If you’re a student who is in school or a parent of a student who’s about to go through a break in school, chances are your expenses will increase. During such vacation periods when the kids are mostly at home, you would be spending more money than usual eating out, going to the movies, or doing activities which usually require funds from your monthly budget.
But what if you don’t have the extra money to spare? Let’s take winter break as an example. If you’re a parent with two kids who are about to go on a winter break, how can you keep them occupied without spending too much? Also, what can you do to encourage them to become more productive during the short break at school? That is exactly what we will try to find out about here.
When Is Winter Break Held in the US?
In the US, each school year has 180 days for K-12 students while those who attend colleges or universities have even shorter school years. Those who are in public schools from grades K-12 have breaks during Thanksgiving, Christmas, winter, spring, summer, snow days and all the federal and state holidays.
So when exactly is winter break? Depending on the region or the state, it can be held either in February or March and lasts for a few weeks.
What’s good about having a winter break is that it is long enough to give students the break from all the studying that they do. At the same time, the holiday is short enough for them not to get too bored and start scheduling major trips or weekend getaways – as they do during the summer break. Another benefit of having a winter break, specifically for parents, is that it gives them time to straighten out their finances for the spring semester.
If you’re a college student, the winter break is the perfect time to submit your FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Submissions are usually accepted as early as January 1, so it does pay to prepare all the necessary documents for this. The winter break is also when you should check if you have completely settled your account from the previous fall semester.
Are there any remaining fees or payments that you need to make? Winter break also doubles as the scholarship season. You can check out FastWeb.com or similar sites to determine which scholarship programs you can apply for. You can also use the sites to track requirements, complete your applications and submit the required materials.
Ways to Be More Productive on Winter Break
More importantly, winter break is there for you to actually take a break and have some fun. Just make sure that you are not spending a lot in the process, and here, we will be dishing out tips on how you can do just that.
Check out our list of the ways for you to save money and become more productive during winter break:
Stash away your savings for the upcoming semester.
Grandparents, aunts, uncles and other relatives usually enclose cash gifts with Christmas cards as gifts for students during the holiday season. If you did receive cash gifts, stash it away along with your personal savings for the upcoming semester. Instead of blowing the funds on a grand road trip with friends or going winter clothes shopping, you can save the money for a more important investment which is your education.
Babysit or pet sit.
If you’re good with kids or if you love pets, you can definitely offer your babysitting or pet sitting services to relatives or neighbors during your winter break. Charge an amount that’s cheaper than what a regular nanny, dog sitter or dog walker would so that you can get many clients. Work in the hours and save your earnings for what your expenses would be for the next semester or school year.
Boost your savings by getting a part-time job that’s temporary.
Use your winter break as an opportunity to experience how it is in the real world. Work as a part-time waitress, cashier, server, gasoline station attendant, machine shop assistant – use whatever skill you’re good at and apply for a part-time job. Make sure to let your prospective employer know that you’re only available for a certain number of weeks so that a replacement can be duly made once you head off to your school, college or university.
Get your parents to pay you for doing your chores.
If you’d rather spend your winter break at home but you would still like to make some money, why not do this? Get your parents to pay you for chores that they would otherwise pay other people for. This could be something as simple as mowing the lawn, cleaning the basement or clearing the attic.
You can do the same thing for your grandparents, relatives or neighbors. You’d be surprised at how much money you can earn by volunteering your time and skills to people you know.
Use your parents’ membership cards to stock up on supplies.
After the winter break, you will start another semester in college or university. To save your food money, use your parents’ membership cards to stock up on supplies. It could be school supplies, food or anything else that you can save on by buying in bulk. This is applicable for students who have homes which are close enough to campus. If you’re flying, you would not really want to pay for the extra luggage so this does not apply.
Make money out of the extra stuff that you have.
Instead of only cleaning out your stuff during spring, do another winter break cleaning and get rid of all the stuff that you do not need. You might have clothes which do not fit you anymore, shoes, books, CDs or DVDs, collectibles and other stuff which could get you a significant amount of money. Sell all your extra stuff at a garage sale, or you can even sell them online at sites like Amazon, Craigslist or eBay. It’s very easy to find like-minded individuals these days who will gladly take something that you are not using anymore out of your hands.
Buy used textbooks for the classes that you need during winter break.
Check out your course syllabus in advance. Which reference materials and books would your professors require? To save time and money, you can buy used textbooks for the classes that you need during the winter break.
Buying second-hand books will give you huge savings, as compared to buying editions which are fresh off the printing press. Also, doing this task a lot earlier than other students will give you first dibs on cheaper books, or even titles which would otherwise be unavailable for others once school starts again.
Save money on accommodations and transportation.
For those who cannot resist using the winter break as an opportunity to take a trip with friends, you can save money on accommodations and transportation. Instead of booking online, get the contact details of your favorite ski destination hotels and call them directly. They will most likely give you great discounts if you book early. Also, these establishments usually do not publish all their room availability online so if you book in advance, you just might find great deals at a fraction of the price.
It’s also better if you are traveling with a group because you can easily slit costs. When filling up the gas tank, for example, you can visit sites like GasBuddy.com to find out which gasoline station offers the lowest rates. Even if there’s only a few cents’ worth of difference, it will add up to a lot of savings since you are talking about multiple gallons of gas.
Save money on snow gear.
There’s really no need for you to buy new snow gear, skiing gear or other winter clothes every single year. You can simply use whatever you have in your closet. You can even check out the consignment stores or buy from second-hand shops. Since these are seasonal items that you are shopping for, there are plenty of cost-friendly alternatives out there.
Think of cheap or free entertainment options.
Finally, there are plenty of cheap or even free ways to entertain yourselves during a winter break. You can throw a Wii game night, schedule DVD movies or series marathon, throw potluck dinners, discuss your favorite books, have a bake-a-thon, an at-home spa beauty session or simply enjoy the great outdoors in all its snowy glory.
Take advantage of the cold weather by going ice-skating or sledding with friends or family. It’s more fun when you do these things in a big group. Afterwards, have a hot chocolate or cheap wine party. As long as you’re with great company, you do not have to spend a lot of money finding things to do during the winter.
Follow these tips so that you can make your winter break more fun and productive without spending any more than you have to.