Tis the Season to Be Saving: Financial Tips for Break and the Holidays

For many students, college life means being broke – and this is especially true around the holidays and winter break. With gift shopping, holiday parties, and outings with friends, the pressure to spend money can leave students feeling less than festive. What should be a time of joy and relaxation becomes a burden.

Fortunately, it is possible to save money and enjoy the holidays. Here are some tips to help you stay in good financial health over vacation.

1.) Think Modest. You’re a full-time college student. No one expects you to give extravagant gifts. Give small, thoughtful presents, go homemade (baked goods are always a hit), or consider limiting your gift list. Some families do a Yankee Swap; others pull names from hat and select a present for the person whose name they pulled. Be honest about your financial situation with your loved ones. You even might ask siblings, friends, and extended family to take a break from gift-giving this year. They may be glad you suggested this!

2.) Check Your List – Twice! If family members ask what you want for the holidays, think about your needs. Do you have enough clothing to last you through the next year? Socks? Do you need help buying books or school supplies for next semester? Could you use a gas card or points for your meal plan? Don’t be afraid to ask for necessities: most loved ones will be happy to help you pursue your goals. If you receive money, save it or earmark it for next semester’s expenses.

3.) Be Selective. During break, you may be tempted to spend money on entertainment, including movie tickets, restaurant meals, concerts, and nightclubs. Of course, you want to have fun with friends, but you don’t want to lose your savings. Limit your outings, or plan less expensive ones. Consider going to a matinee – or staying home and watching DVDs with popcorn. Check your local newspaper and see what free events are going on in your hometown. Clip coupons for your favorite chain restaurant. (Sunday newspapers usually include them.) Can’t afford that lift ticket? Try bundling up and taking a walk in the snow.

4.) Treat Yourself. Maybe you really want that concert ticket, dress, or season pass. It may even be worth it. But before you open your wallet, think about what that splurge might mean. Will seeing your favorite band live be worth a few months of being broke? Will you have opportunities to wear that dress? How often will you be able to get to the mountain this winter? It’s normal to want to reward yourself for hard work, but a smaller treat, whether it’s a book, garment, or a trip to your favorite café, might make you just as happy.

As the year and the semester draw to a close, think about your financial goals for the year ahead. How can you save money and reduce your debt? This sounds like a grim process, but it doesn’t have to be. After all, the more money you save in college, the less debt you’ll have after graduation. Think of being frugal as preparing for the future – just one more step on your journey to the life you want.

– Dorothy A. Dahm

Dodging Distractions

It’s a typical evening at college. You are armed with your textbook, laptop, notes, and your churning brain to write a report for your science class. Your fingers hover over the keyboard as you try to force your brain to form words to type. Nothing is coming to your mind, and you are frustrated. It feels like you are trying to decipher the English language to be able to use it.

Frustrated, you reach for your phone or open another tab on your laptop to check on your social media. You text your friends, you tweet about how hard it is to write this science report, you look up a question that randomly flew into your head, and you end up reading an article about cats and how they have complete control over you. Suddenly, you realize an hour has passed, and you haven’t even tried to go back to type your report.

Sounds familiar, right? Okay, maybe it wasn’t a cat article, but you get my point: we all get distracted! In our everyday modern life, we are surrounded by so many distractions that it can be hard to focus on our daily tasks. You are not alone! Your fellow students, professors, and even your parents have to battle distractions to get their work done every single day.

It is our job to train ourselves with healthier habits that can help us stay on task and finish what our homework. That being said, it does not mean you cannot have a social life or a paid job. However, as a full-time student, you have a full-time job to complete and balance your studies and work. You need to arrange your life around your classes, not the other way around.

