The Niagara News is the community newspaper of Niagara College located in Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada. It is created and produced by the students of the Niagara College Journalism program.
Most college students look forward to slipping into a food-induced coma at Christmas and putting financial woes at the back of their mind until the new year when the new semester starts up.
What many of these same students forget is that Christmas is one of the biggest times of the year for spending.
Last-minute gifts purchased for long-forgotten gift exchanges with friends or extended family on top of contributions to meals and transportation to get to the gathering point adds up quickly, exceeding the average student’s budget.
For some students, the answer is to shop early.
Katie Hatcher, a Health Information Management program student at St. Lawrence College, says the best advice she followed was to shop early in bits and pieces.
“I try and get one or two things when I find myself at a mall throughout the year so that it’s not one giant bill at the end of the year,” she says. “I keep a list on my phone so I don’t over-buy or forget anyone.”
Some tips to keep things cheap include hitting up garage sales or second-hand stores for deals on gently-used hidden gems, or playing games such as “Kris Kringle,” where participants contribute one gift and gifts are ‘stolen’ away from each other until each person has a gift of their own.
For some students, the solution lies in being crafty.
“I like to make a lot of my gifts,” says Stephanie Burton. “It saves me time and money, and I think it’s more personal that way, more meaningful.”
And for those who can’t do either? The gift of time.
“I am terrible at making stuff and I’m a poor college student,” says Sean Lemene, a second-year Sociology student at McMaster University. “I can barely afford a toonie for coffee once a week. How am I supposed to buy everyone gifts?”
Instead of gluing something together for an aunt that will be tossed at the end of the year, some are spending time instead of cash.
“Some years I can’t afford to take as much time away from work or school as I’d like,” says Lemene. “So my gift is my time. I visit with my family and bring them small trinkets to let them know I was thinking about them… Or socks. Everyone loves a good pair of fuzzy socks.”
Another thing students forget to worry about is the food.
“Growing up, it’s not something I needed to worry about. It was always just there on the table and I didn’t think or ask about how it got there,” says Hatcher. “Now, I realize how heavy that must have been on my family’s wallet, trying to feed us all… Let’s just say I now appreciate the value of coupons.”