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January Financial Survival Guide

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For all concerned, from a financial point of view, things would have been much easier if Jesus had been born on December 10 or maybe the 17th. Surely placing Christmas a week or two before the date that many of us get paid, thereby guaranteeing an early payday in December but a horrible gap of five or even six weeks until your next pay in the New Year, is just unfair?

Of course Our Saviour received gifts such as gold even from birth, so it was of no concern to Him that more than 2,000 years later we would be cursing the arrival of a new annum and our financial perils. Those perils include higher utility bills in the colder weather, an increase in the volume of petrol we use, and the first credit card bills from the Christmas shopping. Bad times.

So here’s several ways that you can instantly claw back money throughout the early months of the year – using one or two of these tips will help; three or four might give you a new lease of life.

Budget

The most important step is the first – sit down and actually pinpoint where your money goes. Critically analyse the monthly outgoings, particularly magazine and satellite subscriptions, trips out, sweets and chocolate snacks at petrol stations, and the many other little items that combine to suck finances from your account without you even noticing.

Be as brutal as you need to be in cutting some of them out. For example, one possible problem is that you might have created a list of New Year’s resolutions that require additional funds, such as joining a gym. The best bet is to look for alternatives, such as jogging or online fitness videos.

Above all be realistic, as unless you’ve been incredibly profligate you’re unlikely to save £100 a month immediately – start with £10-£50 and go from there.

Come back to the budget in six months’ time and see how you’ve fared.

Seeking advice

You’re not the only one who will be struggling with your cash flow, and thankfully there is plenty of free advice out there. Your first port of call is anywhere that you owe money, such as your bank or local authority, which might be able to restructure the frequency or value of your payments. Swapping your interest rates to another bank or building society might save you small over one month but big over the year.

A loan is usually preferable to credit card payments in terms of interest rates, but tread carefully; the Money Advice Service can help explain the terminology here. Also, although not ideal, don’t forget that new caps on payday loans have just been introduced meaning that you will never pay back more than double the amount borrowed.

The Citizens Advice Bureau can also help you prioritise your debts, and even advise you claiming a tax rebate or disputing/reclaiming debts if applicable.

Online money savers…

You could literally save thousands of pounds a year with a few hours of research on price comparison websites. You can save pots of cash by swapping your provider for utilities, internet, insurance, credit cards and mobile phones. Then concentrate on cutting the costs yourself, by swapping baths for showers, turning off lights when they’re not needed, and so on.

As a side note, around 3.5m people are owed money from an old power supplier from a pot of £2m – to find out how you can claim visit MyEnergyCredit.com.

Googling whatever you’re looking for and adding 'coupon' may immediately pay dividends when it comes to shopping.

and makers…

Try to find half an hour each day, in the early morning or late evening, and call it your money-making time. Devote it to researching and implementing some of the multitude of ways of making anywhere from a few pennies to thousands of pounds.

Got a free parking space? Rent it out using websites/apps such as justpark.com.

Recycle your mobile phone, trade in your old DVDs, CDs and even clothes on sites such as Music Magpie or Preloved, enter competitions and fill out online surveys… there are many options.

Food shopping

Two for one offers are brilliant aren’t they? Those two £1 packs of carrots for £1.50, what a saving! OK, you never get round to eating the second pack, but still…

Cutting out the purchase of unnecessary food that you simply won’t eat is the first step, but if you do find yourself tending to a bulging fridge it might be time to transfer that food to the freezer – cheese, yogurt and other dairy products can all be frozen, for example.

Eating the cans of food that have been sitting in your cupboard for six months is the next step – utilise sites such as Supercook to generate recipes from your ingredients. That £3 you spend on dinner every day on pre-packed meals really could be better used.

Getting your food delivered (only if free, of course) is another step. Plan a couple of shops a month, plan what you’re eating, and plan healthy, interesting nutritious meals. It’s easier than you think.

Mental toughness

Impulse buying is the nemesis of saving. We’ve already mentioned food, but we could easily lump fashion, technology, magazines and many other elements of your lives into the mix. The key is not to let one lapse become a crisis.

As the below section on Blue Monday suggests, treats are needed – but as anyone who’s ever broken a New Year resolution (60% of us) will tell you, it’s the period after the resolution is first broken that is usually the tipping point. Therefore, if you do slip off the wagon and have a spending splurge, don’t just give up and slide into complete oblivion.

Look back at the budget spread sheet and the amount that you’ve saved so far this year. It will continue to grow if you allow it.

Blue Monday

The Monday of the last full week of January leaves Christmas and the season of goodwill far behind, but is still several months away from summer holidays and barbecues. Therefore it is regarded, using a complicated mathematical formula, as the gloomiest day of the year for many people.

So here’s how you overcome it; go out. One meal, or a trip to the cinema. But you’ve got to earn it by saving money elsewhere. If you can motivate yourself to structure your finances to give yourself a treat or two a month, but still save money, you’re building a strong structure for success.

 

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