Here are some helpful tips to maintain a less stressful and distraction-free semester:

  1. Find Your Niche. Have a place that is designated as your study area. If you repeatedly use the same area over a long period of time, it is easier for the brain to seamlessly go into homework or study mode. This can be anywhere that works for you! If you need extra quiet time, you can always go to the circulation desk in the library and ask for a key to one of the study carrels on the second floor.
  2. Turn It Off. Simply turn off your electronics so that if a notification sounds or lights up your screen, there will not be a need to check your phone. Some people need background music to study. Perhaps that’s you! If so, put on some light, instrumental music, and let your creative juices flow!
  3. Plan It. Set aside a block of time for your studies. In that way, you will go to your study place and have time saved for that use only just as you would for a class.
  4. Do Intervals. Research shows that if you study or work for 20-25 minutes on a paper and then take 5-10 minute break, you will think more quickly and complete assignments faster. The study interval gives the brain time to focus and relax.
  5. Balance. Have time for your studies and for your social life. It is hard, if not impossible, to juggle both at the same time and play catch up on one or both. Balancing allows you to relax and enjoy your friends’ company and have a better quality of work. Schedule time for your studying and homework and then make time for your social life. To make this more effective for you, start papers sooner and spend an hour each day working on that paper. The result will be less stress and more time to spend with friends.

Imagine your grades improving, having a social life, and stressing less about your classes. Sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it? By eliminating distractions and promoting healthier habits of studying, you become more effective in different areas of life, especially when you graduate from college and move onto your career. The best part is that the tool that you need to accomplish distraction-free studying is you. You are your own key to success.

-Sierra Fales

Sierra Fales is a junior English major at Castleton University.

Sports and School: Finding the Perfect Balance

Before the school year began, you were more than excited for a new year and a new team.  It felt so good to say you were a collegiate student athlete—the best of both worlds.  But then….reality kicked in: an exam on Monday, a team meeting Tuesday, two ten page papers due by Wednesday, an away game on Thursday and community service on Friday?!…and, of course, the infamous question: “Do I even get to eat today?!”

Don’t worry—it’s NOT impossible. Take it from someone with a cumulative GPA of 3.9 and four years of varsity experience.  Since freshman year, I have had over fifteen professors and have experienced both the soccer and track and field teams.  Check out these strategies I have developed to keep my stress under control: 

 

  1. Organize. The first step of managing your time is organizing your time. When I say organize, I don’t just mean color coordinating notebooks and planners.  Have a calendar on which you write sport AND school events.  Make “to-do” lists and determine which items are the most important—complete these first. 

 

  1. Plan ahead. Classes and practices are bound to interfere with one another.  Before this happens, carefully look over your comprehensive schedule.  When you come across a conflict, be proactive.  Immediately inform your coach and professors, and let them know what your situation is.  All parties will respond more graciously if you inform them well in advance—that’s a guarantee!

 

  1. Communicate. You are not the first student-athlete to struggle with time management.  Coaches and professors have taught many just like you, so don’t be afraid to reach out to them.  Not only is this suggested, it’s completely necessary! No one can read your mind, so you need to advocate for yourself.  Let someone know if things seem to be getting out of hand.  Coaches and professors are not only here to teach; they are here to help.  Let them. 

 

  1. Make time for yourself. This is much easier said than done.  However, it’s the most important.  If you don’t take care of your body, you will underperform in school and sports.  Taking care of your body doesn’t only pertain to diet and exercise, but also sleep habits, stress control, and mental health.  Bad habits are easily formed and their negative consequences are unavoidable.  If you aren’t sure how to be healthy in all the aforementioned aspects, talk to a captain or coach, or stop by the Wellness Center. 

If you have practiced all of these strategies, and you still feel overwhelmed, take a moment to consider your options.  Ask yourself why you are playing the sport in the first place.  Playing a collegiate sport is a lot of people’s dreams, but the reality is that it’s not for everybody.  Make sure you are playing for yourself and not for anyone else.  Play for the right reasons, and don’t settle for anything that makes you less than happy. 

Finally, sit back and enjoy the ride.  These years fly by, and it’s important you enjoy each one of them.  Please, always remember, you are never alone in this crazy college world.

-Christiana R. Carmichael

Christiana Carmichael is a senior Education Major and four-year collegiate athlete.