12 Ways to Survive the Holidays When You Have Student Loan Debt

Katie Taylor Updated on May 14, 2019

The halls are decked, the chestnuts are roasted, and the weather outside is frightful—though not quite as frightful as your student loan bill. 

Even if you’ve taken our advice and lowered your student loan payments, you still can’t throw your budget out the window for the month of December. 

The good news about that student loan debt? While everyone around you is dreading their dwindling bank accounts and expanding waistlines, you know the spirit of the season isn’t about excess. 

Here are 12 ways to enjoy the holidays without hitting your credit card limit.

1. Buying something for everyone is so passé

You know the last thing anyone needs is another closet full of gifts they’ll never use. After all, how many pairs of pajama pants or picture frames can one person enjoy? 

Instead, convince the whole family that trading names for Christmas presents is the way to go. Buying just one thoughtful gift means everyone has more time—and money—to enjoy the season.

2. Nothing says “I love you” like DIY

Okay, so those homemade lemon rosemary bath salts you made everyone a few years ago gave the whole family hives. 

Don’t let that stop you from whipping up a new handmade gift. After all, even a failed DIY present makes for a great story: no one will ever forget The Itchy Christmas of 2014.

3. One person’s gift is another person’s re-gift

Thank goodness you kept that silver platter Aunt Ida gave you last Christmas. Since you’ll probably never use it—every party you throw is a BYOB potluck—the tray is still in the box and perfect for the office Secret Santa. 

What other goodies do you have hiding out in your closets that you could pass on?

4. Traditional decorations are for grandmas

Christmas trees are pretty, but a few branches stuck in a vase and adorned with DIY ornaments shows you have a creative spirit. 

If anyone questions it, you tell them you got the idea from a Scandinavian design blog. They’ll be copying you next year.

5. Homemade goodies are still a great bet

You know you’re supposed to give something to the mail carrier and the hosts of all those holiday parties, but little gifts here and there can add up. 

Your secret for saving some cash? Whip up a recipe that’s so good people will cheer when they get a bundle of treats instead of another gift card or bottle of wine. 

Even better: ask mom or grandmom to teach you how to make a special family treat. Spending uninterrupted time together is a gift in itself.

6. You are better than any present

When it comes to choosing between getting a new sweater or seeing you on Christmas morning, you know which your parents would choose—at least now that you’ve outgrown that entitled teenager phase. 

When you’re deciding between spending money on a plane ticket or presents under the tree, skip the wrapping paper and pack your bags.

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7. A Skype visit is almost as good as the real thing—sometimes better

Of course, when travel is just not in the budget, setting up the video to see each other’s faces is the perfect way to be there—when you can’t actually be there. 

And if you’re secretly grateful that you don’t have to make awkward small talk with your weird Uncle Marv, who can blame you?

8. Classic styles are a budgeter’s best friend

Your friends may be rocking the newest trends—sequins and neon, or perhaps feathers and glitter. Let them sparkle. 

You’ll look as classic as Audrey Hepburn in the basic black dress you’ve had for years. And your credit card bill won’t look any the worse for wear.

9. Asking for what you need is underrated

Your mom wants to buy you another kitchen gadget that you’ll probably never use, but you know what would make you happier than anything else is someone covering that student loan payment for a month. 

Go ahead and ask for the money and spend Christmas morning basking in the glow of 30 days of financial freedom. 

10. Sometimes your time is the best gift

The last thing your brother and his wife need is another set of personalized hand towels. 

What they would love? A few hours of your time to keep tabs on their rowdy toddler while they go to a movie. Whip up a quick babysitting coupon as a thoughtful—and free—way to show you care.

11. Limits let you indulge without consequences 

All those “Let’s get together one more time this year” dinners with friends can take their toll on your bank account—and your waistline. 

While your pals complain about how their clothes don’t fit, tighten your belt and order from the appetizer menu.

12. Helping is the antidote for self-pity

During the season of giving, it can be hard to not feel buried by the weight of your student loans. 

Nothing puts that debt load in perspective like volunteering. After a morning at a local shelter or food pantry, you’ll be humming carols and skipping through the snow. Even if your finances aren’t quite where you want them to be, you can make a plan to get out of debt—and in the meantime, life has plenty of blessings to be enjoyed.

Make getting your student loan debt under control one of your resolutions for 2018. Check out our Student Loan Refinancing Calculator to see how much you could save by refinancing.

Published in: Lower Payments

About the Author
Katie Taylor

Katie Taylor is a content writer and editor with expertise in law and policy, finance, and entrepreneurship. She writes for startups and small businesses about everything from bookkeeping to telecom. Her work has been featured in The Washington Post and SheKnows.com. She is continuing to pay off law school loans and lives in Richmond, Vermont with her wife, son, and an unruly dog. Read more by Katie Taylor

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