label made me think of him, so yes, my gift ideas are often unorthodox).
However, even with two jobs, my holiday shopping has put some pretty serious strain on my already tight budget.
My friends and I are all in the same predicament. None of us have the financial ability to go out and buy expensive gifts. Trying to keep afloat has been difficult, and the budget has become tight of late – pizza night has been cancelled (much to my chagrin), and we’ve had to cut down on trips into town to reduce gas and taxi expenses.
This kind of abstinence from fun (and pizza) took a toll on my friends and I. It’s final exam season right now, and self-care is key. For me, that means going to the gym, watching hockey, and, by god, it means Domino’s. So my friends and I sat down and brainstormed. We came up with a few ideas to help minimize the costs surrounding the holiday season so that we could enjoy the gift giving while still living our lives.
Method one? Deals. Deals, deals, deals. As a student, coupon apps are a must-have. My friends and I wait out until sales come up, then rush the mall in a small pack. By shopping during sales, we can find many of the things we want to get for people as gifts, but for a lower price than we would have otherwise paid. The mastery of couponing brought back pizza night– on Mondays, the Fredericton Dom’s has a special student discount: 50 per cent off everything.
Another important saving method, which I discovered was helpful, especially since I’ve proven myself to be an impulsive gift-buyer is shopping without my debit card. Now I go shopping with cash– that means that the money in the bank stays in the bank– even if I think I want to buy an extra present for my Secret Santa.
Oh yes. Secret Santa. This is a major student saving method No. 2. When I came to university in Fredericton, I didn’t know a soul alive east of Montréal. But I have made amazing friends. Friends for whom I would like to purchase gifts.
So we did what every savvy young college student does – we grabbed a baseball cap, scribbled our names on scrap paper, and drew: instant savings.
While my friends and I all care deeply for one another, buying gifts for every single person in our group is just financially out of the question. Instead, we set ourselves a comfortable budget and then buy a gift for one person in the group – and so on and so forth so that everyone gets to give and receive.
While the holiday season can be stressful for everyone, it can be especially hard on students.
My final piece of advice – go easy on the students in your life. Sometimes it’s not possible to buy something for everyone, so the card that you got was what they could afford.
Sometimes, especially when money is a barrier, it really is the thought that counts.
Marlowe Evans is a student at the
University of New Brunswick from Maple Ridge who writes about youth issues.