Before you graduate college you should probably know…

Kelly Skahan

Ah, the holidays in college: a weekend home with the family over Thanksgiving, various excuses to party over the weeks before finals and a whole assortment of friends who don’t expect much in the way of Christmas gifts beyond a pat on the back and a homemade card. Toss in a few obligatory formals, and you’ve got yourself a pretty sweet month of fun before the semester wraps up.

When the good old college days are over, the holidays become a sticky situation. Your funds are still similarly low (paying off student loans is a huge bummer), but people tend to think of you as more mature, and with that assumption comes the belief that you’ll be handling the holidays like a grown-up rather than a broke college student. High expectations, coupled with some required adaptation to new traditions (annual office Christmas party, anyone?), make for a pretty stressful holiday season if you don’t know how to tackle it from the get-go.

First things first – gifts are dicey. The yearly trip to the University Shop for various memorabilia and a WildCard discount is a thing of the past. A “Villanova Mom” sweatshirt isn’t going to cut it anymore, since you’re technically a graduate. Even worse, a “Somebody at Nova Loves Me” keychain can be a deal-breaker: First, you’re probably not still at ‘Nova, and second, you most likely don’t love them too much if you’re getting them a keychain for Christmas.

Nonetheless, you’ll likely be living on an entry-level salary, and buying gifts that aren’t copouts doesn’t have to be expensive. Substitute that $6 keychain for something a little more useful. You’d be hard-pressed to find somebody who wouldn’t appreciate a free trip to Starbucks, so dish out the cash for a $5 gift card, and you’ll take care of somebody’s coffee run, leaving them enough change for a scone on the side.

For the parents, chip in with your siblings to renew a magazine subscription for each of them; for $40, you can keep your Dad’s Sports Illustrated subscription rolling for a year, and the price isn’t too steep when it’s split among two or three people.

As for the holiday parties, it’s usually a rule that whoever throws the bash is the one to foot most of the bill. That said, don’t leave anybody high and dry; bringing over a bottle of wine, some kind of appetizer or even a tray of break-and-bake cookies can mean a lot to a stressed-out host, and none of them will break the bank.

Office parties, however, are a whole different story. You’re usually obligated to attend, and often there’s a collection among co-workers to fund the event. If rent is weighing you down and you can’t really sacrifice $30 to fund other people’s fun, it’s OK to pull the organizer aside and mention that you can’t really help out monetarily. If you really feel that guilty, offer to help set up or clean afterward.

It goes without saying that it isn’t too classy to get tipsy when the boss is around, but holiday parties often have the aura that anything goes. Don’t buy into it. You’re still going to work with these people on Monday, so even if it seems OK to drink, nurse a cider instead. This is one of those times you won’t regret being the only sober kid at the party.