How to Tackle Holiday Shopping as a College Student

Shopping for the holidays is extra stressful when you're in college. Learn our holiday shopping tips and tricks here.
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Holiday gifts | Photo Credit

It's that time of year! The holiday season has officially begun. There's Christmas music on the radio, special holiday packages in stores, and Salvation Army volunteers ringing bells outside of the local mall.

With only a few weeks before we head home for the holidays, it's starting to turn into holiday shopping crunch time. We need to get gifts for our college friends before leaving for break, gifts for our back-home buddies before we see them during break, and of course, we need to shop for our families. How do we possibly get all this done while remaining on a budget and studying for finals?

This year, stay on top of your holiday shopping with these tips on being efficient, finding the perfect gift, and saving money. With your shopping out of the way, you'll finally have time for a peppermint hot chocolate and a feel-good Christmas flick.

Being Efficient

As college students, we've got a lot going on during the months of November and December. Finals, projects, parties - you name it, we have it on our schedule. That's why it is crucial that we be efficient while we plan our presents and take trips to the mall.

To stay efficient, it is important to shop with a mission. All too often I go to the mall to browse or to pick up a little something and I end up wandering for hours. I return home only to realize that I've wasted precious time getting nothing accomplished! Make a list of stores you need to visit and gifts you need to get before leaving the house; that way, you'll stay on schedule and prevent wandering.

Gift list

To-do list | Photo Credit

It's also a good idea to plan ahead before going to the mall. Check out your favorite stores online or brainstorm where you can get that perfect gift for your friend. (It can be nice to keep a running gift idea list throughout the year, too.) If you have an idea of what you need to pick up beforehand, you're less likely to meander and waste time.

Finally, if your budget allows you to, shop for your Christmas presents all at once. Taking one day to go to the mall and do some power-gift-buying will get you in the right mindset. There's a thrill that comes with buying presents for your friends - on Black Friday, I was more excited about the gifts that I picked up than the trinkets I got myself! By shopping for all of your dearest friends at once, you'll be so focused on giving that you won't consider stopping to admire that sweater you've wanted. An added bonus? If the nearest shopping mall is far away from your college or university, you'll save money on transportation.

Finding the Perfect Gift

Tiffany & Co Box

Photo Credit - (what a pretty blue box!)

Finding the perfect gift is hard. You want to get your friends and family something meaningful and worthwhile, practical and enjoyable, and, of course, something they'll like!

When I think about getting gifts for people, I sit down and ask myself a few questions: What inside jokes do we have together? Are there specific things that I associate with this person? Would they prefer a goofy gift or something more practical? How much am I willing to spend? Is there something they've wanted for a while?

Asking these questions helps narrow down the possibilities for each person. It also makes gift giving more enjoyable! You'll reflect on funny memories and feel confident in the gift you choose. After thinking long and hard about what to get my best friend, I now have the absolute perfect gift for her!

Another good thing to consider when finding the perfect gift is that you can always do-it-yourself. DIY scrapbooks, customized picture frames, knitted scarves, tie blankets, photo collages - these gifts are personal, one-of-a-kind, and meaningful. They're also relatively cheap! Last year I made my dad a calendar filled with pictures from the last year. For the past twelve months, he's been able to remember something new every 30 days. Always remember that it truly is the thought that counts!

Budget Shopping

Wallet with money

Photo copyright College Fashion LLC

Ah, yes. The college girl's struggle - how do we give fabulous presents while staying on a tight budget? Thankfully, most of our friends will have the same problem this holiday season. They'll understand.

Of course, we still want to dole out the presents and see our friends light up with delight. How do we manage this while saving money? First, I like to start off by making a budget for each person on my list. Are you willing to spend extra on your best friend? How about your roommate? It's natural to spend different amounts of money on different people. By identifying how much money to allocate to each person, you'll save yourself the hassle of figuring out your finances as you go.

Secondly, I recommend signing up for mailing lists and e-mail subscriptions. (And checking CF's Coupons & Sales lists every Friday!) Although your inbox may become flooded with coupons and deals, you'll be sure to find out about that Forever 21 40% off sale or the BOGO event at Gap. If you don't want to give stores your work or school e-mail address, don't hesitate to create a new Gmail account solely for shopping-related news. By getting information about sale events ahead of time, you'll be able to plan ahead and save money.

Finally, don't be afraid to just write a card! If you're strapped for cash this holiday season (honestly, who isn't?), don't hesitate to pick up some stationery and write a meaningful message or two. I love getting mail and I save every card that I receive; if buying a gift for everyone on your list this year isn't feasible, put some thought into a friendly letter. No matter what you choose, your friends will know that you thought about them.

More Freshman Year Tips & Tricks

This article is part of our Freshman Experience series. For more, see: 8 Week Countdown, College Orientation, Tips & Tricks for Meeting the Roommate, Dorm Room Shopping Tips, First Semester Goals, College Packing List, Getting Involved on Campus, 4 Ways to Ease Midterm Stress, College Misconceptions & Ask a Freshman, Freshman Year Questions - Answered, Thanksgiving Break EssentialsFirst Semester Goals Revisited, and Final Thoughts.

Your turn!

In the next few weeks, I'll be cramming holiday shopping into my already busy schedule. Thankfully, with a little bit of forward thinking and careful consideration I should be able to have a successful gift-giving season. Now, as always, we'd love to hear from you!

Do you have any gift giving advice for us busy, financially strapped college girls? What gifts are you ladies giving this year? What are you getting for your friend/parent/sister/significant other? How are you saving money during the holiday season? Make sure to leave your thoughts in a comment!

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