Spending on gifts: A holiday hassle

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Ann Wolfe, Staff Writer

In the Bloomsburg University campus store, a college student roams around blindly. She stops at the “BU Mom” and “BU Dad” shirts, hoping to find the perfect one to give to her parents. She lifts up a maroon “Bloomsburg University Mom” shirt, letting it unfold so she can visualize the fit of it on her mother.

Then, she finds the tag, flips it over to see the price and folds it up again to find a different gift.

The college student Christmas struggle has begun. It can be found practically anywhere – no matter the university.

According to Mike Brown of Lended.edu, the average American spends about $668.00 dollars on Christmas-related purchases. However, the typical college student does not have $668.00 to fork over immediately.

Bloomsburg University Secondary Math Education major Jenna Spaid is starting to understand the struggle with balancing the shopping list and also the bills: “I have no extra money, so now that holidays are here I’m having trouble buying anyone gifts,” she said.

“I haven’t been able to save money. After my car insurance and gas comes out [of my paycheck] I have about twenty dollars left, which I need until I get paid again.” Spaid added.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, approximately 19.9 million students attended colleges and universities this past fall semester. A majority of them are trying to find ways to budget for the holidays.

Hailey Stein, a special education major at Bloomsburg, is also experiencing her first semester juggling both school and the holiday spending. In an interview, she stated that she tries to “avoid shopping at dollar stores” and looks for more “long-lasting gifts” to give to friends and family.

When asked how many people she’s planning on shopping for this year, she laughed and reported that her shopping list is for about 11 to 15 people.

In contrast, Emily Graziano, a senior at Kutztown University, favors shopping at dollar stores.

Graziano stated: “Shop at the dollar store! Get a bunch of little things for [whomever] you’re shopping for. If you don’t want to buy gifts from the dollar store, at least buy the wrapping paper, boxes, and bags. The quality is the same as at Walmart or Target, and it’s only a dollar. Besides, the sentiment means more than the material item.”

In order to delve deeper into students’ thoughts on the holiday budget, a survey was given to 14 college students attending various colleges in Pennsylvania.

The survey showed that the sample’s average Christmas budget was about $100.00 to $199.99, resulting in 64.3% of the said sample. However, the survey does not define all college students but gives a fair amount of insight into how students take on the holidays.

According to the given survey, the two most popular answers on how to save money for the gift-giving season were shopping during sales and making their own gifts rather than buying something from a store.

Jessica Jablonski, a sophomore at Penn State University, said: “when you have an idea for someone, keep an eye on different places that sell it [the gift] during sales or even coupons.”

Websites and apps such as Honey and Rakuten, formerly known as Ebates, allows anyone who shops online to find coupons and even get a certain percentage of money back after a purchase.

Rakuten knows the issues college students face and even informs their users about certain deals that are exclusive to students when it comes to technology, food and even traveling. Both applications are free and can also be installed onto your computer.

Another helpful tip students gave in response was to be more sincere than expensive. It doesn’t matter the price, size, or place you purchased it. It’s the thought that counts in their case. From the 14 students, six of the responses dealt with putting aside the pressures of excessive spending for big gifts.

Kutztown University sophomore Liz Williams said: “Cyber Monday is the best. A lot of places have bigger sales during these times than they do on Black Friday, and there’s no worry about lines since everything is online.”

SaleCycle.com reported that 2019’s Cyber Monday online sales in the United States were about $9.2 billion. That’s higher than 2018’s report of only $7.9 billion and 2017’s report of $6.59 billion.

A more general tip from students: Save money.

The Natural Center for Education Statistics states that in 2017, 43% of full-time students were employed whilst still completing their degree. Taking money out of paychecks and setting it aside for the holidays may come in handy by shopping time.

Madeline Koch, a Cinema, TV, and Media production major at Kutztown University stated in a phone interview: “I’m pretty good at saving money, so I always make sure I have some set aside [for Christmas].”