Tips for holiday shopping on a college budget

The holiday season has finally arrived! Every retail store is packed with eye-catching red and gold displays, while Santa makes his appearances for family photos at the mall. As the conclusion of the semester is right at our fingertips, finals begin to creep up on everyone's calendar. Holiday shopping is probably the last thing on your long list of errands to run, but don’t worry too much — Inside Beat is empathetic to your seasonal struggle — we’ve come up with some tips to help you holiday shop on a budget without making your wallet cry!

1. Budget and Gift List

A great way to outline your holiday spending is to determine how much you spent during last year’s holiday season, and to give yourself an allocated amount that you would like to spend. Don’t forget to include other expenses — some examples could be gift wrapping, holiday stationary, postage and other potential entertainment costs.

2. Get Organized

Whether it be on paper or in electronic form, it is always convenient to have your gift list in your back pocket for reference if you see a bargain deal. We suggest using Microsoft Excel to organize your budget. It is easy to keep track of your expenses using the designated “holiday shopping budget” template, and it also comes in an app form! If Excel isn’t for you, check out the app store on your smartphone to find “The Christmas Gift List” app. It keeps track of your gift list by status, and even gives you budget analytics as well.

3. Prioritize

Start with your “big” gifts first, such as your immediate family (like parents or siblings), significant other (if applicable) and closest friends.

4. Look for Discounts

If you’re one that prefers to avoid the crowds and do your holiday shopping online, the Amazon Discount Finder tool can be a useful resource. I use this tool periodically through, where you can instantly find bargains based on your own shopping specifications. If you find yourself enthused with this feature, there’s also a Amazon Discount Finder application with a four-star rating that is a Google Chrome extension. You can sort through products based on discount rates of your choosing. The search tool will find the items that best match your filters.

5. Avoid Credit

If you’re like me and you have a habit of running up your bill, avoid using a credit card at all costs. One option could be to use a prepaid debit card so you’ll be unable to bypass your budget limit. You might want to use cash because you’ll feel guiltier for spending it, and it’ll make it less likely for you to overspend. 

Using these tips, Inside Beat hopes you’ll have a wonderful holiday season with happy, friendly budget shopping!

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