Tips for college students returning home for the holidays

The holidays can be a great and joyous time for students returning home to see family and friends. Final exams are over, and students do not have to worry about schoolwork.

This also can be a very stressful time. Coming home to a parent’s home after months of freedom leads to adjustment and required flexibility with rules and expectations. Boredom can creep in, as the holidays might bring long periods of time without activity or routine as developed throughout semester on campus.

And finally, financial stress can arise as students might want to buy presents for their family and friends but do not have the necessary funds after a semester of tuition, books and other expenses.

A remedy for these issues is that college students could get a job during the holiday break. A job allows for a routine when they are home and a little extra cash to get gifts for their families and friends.

Once students get a job, it is important to spend the money responsibly. There are ways to save money during the holiday, while also allowing for a fun social life. Here’s how:

Set a budget. Start by deciding for whom you want to get presents. It is OK to not get presents for everyone. When I get gifts for my friends or siblings, we agree on a price limit we can spend on the other person. My group of friends and I have a Secret Santa. This activity is fantastic when a group of friends or family is coordinating presents for each other. For the group of people, everyone picks a person’s name out of a bowl, and each person buys one person a gift rather than getting everyone in the group a present.

Shop cost-efficiently and prudently. Eliminate the temptation to buy items not wanted or needed simply because they are near to the presents you are buying. If you can control your temptations and spending, shopping local is a great option for the community. Bring a list of gifts and use cash rather than a credit or debit card. The list keeps the shopping focused, and the cash gives a limit to your spending. A credit card can result in spending more than your limit because access to funds is at the fingertips.

Heading home for the holidays is an annual rite of passage for many undergraduates. But it also can be a time of overspending on wants and social activities. By creating an intentional process for spending on presents, budgeting and using cash rather than credit, undergraduates can practice responsible spending.

A winter job also can provide a needed boost to the bank account, while also filling a schedule with productive activity.

Laurel Kucharski is a student at Loras College and part of its financial planning and wealth management program.

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