Ah, there’s no place like home for the holidays. You’ve got three or four weeks off between fall semester and spring, plenty of time to rest, relax, and recharge. And while you should absolutely take advantage of winter break to refresh your body and brain after exams, you should keep in mind that one thing doesn’t take a break during that time between classes: your student loans. Yes, it seems unfair that even during the holidays, students have to think about the debt piling up from tuition and books, but this is actually a fantastic time of year to keep those things first and foremost on your mind.
That’s because the holidays are a wonderful time to make a dent in your student loans! Right now, friends and relatives are in a festive and giving mood, and everyone has an eye toward spending on others. The trick to making this time of year work for you instead of against you is to think of smart and unique ways to avoid overspending your own money – by substituting more meaningful gifts, such as your time and talents. Meanwhile, letting those around you know that one of the best gifts they can give you this year is helping to fund your educational investment.
After all, who really needs another DVD or CD in this age of Netflix and Redbox? Funnel those well-meaning gift intentions into your loan balance and the payoff will be much greater in the long run. Here are two ways to make gift-giving work for you this year.
Put Student Loan Payments at the Top of Your Wish List
Okay, you’ve seen the wisdom of using the holidays as a time to pay down your loans. What’s the next step? Well, you won’t get far with the idea unless those around you know about it ahead of time. While most people are squeamish to ask for cash gifts, trying to pay off student loans and educational expenses is nothing to be embarrassed about. In fact, you should announce with pride that you’re being super responsible by funneling holiday gifts into repayment of your school loans.
Enlist parents to spread the word to relatives far and wide that what you’re hoping for this year is help with your educational expenses, then make it easy for them to gift you by setting up electronic transfers. Consider creating a GoFundMe page and filling it with notes and stories about your education thus far – campus clubs you belong to, great grades you’ve gotten, pictures of your dorm room, etc. This is a wonderful way to show everyone where their gift is going.
If GoFundMe isn’t your style, at the very least you can set up a PayPal account to make it easy for relatives to send money by account transfer or credit card – it’s free and only takes a few minutes of your time. And, once everyone knows that this year’s gifts are going toward your loan balance, you may find that people are especially generous. Particularly those relatives who have gone through college and student loan debt themselves when younger!
Save Money on Gifts You Give and Put That Money Toward Loans Instead
The holidays are a time of receiving and giving. The pressure to give expensive gifts, and to give gifts to a great many people you know, is one you should stalwartly resist while in college. Friends and family will understand, especially once you make it known that you’re taking charge of educational debt by saving money during this time of year to pay down your loan balances instead.
Try making a gift budget that would be realistic for you, by name of person and amount you could comfortably spend on each one. Add up the total, and this is the amount you should put toward a student loan payment before your next semester. And no, it doesn’t mean that you won’t be giving gifts this year! There are so many options for amazing gifts that cost very little or nothing, and the best part is those gifts are often better appreciated than stuff bought at the mall. Instead of material things, gift your time during winter break. Movie nights at home, trips to the coffee store to catch up with someone you haven’t seen in a while, crafting or hiking, these are all inexpensive gifts of your time.
Whatever the favorite low-cost activity of the person you’re giving to, go do that with them, and they’ll like it more than anything that comes in a box. And if you have any talents, such as crafting, that lend themselves to gifts, put yourself to work during winter break. Not only do homemade gifts cost a lot less than store-bought ones, they tend to be much more appreciated.
Author: Jeff Gitlen
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