7 Tips for Surviving Black Friday on a Budget

Black Friday will be here shortly, and chances are with that #studentloanbudget you’re just not ready for it.

No matter how bad you want to, you probably aren’t in a position to drop hundreds of dollars buying gifts for your friends, family, and – of course – yourself.

Nor are you down for the crowds of people all acting like wild animals trying to get the best deals.

To be honest, we get how totally discouraging that is.

The good news is: There’s no requirement for participating in Black Friday.

The bad news: Holiday deels are aggressively advertized and it can feel like “a must,” chances are you are going to be tempted by all of the deals.

How do you navigate Black Friday shopping when you’re on a student loan budget?

The one thing you shouldn’t do, is try to keep up with the people around you.

To help navigate, we came up with some things you can do to feel good about your holiday spirit and avoid draining your bank account.

Before you make your decision on if you are going to brave the masses of people on Black Friday, consider these helpful tips as you navigate your holiday shopping on a student loan budget as a whole.

Maybe you’ll be inspired to take a different path this year and extend the money you have to the end of your semester.

1. Share the truth

We’re talking the straight facts here…

You’re in college and anyone that is around you knows that.

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If you disclose to the ones you love that buying gifts might not be in the cards for you this year, chances are they’ll support you… and be happy you said something.

You can use explanations like:


    • “I’m trying to be smart with my money this year.”

    • “I know graduation is approaching and I’ll soon need to pay back my student loans.”

    • “I haven’t been able to pick up as many shifts because my workload has been aggressive.”

    • “I’d rather spend time with people than give and receive more stuff.”

2. Reframe the idea of gift-giving

The holidays are not just about receiving gifts – in fact, that can be pretty unfulfilling.

Giving gifts can feel just as – if not more – fun.

If you love to give gifts, focus on keeping your budget at bay.

Here are some fun ideas you can consider:

Set a budget and stick to it.

This may seem like a ‘no brainer,’ but it’s important to decide if you – or whomever you are buying a gift for – really needs this thing.

When you set a budget, you force yourself to be realistic about your finances and your ability to ‘share your wealth’… or not. Comb through your upcoming bills and be real with yourself about how much you can truly afford to drop.

two people making crafts during the holidays

Make a gift!

Pro tip: Check out Pinterest for some DIY gifts you can make for everyone, adding a personal flair to each one. This will help you save money on materials and have a lot of fun customizing whatever it is you make.

Don’t feel like you have to rush to Michael’s or an expensive craft store either. A lot of materials can be found at the dollar store and/or buy and sell sites.

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Plan an activity to look forward to that you are entirely in charge of.

This can be something as simple as an “after holidays dinner party” or Friendsgiving gathering; anything that you can host and invite all the people you care about to.

During the holidays, hand out the formal invitation and make sure you mention that the gathering is in lieu of any gifts this year.

Give people ample time to plan, and they are sure to be excited to have something to look forward to as the holidays die down.

3. Get a seasonal job, merely for the discount

So you can’t get the idea of giving out of your head. That’s okay!

A lot of retailers hire seasonally and give you discounts to make up for the long holiday hours.

What does that mean for you?

Extra spending money… and a deep discount! Score!

Check out stores that have something for everyone like Target, Dick’s, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, American Eagle, Michael’s, and tons more.

4. Suggest a Yankee Swap

If you have a group of friends or even a lot of family members, suggest that you do a Yankee Swap or a White Elephant this year and cap the gift amount at $10-$30.

White Elephant exchanges can be SO MUCH FUN.

Everyone gets to participate, and you can drastically decrease how much money you spend!

Need gift ideas this year for the White Elephant exchange you just organized? We have you covered.

You can also check out our guide to getting the best gift for a gift swap at any budget!

a person hiking in the mountains staring up at the trees

5. Hit the outdoors

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If heading to the mall with friends has become a “thing” you do together, change it up! There is nothing worse when it comes to temptation than putting yourself in the exact situation you are trying to avoid.

Do something outdoors like go for a hike or to a place you’ve wanted to go for a while but haven’t had the chance to.

This is a favorite because you get to avoid all of the people at the mall, so anything you decide to do will probably be pretty lax.

6. Set a hard budget per person

I know I mentioned budget above, but this is more specific to setting a budget that you absolutely can’t exceed for each person you’re shopping for.

A lot of times this makes picking out a gift more thoughtful than spending what you normally would! You can even share with the person why you thought that was the perfect gift for them; making it all the more special.

This will keep you conscious of how much money you’re spending and still allow you to get in on the fun of Black Friday shopping, if that’s your thing.

7. Bring cash only

Yup, that’s right, forego your credit cards.

The best way to stick to your budget is by limiting yourself to only a certain amount of cash.

We always think we are going to kick ourselves for not grabbing an item on sale.

Realistically, there is a higher chance that you are going to feel all of the emotions of spending guilt before you’re going to be upset about not grabbing the $6 adorable throw pillow you didn’t really need.

By not relying on credit, not only are you setting yourself up for not seeing huge bills every time you log in to check your balance but you are also giving yourself some wiggle room to actually participate in all the events you have coming up.

We all know those can be hella pricey too.

So there you have it! Seven tips to help you navigate the holiday shopping guilt and the thrill of Black Friday.

These tips aren’t limited to a college budget either; try and carry this way of thinking with you in your years to come even after you graduate.

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