Holiday spending can place a strain on students’ budgets

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Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times/TNS

Shoppers walk past signs advertising Black Friday sales at the GAP. As enticing as sales are, remember to stay within your holiday budget, reminds marketing instructor Kristen Uttech.

Chris Bird, News Editor

The holiday season is here, and that means that everyone is going to feel the pressure to get gifts for their friends and loved ones.

The holidays don’t have to drain your bank account, though, there are lots of ways to keep costs down. Kristen Uttech, marketing professor at Madison College, has advice to share on how to save during the holidays.

The average American spends over $2,000 a year for the holiday season, and most college students are probably not enthusiastic about trying to match that number. A good place to start is to decide how you are going to divide up your time and money.

“Who are you going to buy for and how much are you going to spend?” Uttech said that should be the first question you ask. Sometimes the truth is that your answer might be that you aren’t going to spend anything. That’s OK, there are plenty of ways other than money and things to show that you care.

If you are looking to spend money on gifts, it might be best if you keep an eye on deals and prices for whatever it is you plan to get.

“Keep up with companies social media,” Uttech suggests.

Companies often post deals and you might find just what you’re looking for at a lower price. Feel free to unfollow after you get what you need, a big part of the holidays is also getting away from that type of pressure when you can.

Grab those free trials. Use your student email and you might even get some nice extras from some companies. Free shipping can be a lifesaver this time of year. If you are shopping online, make sure that your are on the main website, and do your best to avoid any scams that are out there.

When spending money, always try and keep track of how much has already been spent. Getting a big bill in January for what you spend now is not going to keep holiday spirits up for long. If you find it hard to keep track, it might even be best to just pull out as much cash as you are willing to spend and stop buying once you’re out. No credit cards, no surprises down the road.

If you have a small budget, maybe set a price limit on gifts among the people you plan to exchange gifts with. A gift doesn’t have to be expensive to be meaningful. It doesn’t have to cost anything at all, really.

For those who aren’t looking to spend money, keep in mind that your time and attention is a gift in itself.

“You can give the gift of service,” said Uttech.

Spend some time with your friends and family. Write a letter, help cook, do favors, watch one of their favorite movies, play their favorite games, just hang out. People who are worth your efforts will treasure the time with you more than the things you bring.

If you aren’t happy with what you can do this year, remember that nobody is perfect and giving your love and friendship to those that matter to you is quite enough.

If you want to do more, now is a great time to start getting ready for next year. Nobody gets money and time out of nowhere, that takes some planning. Stores often have last minute deals, or clearance after the holidays have passes, and you can take advantage of that. You can also think up nice things to do for next year, and people will appreciate the extra thought.