Holiday Prep for (Grad) Students

I’ve been trying to get myself to read my own paper for the past four hours, and it really hasn’t been working.

I feel like the cat that just won’t get into the water for a bath, and at the same time, I feel like the cat owner trying to get it clean.

Just like this one.

Something about going through the paper that contains the same information that you’ve written as a journal paper, as part of your thesis, presented as a thesis defense, and edited for a re-submission to a journal make you kind of want to avoid it as much as possible. My brain tells me that, since you’ve talked about it and wrote about it so many times, it should be super easy to go through it this time, and it will have to be the best communicated piece on the topic to date (theoretically). However, all my other side of the brain can think about is, “I’ve done it again and again, leave me alone~.”

One way I’ve been actively avoiding this important process of editing the paper is to think about the festivities coming up ahead.

More specifically, Christmas, winter break, and the New Year celebration.

As a grad student, this time of the year isn’t particularly the most jolly of them all as far as our bank accounts are concerned. In the past couple of years, I typically didn’t have the ‘luxury’ to budget for holiday gift expenses every year. I would typically take the stipend/fellowship money promised for the year, divide it by 12, subtract my monthly rent from that, subtract my monthly expenses like cell phone costs etc, and note to self the leftover amounts as my maximum cap for groceries, coffee fund, plus fun fund. It was tight just managing the essentials on a monthly basis anyway.

I think it would definitely make it easier to spend your holiday fund when you’ve set aside some money specifically for the occasion, because you already have in mind what your maximum cap is.

If you haven’t, however, and the Christmas lights at shopping centres and Robson street hits you (and your bank account) somewhat randomly, which happens almost right after the end of Halloween shopping season, then picking out gifts and scrambling to get things for those special people in your life can feel painful. Everything starts to look really expensive, and as you start to question whether you really want to send this person a present, or just a card, or nothing at all, you feel like this huge social pressure is testing your relationship with whomever you care about.

But I don’t think we should let the world question our relationship with so many of our friends/family/networks just because the social norm this time (and most of December I guess) of the year is to buy gifts for each other. I think there are many ways you can enjoy the holiday season and make it just as beautifully celebrated even if you don’t spend much money/time on gifts for others.

I have a couple of suggestions for those of you who suffer from the holiday finance dilemma.

1. Personalize (with fewer $$, and more time): If getting a batch of card, filling out people’s names, signing it, and giving it to people without a gift to go with it doesn’t seem personal enough, then I would suggest getting a batch of cards that don’t have messages written inside (or have super short ones). So, rather than just signing it, you can actually make use of the blank spaces to recount some of the things that has happened this year, things that you’d like to share, thank, etc. I’m a fan of meaningful and personal messages, and I think many people would take that to be even more memorable than gifts (depending on what you write, of course). And this way, you can actually cover a longer list of people on your holiday list without spending too much money. Of course, you’ll need quite a bit more time to draft those messages for everyone. Oh, and if you are thinking of gifts for babies, messages may not have the same effect, depending on the age of the baby… just something to keep in mind. 😉

2. Make something: For batch processing of gifts (for large group of friends/labmates etc) I think making something could be awesome too. For example, if you’re good at baking, I’d love to get a little bag of homemade cookies from you as a gift. Of course, baked goods as gifts are limited for those whom you can deliver the goods to (without having them go bad in the delivery process). But if you are fond of this idea of baking something for someone, look what I found in the process of procrastination! A Christmas cookie recipe list organized from A to Z, with a top 20 list and hundreds more.

Bah, I just want to wrap up my holiday stuff for everyone now instead of reading my paper (again!). But I’d better get back to it before I start jotting down more holiday ideas.

But to help me (and students in general) with the process of coming up with financially friendly, yet happy holiday ideas, please do share them via comments/email! 🙂

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