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: A Natural Choice: The Best College Clubs and Activities for Nature Lovers

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
Asia Stockdale

Asia Stockdale

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress helped me overcome a huge hurdle. Because of the small town I live in, I felt like I would never achieve more. I felt like I could never go beyond because of costs. I feared I wouldn’t be able to find scholarships. I had no idea of where to start. With CollegeXpress, I easily found scholarships—they came to me. It was a helper, and I was instantly matched with opportunities to go above and beyond educationally.

Hailey Riddile

Hailey Riddile

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me find scholarships to apply for and look into more colleges. While there are many websites similar to CollegeXpress, every website is different, and I've found a lot of good insight on this website. Receiving emails from CollegeXpress about scholarships is extremely useful, and getting insight about colleges near, far, and anywhere in between helps me narrow down my choices to what I want, which is also super helpful. The articles are always really good reads, and I can't stress enough how helpful this website has been to me. Anything related to college is beneficial to me as a senior, and I have learned lots of useful things to help me on my college journey this year.



High School Class of 2022

My mother signed me up for a couple of scholarship contests through CollegeXpress. I was also able to do some research and compare the different schools on my list. I was able to see the graduation rates and different programs that helped me decide on Adelphi University. I will continue looking for some scholarships for my start in September.

Lexie Knutson

Lexie Knutson

High School Class of 2021

This whole website has helped me overcome the attitude I had before. I was scared to even approach the thought of college because it was so much. I knew it wasn’t just a few easy steps, and I panicked mostly, instead of actually trying. Without realizing it, CollegeXpress did exactly what I usually do when I panic, which is take it one step at a time. With college I forget that because it’s more than just a small to-do list, but this website was really helpful and overall amazing. So thank you!

Ruth Aguilar

Ruth Aguilar

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress helped me by providing me with many scholarship opportunities and information about universities I want to attend. What I love about CollgeXpress is how it provides a variety of information, and as the first child attending a university next year, it has been very essential and helpful. I’m so grateful for this because the information provided by CollegeXpress has also helped me see that there are so many college opportunities, and it always informs me by email. In other words, CollegeXpress has been like a guide for me as a future college student.

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Fordham University

Bronx, NY

Lewis University

Romeoville, IL

Fort Lewis College

Durango, CO