By Katy Krieger

As we get ready to take our finals there is always the thought about what to do with our holiday break. But then we start seeing money signs and want to throw in the towel, because after all, we’re poor college kids. Here are some tips for having a great break on a dime!

Gifts: We all want to give those around us a special something for the holidays, but how to do it when your piggy bank is super empty?

–          Channel your inner Martha Stewart. Look on Martha’s website, go on Pinterest, or ask a crafty friend. Making a gift can be just as fun as shopping for one and definitely wallet friendly. You typically only have to pay for materials and websites have step by step instructions to follow. Make your mom a blanket, paint a picture for your grandma’s living room, or make a special spice rub for your dad to use on his next BBQ creation!

–          Look at specialty websites. Websites like Open Sky offer website credit when you sign up that you can use on gifts. Some sites even offer free shipping around the holidays. Amazon is another great source to get items at a discounted price.

–          Write out a list of people you want to give gifts to and then budget for each gift. Stick to the budget and make a shopping plan so you don’t deviate.

–          Make yummy treats! Bake some cookies, put together a themed basket, or invite friends over for dinner (you provide the nibbles)

–          Wine! Yes, wine can be affordable and a great gift. Look for a specialty label that reminds you of a friend or get their favorite red blend.

–          Buy in bulk! Places like Costco offer great gifts that can be split up and given to a group of your friends. A set of 6 candles can be divided amongst your cousins or grocery stores offer a six pack deal on wine where six bottles can be purchased for one flat price no matter the brand.

–          Gift cards can be another great way to stick to a budget. Get various amounts on the gift cards and think of how each person may spend the card. Large grocery stores usually have an entire wall of gift cards to choose from so you can one stop shop!

Activities- We all want to go out with our friends and family and enjoy some time. But everything, even movies, can be expensive. Here are some cheaper alternatives.

–          Go ice skating! Local rinks can be cheap to go to and you can fall on your face for hours!

–          Potluck and game night- get friends together and have each one bring food/drinks/games and laugh the night away

–          Redbox night- rent a few flicks from Redbox and pop some popcorn (look for promo codes to get discounts or even FREE movies)

–          Groupon- look for deals in your area using this site along with many others

–          Holiday sales- a lot of stores have holiday deals (pedicures for a girls day can be half off during the holiday break!)

–          Sledding! is a great way to be outside and enjoy time with friends

–          Use happy hour! Cheap eats and half price drinks are ideal on a college budget

–          Bigger groups means bigger discounts, you can get group pricing on dinner or activities (like laser tag or visiting an exhibit). You can also split meals or appetizers with friends to share the cost

Holiday Travel- I’m from out of state and have to fly home. Most people are looking for cheaper ways to travel to see family for the holidays.

–          Look for deals in your inbox (sign up for your favorite airline to receive deals)

–          Fly Southwest, usually Southwest has a deal each week along with hot prices on certain trips

–          Book on Tuesdays as prices are usually at their lowest

–          Go for airlines with free checked bags or discounts for kids/seniors/students/round trip booking

–          If you’re travelling by car fill up on gas during the middle of the week because prices go up for the weekend

–          Go for off hours and off days to book flights or train tickets

–          Use train as an alternative or even the Greyhound for shorter trips

Even if you can’t afford everything you want to do, that’s not always the point of the holidays. Spending time with friends and family is the most important thing you can do. Enjoy your holiday season and stick to your budget!

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