Christmas is a great time of year. The decorations, trees, gifts and the cheese, and it’s even better when your employer moves your payday to just before the 25th – you’ve got some last minute shopping to do after all. But if you get swept up in all the excitement, you might not completely appreciate that it will be six weeks before your January payday.
So, if you’ve splurged your entire budget before you’ve even grabbed hands and sung Auld Lang Syne, then how are you going to make it through January? The finance experts at Choose Wisely have put together our top five tips to help make your money stretch and try to prevent you from always running out of money.
1. Start the year with a brand new budget
As the new year rolls in, we vow to shed some weight, eat healthier, take up a new hobby and be better with money, but it falls easily by the wayside after a few weeks. This year, be strict on yourself and take the time to sit down and write your budget out carefully.
Account for your incomings, including any benefits or grants, and then make a list of your outgoings. Ensure that you’ve noted down any debts such as credit cards, overdraft or store cards that might have taken a hit during the seasonal period.
Once you’ve got a handle on everything you’ve got to pay out for you can set yourself a budget for the week and even each day. Stick to it by taking packed lunches to work, swapping expensive brands for supermarkets’ own and taking a walk instead of the bus or car.
2. Cover the basics
The most important thing to do if you’ve finished your budget, but think you might still come up short, is to make sure you cover your most important bills. Rent or mortgage, utilities and Council Tax are the key essentials, followed by any debts. Missing these payments, or even being late, can get you into serious financial difficulty and could result in you having to pay extra charges.
If you really haven’t got any money to cover everything then try speaking to your council, landlord or utility suppliers who can sometimes be accomodating and give you an extension. A word of caution – you don’t want to roll payments over to the next month if you don’t have to, otherwise, you’ll end up with a knock-on effect and push yourself into difficulty throughout the year.
3. Practice your spending self-control
When you’re thinking about your weekly shop, write a list of the basic ingredients needed to make healthy, hearty meals that can stretch across the week, making money last. Search for multi-buy offers and avoid expensive brands or unnecessary items. Use January as a time to detox your body as well as your budget and put that beer down!
Buying food that you can chuck in the freezer or won’t go off is also a great way to keep your spending down across the month. Vegetables are ideal when they’re frozen and require very little prep – so it’s a win win situation.
4. Spring clean and sell
Giving your house a spring clean and clear out at the beginning of the year is quite commonplace, and also gives you an opportunity to make some dosh. When getting rid of clutter, make different piles:
- Throw away
When you’ve got your things to sell, you can list them on sites such as eBay, Depop, Gumtree or Preloved. Make sure you make a note of any listing fees that you’ll have to pay and then use the profits to put towards any bills or spending money throughout the month.
We promise it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom in January, and you can still treat yourself. If you come across vouchers from Christmas or birthdays past, then use these in the January sales. You won’t have to spend money that you need for any outgoings, but you also won’t have to do without any treats – especially if you’re suffering from the January blues.
Start planning your purchases now so you get items you really want, rather than getting swept along with the season’s sales.
5. Make the most of cosy nights in
Face it, the weather is pretty questionable in January and without any parties or Christmas festivities to entice you out, there’s not much point leaving the house. Use January as a month to rest – catch up on box sets, write your CV, and spend some time at home instead of spending money down the pub.
Don’t fall into the trap of ordering takeaways as a treat, otherwise your budget will go out the window. Instead, maybe cook some dishes you’ve always wanted to try, or challenge yourself to use up bits and bobs from your kitchen cupboards.
By tightening your purse strings in January you can get yourself back on track financially and budget your money. Then, once you’re over the worst, add Christmas spending money into your budget for next year and know how to stretch your money further.