When the most ‘wonderful time of year’ isn’t so wonderful on your wallet

The holiday season brings a lot of different emotions to the surface. Some may have feelings of cheer and warmth, while for others, this may be a time of sorrow or envy. But the last thing that should be on your mind during this beautiful—yet painfully frigid—time of the year is the burden of financial obligations and how you’re going to afford to get through it.

However, a 2013 study revealed that the average Canadian spent roughly $1,810 during the holiday season. Pairing that with exams, part-time or seasonal jobs, balancing course loads, travel time, and temporary unemployment can make this jolly time of year more of a worrisome occasion.

Don’t break the bank

While there are some things you can’t change over the holidays, it’s important to focus on the things that we can!

Let’s start with gifting. As a full-time university student for the past five years, one of my biggest stressors was balancing what I could afford with what I believed my family and friends deserved. Cost versus quality is key. It’s easy to spend a lot of money while you’re out shopping as items catch your eye and remind you of family and friends, but where do we draw the line?

Sitting down and setting a reasonable budget can support more minimal and realistic spending over the course of your shopping this holiday season. Students often find themselves dipping into their OSAP, Visas, and other lines of credit to purchase the items they can’t realistically afford in the moment, racking up interest and unwanted pressure to pay more later. Rather than piling money onto your credit cards or using your money for school this year, consider setting realistic goals or even making gifts. And with that in mind…

Avoid the mall with a DIY haul

The possibilities for DIY gifts are endless, but here are some ideas to get you started. You could learn a new trick and knit a scarf, create a terrarium, make your own soap or candles, craft and sand a cutting board, make a sugar scrub or bath bombs, jar some ready-to-go hot cocoa and marshmallows, or even paint a picture!

These thoughtful ideas can be done with the price point well under $20 if you choose your materials wisely.

Presents or presence?

The holidays are a time to take into consideration what is important, and what is not. While giving and receiving gifts is fun, it is the quality of time spent with loved ones that means the most. There seems to be a general consensus among students that it’s upsetting to have no time or money to give family and friends the presents that they deserve.

Looking back on holidays of the past, the things I remember are not the gifts or the material things, but the laughter, the embraces, and the meaningful conversation with the people who meant the most. Which brings us to a very important point: not everyone is able to spend their holidays with the people who mean the most to them.

The death and mourning of loved ones, inability to afford travel costs, having family in the military, or working away from home has an immense impact on the sort of holiday one may experience. Don’t let the stress of money and presents make you forget what is important: how lucky you are to experience your holiday season with the people who you love.