3 Smart Savings Goals to Start This Winter Break

Holiday money burning a hole in your pocket?

For many students, winter break can provide a much-needed influx of cash. Whether it’s from a part-time job or generous holiday presents from family members, a replenished bank account provides money for the coming semester — and immediate spending. 

But what do you do when your cash flow runs dry again? Here’s an idea: Set a savings goal to put your winter windfall to work.

While it’s tempting to splurge, setting aside at least some of your break money is a wise choice. You can boost your financial health with an emergency fund or debt repayment, but remember that savings goals can be fun, too. An upcoming overseas adventure or big-ticket purchase can provide the motivation you need to sock away your money. 

Saving — no matter what you’re saving for — is a good habit to pick up. Need ideas on what to do with your savings? Check out these inspirational stories from financial professionals about what they did with their savings and why.

No. 1: Buying holiday gifts

Lauren Mochizuki, creator of the blog CasaMochi

When I was in college, I wasn’t smart enough to pay for Christmas [with] cash. I whipped out my credit card come December, and I accrued more debt every single year.

The main savings goal for winter break should be to cash flow all Christmas expenses. When I was in college, I had a part-time job the entire time. When I was off school for winter break, I signed up for extra hours.

If you don’t already have a job, I would highly recommend picking up a temporary or part-time job during winter break. Next, I would establish your overall Christmas budget. How much can you reasonably spend without going into debt?

Then, I would write down a list of all of your holiday expenses, including potlucks, white elephant gifts, and everyone you will be purchasing gifts for. Next to each item, I would write down your budget for that particular item.

I would consider it a huge success if you could pay for these expenses without going into debt.

No. 2: Paying off student loans

Ling Thich, personal finance blogger at Finsavvy Panda

Getting an education is not cheap, especially when you need to finance your education with student loans.

I knew I didn’t want to graduate with a huge student loan hanging over my head, so I made it a priority and my goal to reduce my student loan debt while I was still in school.

Instead of taking summer courses, I thought it made more sense to find summer jobs to help pay some of the tuition for the next academic year.

When I searched for summer jobs, I specifically looked for jobs that offered relevant work experience, so I could build my resume and save for school at the same time. Fortunately, I landed multiple summer jobs that were in my field of study.

No. 3: Bridging the post-graduation gap

Adam Sanders, director of Successful Release, a job readiness and reentry program

Once the high of securing a job after college faded, I realized that there was a nearly four-month gap between graduation and my start date. 

I still needed to eat, and moving back home wasn’t an option, so I needed to plan accordingly. I had about five months before graduating, and I wanted to save some money and get some useful experience, as well.

The real estate market was very hot at this time, similar to how it is now, and I had gone to a local investor’s meeting to learn more about it a few weeks prior. I learned that the hardest part of investing is often finding good deals and that investors paid people to help them find deals. 

I talked to a bunch of investors, found out what they were interested in purchasing, and walked around various local neighborhoods looking for houses for sale. I talked to the owners, learned about the properties and what they were looking for, and connected them with investors looking for the same things.

I didn’t make money on most of the connections, but I was able to live comfortably for those months before I started my career. It just took a little hard-work and willingness to talk to people.

Bottom Line

Winter windfalls are great, but consider using some of your cash for a savings goal of your choice. By developing smart saving habits now, you’ll create a blueprint to achieve all your financial goals in the future!


Lauren MochizukiLauren Mochizuki and her husband are budget enthusiasts who paid off $266,000 of debt five years ago. Mochizuki is an emergency room nurse, wife, and mom of two. She is also the creator of CasaMochi, a blog where she writes about how to live well within your means, design, recipes, and travel.
Adam SandersAdam Sanders is the founder of Successful Release, an organization dedicated to helping former felons find financial and professional success. Prior to founding Successful Release, he spent a decade working in finance and product management for major financial technology companies. He has an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Business and a bachelor’s in finance from Missouri State University.
Ling ThichLing Thich graduated with a finance degree and has 10 years of experience in the financial and banking industry. She understands the financial struggle of living in an expensive city, so she spends a lot of time learning about personal finance. Her goal is to help people find creative ways to make money, save money, and build wealth. Outside of her work, Thich enjoys traveling, exercising, and dining at her favorite restaurants with friends and family. You can find her personal finance tips on her blog, Finsavvy Panda.

What are your winter savings goals? Tell us over on Twitter @OppUniversity.

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