Students try to save money during the holiday season

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Ever since the recession, the holiday season has been tainted with heavily depleted bank accounts resulting from escalating prices of gifts, food and decor. According to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation, it is predicted that the average person will spend $749.51 altogether this holiday season, which includes Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. The same survey also predicted that holiday spending would increase 4.1 percent from last year, amounting to a total of $586.1 billion. Though despite what the numbers might suggest, one can save money while still enjoying the same holiday lavishness.

In a survey of 66 New College students, 30.3 percent reported that they usually spend between $80 and $100 altogether on gifts each year and 27.3 percent reported that they spend over a $100.

Making gifts instead of buying gifts from the store is a popular way to save money while still giving a friend or family member something they enjoy. In the New College survey, 75 percent replied that they make gifts in order to save money. Pinterest, a popular themed-content sharing website, has a whole section dedicated to unique Do It Yourself projects that can be made as gifts or just for fun.

Instead of buying gifts at shopping malls or expensive boutiques, stores such as the Dollar Tree, a popular retail store that prices all merchandise at one-dollar, are great places to buy small gifts and holiday decor for low prices. Dollar Tree carries items that can go together to create assorted gift baskets or stocking stuffers such as candles, soaps, candy, nail polish, cosmetics and office supplies.

“My family is big on creating themed baskets that can be personalized but not expensive,” first-year Tagen Kaestner said. “For instance, last year my sister filled a basket full of cute, inexpensive makeup, makeup brushes and hair accessories. It was one of my favorite gifts that year because she knows all my favorite colors and I use the makeup all the time.”

Websites such as RetailMeNot and CouponCabin list coupon codes, printable coupons and alerts on sales and deals for online and in store shopping for a variety of stores.

“The newspapers [in Sarasota] have coupons either in their Saturday or Sunday edition, [and] if you combine those with store discount cards you can get some amazing savings,” first-year Andrea Slowik said. “It is completely worth it to buy the paper if the coupons are good. I usually get mine at a gas station, so I can check out the coupons first. Manufacturers have coupons online, and so does, which you can print out and bring to the store. It all adds up to a whole bunch of savings.”

Online shopping is another good way to save money due to the fact that you can compare the prices of specific products in different stores. Websites like Google Shopping allow you to type in the product you are looking for and its specifications such as color, price and size and then it generates a list of matching products and the stores or websites you can buy them from.

“Most sites have deals where if you spend [a certain] amount of money, you get free shipping,” third-year Lynn Gusman said. “So buying for many people at one place does save you a little bit [of money]. A lot of my friends are nerds [or] scientists [or] like quirky gifts, so I get at least five people small gifts from sites like”

ThinkGeek offers unconventional gifts at reasonable prices, such as brain-shaped candles, bacon scented air freshener and a TARDIS mini fridge. Svpply is also a convenient site to shop for gifts because it allows members to post unique products they discover along with the price and website to buy them from. The website is filled with all kinds of products that can be filtered by price and category.

In a survey on cheap gifts, students suggested other ways to save money during the holidays:

  • Outlet malls and stores:
    Outlet stores are great places to buy gifts because they usually have sales during the holidays. Plus, they sell the same items from department stores but at reduced prices.
  • Ebay:
    Ebay usually has reduced prices on popular items that you can either bid on or buy immediately at the listed price. A lot of the sellers on Ebay have free shipping but take about three or four weeks to ship so it is best to buy or bid early to receive the gifts before the holidays.
  • Make a homemade gift:
    “I often find things to make, like knitting scarves and other handy things,” Gusman said. “People always appreciate the extra effort. If you don’t have a skill like knitting, there are always easy crafty gift ideas that don’t require much learning time.”
  • Make a list:
    Record how much you are going to spend and what people you are going to spend it on before you go shopping. Sticking to the list will help you avoid impulse spending on things that are not needed.
  • Look for coupons and deals in the newspaper and online.
  • Shop throughout the year:
    Many stores have sales throughout the year, not just around the holidays. During the summer and spring months, most stores mark down all their winter clothing, especially in Florida.
  • Shop at thrift and consignment stores and antique shops.
  • Re-gift:
    Re-gifting is not always a bad thing. If a friend likes something of yours more than you do, give it to them as a holiday gift. Therefore, you save money and they get something they wanted.
  • Buy after the holidays are over:
    “Ask people to just give you cash [or] gift cards,” First-year Anna Rodriguez said. “You save a ton of money if you buy [gifts] after Christmas.”
  • Split the cost:
    Instead of fending for yourself to find the perfect gift for someone, pool your money with others and buy a group gift that you may not have been able to afford by yourself.
  • Conduct a Secret Santa:
    Instead of buying a gift for all of your friends, conduct a Secret Santa gift exchange so everyone only has to buy one gift.
  • Do someone a favor:
    A sentimental gift is just as nice as a physical one. Do chores or run errands for the person that you know they hate doing.

Even with the continuing economic problems, it is comforting to know that according to a survey conducted by the American Research Group Incorporated, Christmas gift spending is back to the same amount it was before the recession.

“When I get gifts for others, I think about how I would respond to the gift if I were the receiver,” Kaestner explained. “I could care less on the amount of money that a person spends on a gift for me, but the amount of thought that is put into each gift is what matters because it means they know me and what I will enjoy and use throughout the year!”

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