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Gifting and receiving: holiday gifts on a student budget

By ATB Financial 13 March 2019 4 min read

It’s the holidays—a time of joy, celebration, and for many, money worries! If you’re a university or college student, you’ve made it to the end of the semester (hurray!), but it’s likely your bank account is starting to feel the crunch.

If your budget has left you feeling stressed about gift giving this holiday season, we’ve put together some tips to help make your holidays extra merry.


Gift Giving

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the number of people you need to buy gifts for, while still managing your day-to-day expenses? Consider the following ideas as you make your list and check it twice:

Homemade or Baked Gifts: Join the “maker” culture and get creative! Consider putting a couple of favourite photos into hand-painted frames to give to family or friends, or if you love to bake, whip up your favourite treats to share as a gift.

Make It Personal: Everyone loves receiving a gift from the heart. Creating a personalized playlist or a thoughtful card takes time, but it doesn’t cost any money, and the person receiving it will cherish it well beyond the holiday season.

Leverage Student Discounts: Are there specific stores or websites where you receive a student discount on purchases? Consider those retailers as a place to shop for your holiday gifts to take advantage of those savings.

Set Up A Secret Santa Event: Do you feel overwhelmed thinking about buying gifts for your friends or family? A Secret Santa event lets you exchange gifts in a fun way, but you’re only on the hook for buying and receiving one gift. Draw names to see who gets to “pick” their gift first, make the game even more fun by adding “steal” options to keep the exchange going.

Experiences Over Things: Consider giving experiences over things, which can often be less expensive, providing you the chance to spend quality time with your loved ones. Movie or museum passes (leverage your student discount!) are always well received, and some even offer “2 for 1” deals during the holidays.

Give The Gift Of Time: In lieu of gifts, offer to give your time instead. This could include things like shovelling someone’s walk for the month of January, offering babysitting free of charge to a family member, or helping an older family member with errands or house cleaning.


Still feeling overwhelmed?

Are you looking at your To Give list and still feeling stressed? Here are some saving tips to help you pinch those pennies.

Set a Budget: Before you start your holiday shopping, set a budget of what you’d like to spend to help you stay on track when you visit the mall or start shopping online. You may be tempted by holiday sales and spontaneous purchases—overcome this by making a list and sticking to it! 

See Where You Can Cut Back: Are you opting for a grande latte and avocado toast every morning? Look at your budget and see where you might be able to cut back on some day-to-day expenses throughout the month of December and put that money towards your holiday gift purchases.

Look For Short-Term Work Opportunities: The holidays can provide an opportunity to earn some extra cash, such as helping with merchandising at a retail store, working at a gift wrap station or serving with a catering company during their busy holiday events.

Watch For Scammers: Unfortunately, the holiday season can be a prime time to fall victim to scams or fraud. Keep your credit card number protected, shop using verified websites, and always check your statements and balances to make sure your purchases are accurate. Report anything suspicious to your bank immediately.


Receiving Gifts:

While we all love to give gifts, getting gifts is also part of the holiday tradition. If you’re budget-conscious, don’t be afraid to follow these tips when it comes to receiving gifts:

Ask for things you need: While it might be tempting to create a long and varied wish list, think about items you may need for the upcoming semester that could be provided as gifts, like a credit to your campus bookstore, a couple of oil changes for your car or a gift card to a local grocery store.

Receiving money as a gift: Getting cash during the holidays is often welcomed by money-strapped students, but try to hold back from zooming over to the mall and spending it right away. Consider depositing it into a savings account or putting it towards your January credit card statement. A cash gift is a great time to open an ATB Prosper account—you only need $100 to get started, and you can watch that money grow all year long.

Giving Back:

The holidays are a great time to give back to the community. While some give a cash donation to the causes they care about, giving your time is a great way to make the holiday season brighter for someone else. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, support a coat drive, or help pack food hampers at the local food bank. If you do opt for a cash donation, request a tax receipt, which you can use to potentially reduce the amount of income tax you pay next year.

Lastly, consider “presence” over “presents”. Spending time with friends and family is a great way to enjoy the season—check out holiday light displaysgo tobogganing or head out for a skate. Happy Holidays!

Check out our Student Survival Guide for everything about student finances!​

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