COLUMN: Deck the halls, but not my wallet

It's the most wonderful time of the year. Whether some might think it is too soon to be thinking in terms of holiday cheer, my family is on the ball this year.

Nov. 1 came, and my family instantly began buzzing about the holidays: when to celebrate, what's on each others' lists and so on.

Christmas is my favorite time of year, but, as a broke college student, it is bringing on a bit of stress in my life. I absolutely love having a big family and a lot of friends, and I want to give each of them a wonderful present. My bank account says otherwise.

I was raised to cherish the love and time spent with family and not worry about presents. Holidays are a time to be together and be thankful for all that we have in non-materialistic things. But, when my family asks what kind of things I need or want as far as presents go, I feel pressure and a desire to do the same, even though I know they will understand if I can't.

Considering I have 15 credits, a job at the newspaper and involvement in other organizations on campus, my opportunity to have the time to put in hours at a high-paying job is slightly unrealistic. My income is low while being a student, but I still feel determined to show them how much I care.

I have decided that my lack of income cannot stop me from showing my family and friends how much I care and appreciate them. So, it's time to get creative in my gift-giving this year.

I called my dad and expressed my concerns in being able to give the important people in my life the presents that I'd like to give. Of course, his response "be a good kid and get good grades, that's all I want," but I want to do more than that.

If you're reading this and you feel the same tense budget as I do, here are some great alternatives that don't lead to an empty wallet.

If you go to Target, there is a $1 deal section at the front of the store that has cute bags and mini stockings for just a buck. You can get them and fill them with your parents' favorite candy or snacks and write a hand-written letter expressing your appreciation. Everybody digs a present with some emotion and heart behind it.

If you have a group of friends that you want to trade with, it can be easy to organize a Secret Santa or a White Elephant gift exchange, that way you only have to buy one gift to share.

Another great thing to do for a family member is create a coupon book out of paper for your mom or dad. While you're home for the holidays, you can be helping them out with simple things from the coupon book like a homemade dinner, shoveling the snow, taking care of the pets or a movie night together.

It really is the little things that people remember, and thoughtful gifts that are given from the heart are the most sincere. This holiday season, there is no reason to break your bank. You can show your loved ones how much you care with minimum money spent.


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