Tag Archives: holidays

‘Tis the Season for Giving

Financial Aid to the Rescue! The holidays should be about surrounding yourself with friends, family, and good times. Make this year memorable not because of the expensive gifts you gave, but because of the special times you shared with your loved ones! Here are a few shopping tips and gift ideas that won’t break your bank.

Minimize your gift list: If you have a large family, suggest drawing names so you only need to buy one gift, instead of purchasing gifts for everyone.

Gift obligations: Feel obliged to give a gift to a friend? Suggest getting together for a night out instead of exchanging gifts.

Consider a seasonal job at your favorite store: Not only will you make extra money, but many shops offer employee discounts!

Shop after Christmas: Maybe you’re visiting family/friends after Christmas? The biggest sales of the year occur the day after Christmas. The crowds might be oppressive, but it’s a good time to snag gifts at great prices.

Plan ahead for next Christmas: Spread your shopping over the next year. Buy things when they are on sale and save them. Stock up on gifts when you have a summer job.

The way to a person’s heart is through their stomach: Consider inviting some friends over for a day of baking. Friends can share the expense AND the work, and everyone leaves with something.

Local Gifts

Take Photos of the Coast:You have access to the Pacific’s beautiful coastlines, the lone Cypress tree along 17 mile drive, historic buildings, and the fertile Salinas Valley! Put your photos in great frames from Ross and Marshalls, which have huge supplies of discounted frames.

Wine Under $15:Need help picking out a bottle? You can find recommendations on food and wine pairings, the best gift wines, and even a section of wine under $20!

Garlic Braids:You live 30 minutes from the Garlic Capital of the world! Consider a book of garlic recipes, and package it with a garlic braid!

The Artichoke Queen:Did you know that Marilyn Monroe was crowned the very first Castroville Artichoke Queen in 1947? The world’s largest artichoke is also in Castroville! Buy some giant artichokes and give them with a book of recipes!

Fresh Fruits and Veggies:Get creative, you live where fresh fruits and vegetables abound! The combinations are endless!

Easy and Low Stress

A mug and/or gift certificate to your recipient’s favorite coffee shop
A deck of cards
A box of theater candy with a movie theater gift certificate
Board games
Notecards and/or a book of stamps
Microwave popcorn and a gift certificate for video rentals
House Plants MGO is Marina always has a supply of plants usually priced at $5.99 or less!


Put your talents to work for you!
Give a massage
A free night of babysitting
Wash the car
Do household chores like vacuuming or cleaning windows
Cook a favorite meal
Most importantly, enjoy the season!

Turkey Dinners

If you’re unable to convince your family to give up their tradition of cooking Thanksgiving dinner at their home each year, invite some of your friends over. Not all of your classmates are going out of town for the holidays. Find out who’s in town and host Thanksgiving dinner ‘potluck’ style. This will reduce your costs dramatically, plus you’ll be celebrating with friends and not just your television.>/p>

Use foods that are “in season” in as many recipes as possible. This includes squash, pumpkin, yams, cranberries, apples, oh, and of course, Turkey! It’s best if you avoid the foods that are out of season because more than likely they are overpriced.

A good price for a turkey is $0.29 per pound and at that rate you might as well buy a large bird. You can always freeze the leftovers from what you don’t eat, for convenience, try freezing your leftovers in small zip lock bags and only pull out one portion at a time. Frozen turkey will keep for months and is very versatile. Try being a little experimental and look up fun turkey recipes on the web. You can add turkey to just about any casserole, soup, or salad. Just remember, turkey has the Amino Acid Tryptophan which calms you down and makes you sleepy so don’t eat it if you have a busy schedule ahead of you!

Another way to save this holiday season is to bake your own bread. You should be able to find all of the ingredients on sale during the weeks prior to Thanksgiving. And, as you probably all know, homemade bread is 100% better than store bought rolls. It may cost you more dough (no pun intended!) up front to pay for all of the ingredients, but over time it will pay off because of all the loaves you’ll make. However, if you are not willing to invest the time playing Betty Crocker, there are always Pillsbury rolls that run for about $2-3 dollars a container.

Holiday Travel


If at all possible, try to avoid peak traveling days. Not only are airports a crowded disaster on these days, but these peak travel days can cost a bundle. Typically, the two best days to travel by air during the Thanksgiving holiday are on Thanksgiving and the Friday following. If you choose to travel during the Christmas season, it is generally best to avoid flying between December 17th and January 3rd to avoid paying premium prices. However, if you do fly during these two weeks, try to be flexible to cut back about the price as much as possible. As a student trying to survive on financial aid, the best option would probably be to choose a red eye flight and leave during the work week.

Really want to pinch those dollars? Consider this: check into airports not only in Monterey, but within a 100 mile radius. Two hours of driving can save you huge amounts of money. Take advantage of the Institute’s blogging network and post on the Ride Share forum for carpooling opportunities. For example, if another student is traveling up to San Francisco for the holidays, try to get a ride with them and pay them half of the cost of gas. Both of you will benefit, and YOU will forgo the high price to park long-term at the Airport!


If you really want to bypass the North American airport bustle, why not take the train? You’ll save a lot of money, have enjoyable scenery, and you may even have extra time to catch up on some leisurely reading that went to the back burner during the semester. Salinas has an Amtrak station located at 11 Station Place. Amtrak offers student discounts on ticket prices, food, entertainment, and books.


Carpool with other classmates! You can post advertisements on the Ride Share forum to see if anyone is travelling somewhere in the near vicinity that you are. Even if one of you has to go out of their way by an hour, the cost that both of you could save may be worth your time.

Obey posted speed limits! Not only will this prevent you from getting pulled over, but fuel economy decreases substantially at speeds above 55 miles per hour. Also, during the holidays such as New Years many police departments step up highway patrols. Speeding tickets usually start at $100, and the amounts double in construction zones. Add in the extra money it will cost on auto insurance, and you have a formula for wrecking your financial aid budget.

Set your cruise control! This will allow you to maintain a constant speed which can also improve fuel economy. If your car has overdrive, use it. It reduces fuel consumption during highway driving and may prevent your lead foot from getting you into trouble.

Know where you are going! Carry a map of the area. Getting lost is not good for fuel economy. And hey, if you are a little map illiterate, ask a knowledgeable source to advise you on the best routes to take.