How to not break the bank

I, like most other students I know, am inexplicably poor. I’m not complaining, because I still have a roof over my head and food in my hand at this very moment, but it’s nice to have a little extra spending money — especially at this time of year.

The holiday season can be quite expensive in the best of scenarios; parties, presents and concerts make sure I always get to January at least a couple hundred dollars lighter. This year, though, I have taken it upon myself to figure out the best way to still participate in all of these activities without breaking the bank.
Concerts have become part of my regular holiday routine. Unfortunately there really isn’t a way to cut costs on those, other than just not going. Therefore I have resigned myself to the annual $25-40 that goes towards them and classify them as my Christmas present to myself. Done and done.

A party is an interesting thing — whether you are attending or hosting, certain expectations are always thrust upon you. Hosting is trickier as there are only a couple of ways to still have everyone over without going overboard with it.
One way is to simply not host a dinner; drinks and snacks are just as fun and BYOB is a perfectly common term to throw out when sending invites. If dinner is more what you were thinking, there are two options in my mind.

Option one is the ever popular potluck or fondue party; get everyone to bring something delicious to share and that way you are only really responsible for non-alcoholic beverages and maybe appetizers, if that’s how you roll.

Now, if you’re thinking, “I can’t invite people to my house and ask them to bring their own food,” option two is just for you! Buy what you can afford, give everyone tiny portions, call it fine dining, and slip in a French word here and there. It sounds fancy and makes you look like a dynamite chef. You can say things like, “No, you may not have another cochon in a blanket. One fabulously couture pig should be enough for you, glutton!”

Presents, I am fairly certain, are the most insane things in the world.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good present, but in general, I think we all go a little overboard. When buying for one person dominos into buying for ten people, I lose my Christmas spirit a bit. So, Erin’s pro tip for saving money on gifts is, if possible, don’t get anything for anyone!

People will respect your student-related financial woes and would probably prefer if you just saved your money for something you’ll need later instead of spending it on them. If you’re like me and feel the necessity to buy things, online shopping will be your new best friend. I find that nine times out of 10 ordering from the States saves me money — even with the shipping costs factored in. Re-gifting is also an option for certain occasions, just make sure you don’t give back a present to the person who gave it to you (don’t laugh, I’ve done it).

My favourite option for cutting down on gift costs is the meaningful gift; it could be a photo album, cookies or something else handmade. The trick to this one is to know who will appreciate your effort and who won’t. Don’t waste your time painting a portrait of someone who would rather have the money you spent on the supplies. One of my best friends and I have decided to just get dressed up fancy and go out for a drink; that is our Christmas present to each other. Free time is a rare occurrence these days, so sometimes a good hang out is better than anything else I could get.

So, my advice to you all is to just keep in mind that it is not how much money you spend, but how you spend it. Be smart and economical, but also have fun! Find interesting ways to keep the costs down but still do almost everything you want to. Enjoy the perk of being cheap; because once you are no longer a poor student, people will start expecting good presents and an open bar at your party.