Christmas shopping on a budget: Tips on how to keep a positive bank balance during the most expensive time of year

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With the holiday season just around the corner, (unless you work in retail, then it’s already here) the rush to get everyone on your list the perfect gift is set to begin.

If you’re on a university student’s budget, you know it’s going to be difficult. Never fear! With a few simple tips you’ll be able to make sure everyone from A to Z is accounted for and still have a little extra dough left in your pocket to buy a few cups of Tim Horton’s candy cane hot chocolate when you’re done.

First things first: if Santa can write his Christmas list, then so can you. Take down the names of all of the people you want to give presents to this year with the most important ones at the top. Don’t feel like you have to give everyone a gift, or invest hefty amounts of money into the tiny wrapped package you’ll be handing them in a few weeks; it’s the thought that counts in the end.

When you’re strapped for cash, the best way to manage your money is to budget it. That way you won’t have any surprise bills, or holes in your bank account when all of your shopping is done. Take the list you’ve finalized and write down the amount of money you’re planning to spend on each person.

If you’ve already got a gift in mind for a special someone, price it online or in the store where you saw it and add the total in place of your estimate. When you’ve finished that, tally up all of your costs to make sure you aren’t spending too much.

If you find you can’t afford what you’re planning on spending, edit your list until it falls in your price range. Though the temptation to splurge on massive holiday sales is strong, the most important thing to remember is to not go over your budget.

With your costs in mind, start looking for inexpensive means of getting the perfect gifts for your friends and family. eBay is a one stop shop for great deals on everything under the sun, but if PayPal isn’t your thing, take advantage of thrift stores.

People toss brand new things all the time and the best part is, brand name items can pop up out of nowhere for a fraction of the retail cost; if you search long enough, you never know what you may find. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure; take a look around your house for things you don’t want anymore. Something that may be no use to you may make someone else very happy.

If you’re against shopping second hand, hit the mall early—before the rest of the city catches on to the Christmas fever and the hallways are clogged with families singing carols off-key and sticky children playing tag in the shoe stores. Take advantage of sales, but resist the temptation to shop for yourself. It may be difficult to resist those BOGO signs, but if you keep in mind that you’ll be getting that new jacket you wanted in a few weeks, staying away from selfish purchases gets easier.

For those who are really strapped for cash, get crafty! Take a look around for knick-knacks and other supplies and create something new—ladies, we know you’ve been wanting to try that craft on Pinterest for ages now. Gifts like that show you’ve put a lot of thought in and they’re a great way to recycle! Who doesn’t love a homemade gift—especially Mom. You know she misses those macaroni necklaces you used to make for her; give it a try!

Last but not least—and if you won’t have time to try this tip this year, keep it in mind for 2013—put that piggy bank to use! If you know you’re going to be doing a lot of shopping in November and December, put away money little by little over the course of the year; start saving up your paychecks and plan in advance, that way, when your significant other starts hinting towards that new necklace, or Xbox game, you won’t disappoint.

For more ideas on how to save in other areas this holiday season, check out the Do-It-Yourself article, “Christmas Shopping on a Budget” at

Emily is in her fourth year of Political Science. She loves studying and academics which follows into her research work. She's a stern black coffee drinker and is a proud Acadienne. When she's not working or doing school work, you can find Emily listening to 70s music on vinyl and watching Parks and Recreation. If you ask her about parliamentary institutions, she won't stop talking.