Holiday budgeting: Student edition

by | Dec 13, 2022 | Arts & Life

The holiday season is one of giving, but it can easily also become the season of spending. From buying presents, to surviving school, to possible holiday vacations – the money always runs tight as the holidays approach students. I asked NAIT students and alumni for their best advice on how to budget.

Planning ahead 

Noah Rishaug (NAIT Radio and Television- Television)

“It’s important to take stock of how much you’re making, how much you have, and how much you’re willing to lose. While in school not many people’s bank accounts are growing. Once you know these things you’ll be able to create a plan. I always break it up into weeks. If I blow over budget one week, I’ll have to make sure I’m under budget for the next.”

Lea Dravies (Dental Technology)

“I just don’t spend outside of my means. Calculate what your bills are and what your extra income is (if any), and bam, there’s your budget.

I don’t buy adults gifts (except partners) and have a cap for them and the children. I start thinking earlier than December for Christmas so my budget is never strained that month as emergencies can still happen or unplanned expenses. You should never go into debt for a holiday and you should never leave yourself high and dry for emergencies.”

Hannah Cronin (Alumna, Radio and Television- Radio)

“The way I budget for the holidays is starting in September, every time I get paid I buy a few gifts. By the time November comes around, I have already collected all my gifts because I only buy them on pay days.”

Nada Heinen (Radio and Television- Radio)

“Well during this time, it can be difficult when I’m studying away from home with an unpaid internship. What I end up doing is with my part time job, I take a percentage of my pay and put it into my savings so that I can use it for the holidays. Depending of course, on how much I make per paycheck.”

Finding Discounts 

Julian Schuldhaus (Alumnus, Radio and Television- Television)

“In many cases for post-secondary education, your school will have partnerships with many businesses. There are lots of cases where nearby restaurants or fast food options will give a discount to students. For NAIT the obvious one is the cafeteria: great food for a low price giving the culinary students more experience in a restaurant environment. Or deals to specific programs, such as RATV students getting discounts at specific retailers that offer camera or audio supplies.

Other than that, if you’re looking for something to do without spending any money on a Friday or Saturday night on campus, students can go watch their athletics team play for free: basketball, volleyball, hockey and much more.

But in terms of the holidays, it is all about giving. If you’re more worried about your money, then the best option is to spend your time. It’s still okay to admit that you’re not well off with money.”

George Alkhimov (Alumnus, Business Administration- Finance)

“The best way to budget for holiday shopping would be to consistently be on the lookout for discounts, there are tons of those for the holiday season. Or, have your immediate family pitch in a bit if possible. After all the team effort, it’s better than you doing it by yourself. Plan out exactly what you need so you don’t end up wasting a certain thing/product.”

Jaskirat Mandair (Radio and Television- Radio)

“Budgeting during the holidays is easily the hardest time of the year. But, the easiest way to budget is by seeing who and what is most important. Which would be my family and friends. I also wait till after Christmas to treat myself, because prices are usually cheaper.”

Organizing your budget

Jesse Romanchuk (Alumni, Bachelor of Business Administration- Finance)

“Excel worksheets go a long way for forecasting out your financial needs, there are many templates out there you can use or build your own!

Once you have an idea of your financial needs, allocate a set amount of money you plan to spend on gifts. Reviewing your transaction history in your bank account/credit card is a great way to get a feel of where all your money is going.

Consider having gatherings at home versus going out to help save money.

Do not use credit unless you have the money to cover it in your bank account– consider low interest credit cards.

When shopping for gifts, consider places with student discounts [like] SPC. Try to save some money every month as an emergency fund.

Consider your transportation needs. If you travel by car, do not finance something new. Consider gig jobs for extra cash. For example, tutoring.”

Elliot Knopp (Alumni, Radio and Television- Television)

“A way I like to budget is to write down how much I plan on spending on specific category essentials like rent, bills, insurance, etc. Then there’s groceries, entertainment, and other. Other than those unplanned purchases, I set aside money for that.

You can do this on the Notes app, or a whiteboard, or notepad. Then, after sorting out how much I’ll spend, I allocate the rest to savings or RRSP, etc.

From there, I keep tabs of every single transaction I make. Every dollar that leaves my account goes into the notebook under their category. This way, I can evaluate if I’m overspending in certain categories, or if I need to tweak my budgets.

Ex. I have a $350 food budget. If I spend $125 at the grocery store, I subtract that from my budget. I have $225 left to spend on groceries this month. I also went to McDonald’s and spent $17.45 on lunch. I like to round up sometimes, so I’d subtract $20 from there. Now I only have $205 left on food for the month.

So while my food budget is affected, my entertainment and unplanned spending budgets are untouched. I can still use that money to go out drinking, watch a movie, go skating or whatever.

Unplanned spending includes items like needing a new hair dryer cause it broke, or getting an oil change. Could even use your unplanned spending to cover additional expenses in other areas of your budget.”

Ways to save 

Chris Nunez (Alumni, CNC Machinist Technician)

“For me personally, I would definitely say get a part time job, buy groceries and make your food instead of buying food every day. That was my biggest one for sure. Also, maybe taking the bus and LRT even though it’s brutal for winter, but that saves lots [of money].”

Karl Taylor (Alumni, Electronic Engineering Technology)

“Even though it feels inconvenient, public transit is a great way to save money. By not having to pay the ridiculous hourly parking or the monthly park fees ­– saves a lot of money.

Making lunches instead of buying them every day.”

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