Kansas State University


K-State Parents and Family Program

Guest Post: How to Be A Thrifty Giver During the Holidays

This content was originally posted on the K-State Powercat Financial Services Blog on November 6, 2017 and was written by Gretchen Holthaus. Powercat Financial Services is a peer-to-peer program where students studying financial planning or financial services offer counseling to fellow students on budgeting, saving, credit, student loan repayment and transitioning to work. 

K-State Parents and Family Association wants to advise students and parents on some smart money habits throughout the holiday season. Time with students, and family, is special and we hope this article is useful as we celebrate the holidays! 

giftsDuring the holidays money can be tight— especially with all the pressure to get everyone you know a nice and meaningful gift. Below are some helpful tips for you and your wallet during the holidays.

Make a List and Check it Twice

First, list out all the people you’d like to get gifts for. After you do that, look through it again. Are there people on there that you maybe have lost touch with or don’t talk to as much anymore? If you are working with a tight budget during the holidays, it will be beneficial shortening this list to those you still have strong relationships with.

Another way to shorten your list would be to start a Secret Santa. Instead of you and your friends getting a gift for every single person, start a Secret Santa. This will limit the number of gift purchases while also allowing you to focus on getting a nice gift for one person instead of however many smaller gifts to stay in budget.

Create a Budget

Now that you have your list, you need to think about what is the total amount that you can afford to spend this holiday season. How much are you willing to spend on each person on your list? When thinking of your budget for the holidays, don’t forget to factor in the little things like wrapping paper, holiday parties, tasty treats, winter activities, and other miscellaneous expenses. Once you have the amount you are willing or can spend on people, you need to start saving for that. The key to saving for holiday shopping is by starting now. The sooner you start the easier it will be to come up with that money. Start now by setting aside a portion of each paycheck or picking up some odd jobs like babysitting, mowing lawns, etc. Another way to save for the holidays is to cut back on your monthly expenses from now until end of January. Try cutting out that extra cup of coffee or try staying in for dinner instead of eating out. The little things will add up over time which is why it’s important to start now!

Think About What to Give

When thinking of what to give people don’t forget the gift of time. Sometimes it may be more meaningful to donate your time to someone and it would be easier on your budget. You could also give a batch of homemade cookies to those people on your list that you have lost touch with. That way you could give a gift to that person without breaking your wallet.

Also when thinking of gifts, don’t count out the DIY projects. Going through Pinterest could give you some great ideas for inexpensive gifts that you could gift to someone on your list. A great gift on there is a DIY decorated coffee mug. You could even go to a thrift store to pick up some plain mugs to take home and decorate yourself.

Do Your Research

Now that you have who you are shopping for and ideas of what to get them, it’s time to do some research. Shop around and find the best deals on items. Look for sites that give user reviews on items as well as sites that show price comparisons such as amazon.com, Cnet.com, and Pricegrabber.com. Another great thing for holiday shopping is coupons which you can find sites like RetailMeNot.com and EBates.com. Free phone applications can also help in your search for deals during this time. Pocket Points offers many deals on online stores for college students. All you have to do is stay off your phone during class!


Holiday shopping can be fun, but don’t get carried away! To help stay on budget when walking into promotion filled stores only bring the cash that you had budgeted for. Leave the credit cards at home! It’s too easy to just swipe your card and go; but if you do make sure to pay your card balance off immediately. You don’t want to have a credit card balance looming over you for the months to follow after the holidays.

Another great way to shop for the holidays, is to take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. These days can be overwhelming, but they offer great deals. Go into these days having done some research on what their price will be on those days for the things you want to gift.

If your students any any other specific questions about how to start their holiday budgets, encourage them to schedule a free and confidential appointment with Powercat Financial at www.ksu.edu/powercatfinancial.