My Holiday Budget for Happiness 

As a university student, I take budgeting pretty seriously. While I was fortunate enough to receive a four-year scholarship for my undergraduate study, I still want to make sure I have an emergency fund, and that I am spending responsibly. Particularly around the holidays, my spending can get a little out of control as I go on the hunt for Christmas presents for family and friends, but I have a holiday gift guide/budget plan that minimizes overspending and maximizes happiness.

Setting Limits

Each month, any incoming money is divided into separate accounts for living, saving, and emergency. It is important for me to set an overall spending limit of my savings on presents, as well as price caps on gifts for each person so I know going in how much I am going to spend.

Resist the Call of the Red Starbucks Cup

This one is so hard for me, especially around the holidays when the Christmas cups come out and my favourite drink, the peppermint mocha, is officially back, but this is an easy cost cutter. While I am by no means a daily drink purchaser, I still think that saving money in little ways like this can amount to big savings at the end of the year. That being said, I do treat myself to the odd one though, and maybe even a frosted snowman cookie.

Gift Experiences, not Items

Something new I have been doing the past few Christmases is gifting someone an experience like a travel voucher for a weekend getaway, a certificate for an adventure like camping or zipining, or even something simple like a dinner out together. This really helps with coming up with gift ideas, plus I find the memories last longer than giving someone an item that won’t last as long.

Homemade Presents

The past month or so, I have fallen in love with Pinterest and all its Christmas knitting patterns. One in particular that I think is just adorable is for little stocking christmas tree decorations. I have made about 7 so far in various colours and patterns and I am planning to give them to my family members, particularly my grandparents who, at ages 86 and 87 don’t need clutter but would love something sentimental.

Homegrown Gifts

While I am not much of a gardener myself, people like my grandparents gift jam made from raspberries they grew themselves and small spice plants, and other people I know gift handmade candles from backyard bee hive wax. I think this is such a nice way to gift something special and useful while not having to go out and battle the shopping malls.

Essentials and Splurges

Instead of trying to think of unique gift ideas for people, think about what they use on a daily basis like a particular beauty product and gift that. Some might say this is unimaginative, but it is guaranteed that the gift will be loved, appreciated, and used. Another great gift idea is purchasing something that you know someone would like but would never buy for themselves. These splurge purchases make such nice surprises and show that you were paying attention, plus stores usually have really good sales going on so you can scoop up splurges at fractions of the original price.

Gifts From All of Us

I remember as a kid thinking that a group present was just a way for people to get off the hook for finding someone a unique present, but really it is genius. Luckily my grandparents don’t have Internet so I don’t have to worry about ruining the surprise for my grandfather, but my mother and grandmother and I all pitched in and bought him a DVD recorder that he can use to convert his 800 or so VHS tapes to DVD format. While this item was more pricy and well over the price cap the family set for presents, pooling our money and getting him a nifty gift like this that he will get so much use out of is a great way to save money and give a gift someone will love.

What are some ways that you budget for the holidays while maximizing happiness???

10 Ways to Save Money at University

The decision to attend college or university is the most expensive choice many young adults will make until they decide to purchase a new vehicle or a home. Classes cost hundreds of dollars each, making each semester of classes costing in the thousands. Because of this, I, like many other students, look for ways to cut back costs in other ways, so I wanted to share with you 10 of the ways I save money while attending university.

1. Pack a lunch and snacks

Admittedly, the library café’s muffins and sandwiches have beckoned to me from time to time but I really try to bring my own food with me each day. Those few dollars spent each day on food amount to hundreds per month that could easily be saved through some savvy meal planning. I have found leftovers to be a saving grace.

2. Bring coffee or tea in a travel mug from home

Similarly, the money spent on coffee or tea on campus could be saved by bringing drinks from home. Many universities have places on campus to get hot water so always pack a few extra coffee grinds or tea bags in case you want another cup later in the day.

3. Look for used textbooks or online versions

I think the most expensive textbook I have ever bought was around $200, and I seriously contemplated testing my luck by going into the course without one. The publishers say that students get a reduced price, but that didn’t soften the blow when I gave up $200 of hard-earned money for a required text that we only ended up using maybe three times. Thus, please please please look for used textbooks at the university bookstore or online, or try to track down a free PDF or an e-book for a much lower price. 

4. Take the bus

I cannot stress enough how big of a money suck driving a vehicle to campus is. At my university, a parking pass costs around $800. That doesn’t even factor in gas, insurance, maintenance, or any repairs that the vehicle might need during the terms. Comparatively, my student card is a bus pass from September to April for one automatic payment of $75 as part of my tuition. I believe other universities have similar setups so it baffles me why people would drive to school if they can help it, barring of course if they live too far away from campus to bus or if they have to drop others off first on their commute. 

5. Try to opt out of courses

University courses are really expensive, so see if any of the courses you have previously taken allow you to bypass others. For instance, I took AP English in grade 12, which let me skip out on paying $500 for a mandatory introductory English course that covered basic grammar and essay writing. 

6. Carefully map out your courses

Electives can be really tempting. Like my plan is to get a BA in Psychology and Linguistics, but that hasn’t stopped me from taking courses in astronomy and American literature. Problems can arise though if you don’t prioritize the requisite and prerequisite courses for your program, so plan out which courses are mandatory and make sure they fit in the class schedule before you start looking at electives. This can end up costing extra money if you have to spend an extra term taking the required courses you missed. 

7. Stash money away in a high-interest savings account

For some of my friends, seeing money in their bank account is enough motivation to go and spend it, not because they blow through money easily, but because they forget to subtract their monthly expenses first. I mean, I don’t think many people in their twenties are expert money managers yet. But squirreling money away in a savings account means that you can be generating interest while blocking it off from being spent on a new lipstick shade or a newly released hardcover book. 

8. Create a spending syllabus

Similar to planning out classes, make a detailed chart of the necessary monthly expenses and monthly income if you work a part-time job, and then budget how much money is leftover for you to spend on luxury items. 

9. Plan fun evenings at home

Going out for dinner, to the movies, or for a drink at a local bar with some friends can be fun, but also expensive. Instead, try planning a night in with everyone bringing something to snack on, or a game to play or movie to watch. 

10. Collect coupons and take advantage of student discounts

There are so many opportunities for savings, and even more for students. From restaurants to retail stores to recreational activities, many establishments offer students a reduced rate, which is always nice when money is tight. Having a bulletin board to keep all coupons sorted by product type or expiration date can also help save a bundle on groceries and other necessities. 

What are some ways that you save money at university or college??? Share them in the comments below 🙂 🙂