After the fun and frivolity of Christmas comes the frosty frugality of January. The chances are you were paid earlier than usual in December and you spent more than usual over the holiday period, so the time leading up to the first payday of the new year feels like an arduous slog.
During these difficult weeks, making savings wherever possible is crucial for keeping your bank account in the black. Here are a few simple steps that anyone can take.
Be more efficient with food
Food is one of the biggest monthly expenses, so it could be one of the first areas to make cutbacks.
We all have overly stocked freezers – so why not use January as the time to clear down the food in your freezer. You can test your culinary skills by looking to concoct new dishes with the food already in situ.
If you are in the habit of going out to eat every lunchtime, you could make huge savings by taking a packed lunch to work. A couple of pounds each day might not seem like a lot, but over the course of a month you could be spending upwards of £50 just on lunches.
Make shopping lists
Don't underestimate the power of the humble shopping list when it comes to saving money.
First, plan your meals for the week and take into account anything else you will need around the house, then make a list of these essentials and (crucially) stick to it.
Supermarkets rely on eye-catching promotions and bulk-buy offers luring shoppers into purchasing things they don't really need. If you are serious about saving money, it is important to exercise some discipline, restrict yourself to necessities and don't give in to temptation. You might be surprised by how much you could save by skipping just a few indulgences.
When it comes to making purchases, it is well worth shopping around and taking the time to go to discount stores to pick up bargains.
Change how you travel
Like food, travel is a significant monthly expense for many people. There are a number of small changes you can make to reduce the amount you spend on getting from A to B.
If you have fallen into a routine of using your car for short trips, walking could save you money on fuel and improve your health in the process.
For longer journeys – to and from work, for example – could you cut your costs by swapping your car for a bicycle? By cycling, you can start the day with an invigorating boost of fresh air and help the environment too.
If driving to your place of work is the only option, look into the possibility of car sharing with co-workers who live near you. Or if you commute by bus, could you reduce your fare by getting off one or two stops early and walking some of the way?
Swap nights out for nights in
For many people, eating out or spending a few evenings at the pub or the cinema is a good way of banishing the January blues, but it's important to consider the financial impact of treats like these. If a few nights out will send you overdrawn or leave you struggling to cover the cost of basic necessities, is it really worth it?
When the British winter is at its coldest and days at their shortest, having a cosy night in can be just as enjoyable anyway, and remind yourself that the money you save by being frugal in January will allow you some affordable indulgences in the months to come.
If you are struggling, speak up
If your post-Christmas money problems are causing you real worry, don't suffer in silence.
Organisations like Citizens Advice, the Money Advice Service and StepChange were created to provide free, unbiased help to people struggling with financial problems, so take full advantage of the support and guidance they offer.
If you are worried that you won't be able to afford to make repayments on your mortgage, loans or credit cards, tell your provider as soon as possible.
Mortgage borrowers who get in touch with their lender at the earliest opportunity will have a better chance of finding a solution that is acceptable to both parties.
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