Friends sledding in snowy woods, having fun on snow, wearing warm winter clothes

10 Affordable Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

As the cold winter weather rolls on, it's common for students to feel some seasonal depression. Here are some ways to lift your mood and stick to a budget.

With the lingering cold weather and some gloomy days, you may still find yourself feeling down from a lack of sunshine and warmth. This normal seasonal depression is often attributed to having a case of the “winter blues” but is referred to as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in more serious cases. According to the American Psychiatric Association, SAD affects about 5% of adults in the US and is more common among women than men. But taking some simple actions could help lighten your mood and brighten your daily outlook—all without breaking the bank. Here are some ways to help make your winter days shine while staying on budget.

1. Exercise at home

Taking a run in the freezing cold doesn’t sound too appealing, and getting a gym membership isn’t always easy on a student budget. Fortunately, working out at home is a legitimate way to exercise. YouTube is a great resource for finding and following free workout classes, including yoga, stretching, cardio, and more.

2. Become a home chef

Ready to throw some spice into your life? Try switching up your cooking routine with some different recipes. This could help you try something new and invigorate your creativity while giving you the opportunity to eat some delicious food without splurging on groceries. Consider searching for “cheap recipe ideas” online for inspiration. If you want to take a break from cooking on your special day, take advantage of the copious amount of birthday freebies from stores and restaurants to help you celebrate.

Related: The Best Ideas for Dorm Meals Without a Kitchen

3. Explore where you live

Traveling to a tropical paradise sounds amazing, but it might not be feasible on a student budget. To help scratch that travel itch and still have some fun, consider exploring the area where you live, especially if you’re a college student. There’s a good chance you’ve been so busy with academics you may have yet to explore your new college town. You might discover unique local gems you didn’t even know existed.

4. Stay connected with friends and family

If you’re in the middle of your personal hibernation period, connecting with friends and family members to nurture the relationships in your life can help you build a network of positivity. Your new friends at college just may not be as comforting as the people you love from home. If your friends and family don’t live nearby, schedule Zoom chats or online game nights to stay connected and get through winter together.

Related: 3 Tips to Maintain Healthy Family Relationships in College

5. Find your inner Zen

Sitting and meditating each day doesn’t cost a thing, but it could be well worth the time it takes to set aside for it each day. Meditation can help you focus on your priorities or simply find some peace and lift your spirits. For many people, it’s become a way to help reduce stress, anxiety, and any worries you might have. In turn, you’ll feel happier with less bothersome thoughts in your head.

6. Organize your space

If you don’t want to do anything outside, consider positive indoor activities, such as giving your space a makeover. This could be as simple as rearranging your furniture and creating a hobby corner or organizing your living area. This type of task gives you something to focus on and could help you feel satisfied and content once it’s accomplished. A fresh prospective on your space could also give you a fresh prospective on the things that are bothering you.

Related: 3 Mindful Activities to Help Students Beat the Winter Blues

7. Listen to upbeat music

Is gloomy weather making it more difficult to lift your spirits? Nothing brightens up your day quite like some sunny or happy music of your choice. This could be whatever type of music that gets you in a good mood and helps you look past potentially overcast weather. And if you’re really feeling it, get up and dance a little bit to really energize yourself!

8. Discover the outdoors

It may be cold outside, but that doesn’t mean there’s no beauty in the outdoors during winter. Since most parks are free to access, there’s little harm to your wallet in taking a walk while sipping some hot chocolate. Breathe in some fresh cold air and enjoy the beauty of the snow or seasonal weather.

Related: College Extracurriculars for Students Who Love Nature

9. Find volunteer opportunities

Volunteering as a student is free and always welcome, and you likely have plenty of opportunities available nearby. Even though you should be volunteering mainly to help other people, helping other will also give you the added boost of feeling amazing during and after your service time knowing you’re making the world a better place.

10. Curl up with a good book

Find a blanket and a comfortable spot and dig into an interesting book. You likely have a library nearby where you can sign out books for free, so there’s no real cost to enjoy some incredible stories. A good book benefits you by providing mental stimulation, a creativity boost, and some inspiration.

Tips for saving money as a student

If you’re still worried about saving money, consider these extra tips to help manage your finances:

  • Track your budget: Budgeting is a quick and easy way to track your spending and find ways to cut costs, which can free up money for fun activities and financial goals.
  • Pick up a side hustle: If you want to find ways to make money, consider picking up a side job. This could help increase your income, helps with budgeting, and could help alleviate your winter blues by giving you a project to focus on.
  • Use student discounts: Take advantage of your status as a student by usingstudent discounts as much as possible. It takes seconds to check if a discount is available and could help you save money on purchases you’re already planning to make. 

Related: How Students Should Save and Spend Their Money

The winter season can be a difficult time for students, but you can defeat the winter blues while saving some money to ease any financial stress. Taking positive actions could help keep your wallet intact and brighten your days while you await the return of sunny weather.

If you need more advice to conquer any struggles you may be having, check out the helpful articles and advice under our “mental health” tag.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now


About Ben Walker

Ben Walker is a credit cards and travel writer at FinanceBuzz who loves helping others achieve their travel goals through financially sound decisions. For nearly a decade, he has been using credit card points and miles for the sole purpose of traveling the world. Ben has been featured in publications such as The Washington Post, MSN,, and


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Kelly Nogueiro

Kelly Nogueiro


For me, CollegeXpress has given me a valuable tool to use with my students to explore colleges easily beyond objective data. It helps me find colleges for students that fit their needs and wants that aren’t quite so black and white. It's a wealth of knowledge, and the Type-A side of me loves all the lists and the fact that I know they're coming from folks who know what they're talking about. I share it with colleagues and students alike, and it's always well received.

Keaun Brown

Keaun Brown

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2020

As I transition to furthering my education, I can say with certainty that it simply wouldn’t be possible without the help of generous organizations such as CollegeXpress. Those who initially founded CX had no idea their platform would give a plethora of information to a first-generation homeless kid native to the ghettos of over half a dozen states. Everyone at CX and Carnegie Dartlet gave me a chance at a future when the statistics said I had none. And for that, I thank them.

Fabiola Rodriguez

Fabiola Rodriguez

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress helped me on my journey to get to the school of my first choice by showing me all the options I have. I didn’t know of the College of Southern Nevada until I went on this website, and it helped me look for other choices and compare what colleges would be right for me.

Farrah Macci

Farrah Macci

High School Class of 2016

CollegeXpress has helped me in many ways. For one, online searches are more organized and refined by filtering scholarships through by my personal and academic interests. Due to this, it has made searching for colleges and scholarships significantly less stressful. As a student, life can already get stressful pretty quickly. For me, it’s been helpful to utilize CollegeXpress since it keeps all of my searches and likes together, so I don’t have to branch out on multiple websites just to explore scholarship options.

Daniel Ogunlokun

Daniel Ogunlokun

High School Class of 2022

When I started looking at colleges in the beginning of my senior year, I was conflicted about which ones I wanted to attend based on safety, tuition costs, location, academic rigor, and prestige. Searching the internet and getting more questions than answers, I came across CollegeXpress, which made all the steps I had taken look like a minor issue. Everything was summarized and detailed, and I couldn't be more thankful and appreciative.

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Emerson College

Boston, MA

Suffolk University

Boston, MA