January sucks for many, many reasons. Back to work blues, post Christmas blues, and, last but not least, crippling-financial-black-hole-terror blues. I’ve got them all my friends, and I’m determined to just put my head down and get through it, although I've found a few ways to make it a little easier.
There’re a few different saving and financial techniques I’ve decided to engage, in order to survive the (arguably) toughest month of the year.
We wrote a post in December about how to make your budget for the new year. If you hit the ground running this year with a good grasp of your financial situation there will hopefully be fewer overdraft fees, and more savings, in the coming months.
Basically the golden rule from this point on: Don’t spend more than you earn.
2. Switch and renew
The New Year is a good time to sit down at home (because you can’t afford to go out) and figure out exactly what services you need for the coming year (ie. gas, water, internet etc.) and how much you should be paying. Look at your current deal, and then shop around for something better and more affordable. You can save hundreds a year if you make smart switches now.
Alternatively, phone up the company and see what discounts or special 'loyalty' deals they can offer you if you decide to renew your contract with them instead of going to a competitor. Trust me, it's always worth doing this. It's surprising what deals are suddenly available once you say you're about to leave!
3. Good health, good wealth
Take stock of your more expensive vices and see what you can go without. Cut out that expensive junk food habit on a Friday night, or stop smoking, or try a dry January without the booze. All these vices cost you money, so technically, the healthier you are, the wealthier you are!
Even if you decide to take up sport or exercise this year, it doesn’t have to cost you an expensive monthly gym membership. Find a local team to join to play netball or football for free on the weekends, take up running on the road instead of the treadmill, or even be part of the youtube fitness revolution where you follow exercise videos in front of your own TV. Fit can be free.
4. Operate in bulk
I’ve always been an advocate of this because it just saves so much money and time. (I’m all for anything that frees me up for more precious lying around time).
Buying food in bulk can be so much cheaper than buying things individually. Similarly, cooking large meals and then freezing them or portioning them out for meals in the week ahead saves so much of your time, but also your money. You use the oven and the hob less, and you don’t fall into the expensive ‘I’ll grab dinner on the way home’ trap.
Get organised now, and soon it’ll be second nature.
Check out our piece about eating on budget that offers some other helpful tips on how to keep food costs low.
Obvs don’t tell your nearest and dearest, but returning those unwanted Christmas gifts will either give you store credit you can save up for later (say, for someone’s birthday present later in the year), or will let you exchange them for something you will actually enjoy and get a lot of use out of.
Furthermore, by doing this in the January sales, you will be getting more for your money. If you exchange a hideous Christmas jumper bought at full retail value, you could easily buy two or three sale items with the store credit.
It’s a win-win quite frankly.