The January blues are long and tough. When the festive madness is over money is inevitably tight and it can seem that payday is an eternity away. In fact, my experience is that, even though the papers and the telly have forgotten about “January Blues” a few days after new year is over, the effect can last for weeks – sometimes well into February and beyond.
But, never fear, ClearDebt are here to help you survive the most financially treacherous months of the year with our helpful survival guide.
Do a quick budget
Many of us are paid a week or so early at Christmas. It is also a week, in which we can spend a lot more than normal. Even if you do budget month-to-month, those figures may not work in January as you may need to make your pay stretch for an extra week. Checking that you can meet your regular outgoings and exercising a bit of restraint is going to be far less miserable than suddenly finding you have an unarranged overdraft with your bank!
Save on your food spending
The average household wastes up to £700 a year on food. By taking just 5-10 minutes to plan your shopping and weekly meal plan you could save as much as £58 a month.
- Check what food you already have in your cupboards, fridge and freezer.
- Make a shopping list and stick to it. Do not allow yourself to be hooked into buying extra you simply do not need.
- Plan your meals for the week and try your best to find a few things with similar ingredients to avoid unnecessary waste.
- Look for reduced items that are getting close to their sell by date.
- Freeze leftovers to have another time.
- Try switching to a cheaper brand. Which? consumer website is great to see how the lesser known brands compare to the big manufacturers.
- Shop around for the best deals. Download apps such as Clicksnap, Quidco and Checkout Smart. You can earn cashback purely by buying brands you already had on your list.
- Use vouchers and coupons.
- Check special offers carefully. Is the deal as good as it sounds?
- Try shopping little and often, if you have the time. Some people find this saves money compared with the traditional weekly shop. You can certainly take more advantage of daily reductions this way.
Make extra money by selling unwanted or unused items
One man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure. Your old, broken, unused or unwanted items might be new, mendable and perfect for somebody else.
Use sites such as eBay, car-boot sales and free ad papers to clear your home of any unwanted clutter as well as making some, much needed cash at the same time.
Search cupboards, sheds, garages and lofts for anything taking up space that is no longer used.
- Did you get a new smartphone at Christmas? Sell old mobile phones through websites such as com or mazumamobile.com. Depending on the make and model you could be sitting on a few quid as Smartphones hold their value quite well.
- Sell old CDs, DVDs and computer games on sites such as co.uk
- Sell old toys and baby items. Items such as these are still in high demand on sites such as eBay for new parents looking to cut costs.
- Clear out your wardrobe of anything you no longer need, or in my case fit into! A nice dress could be worth £10-£20, which is money better off in your pocket than locked away in a wardrobe unused.
Save money on your energy bills
- Switch energy suppliers and fix the price – Do a quick comparison tofind the cheapest supplier in your area and switch for a cheaper deal, making sure to fix down the price to protect yourself from any future price hikes. If you are a bit hesitant to switch supplier, call your current provider and ask them to move you to their cheapest available tariff and, again, fix down the price. If your bill states you are on the ‘standard tariff’ or ‘cheapest evergreen tariff’, as it is to be known going forward, then you are out of contract and could be paying much less on a fixed plan.
- Economy 7 and 10 meters – If you have an economy 7 or an economy 10 meter, try using timers. You can load your dishwasher or washing machine and set the timer to come on in the night when your meter is on the cheaper rate. It will help to really cut down the cost of using your appliances.
- Only boil what you need – Believe it or not, your kettle is one of the biggest energy guzzlers in your home. Do not boil any more than you need. The fuller your kettle, the more energy it is using to boil water. Just use the amount you need for your brew or to use on the hob. Measuring water with the cup or pan you are using is the easiest way to ensure you are not boiling any more than you need. Alternatively, you could buy a kettle with a cup indicator so you know you are using it as efficiently as possible.
- Don’t use standby mode – TVs left on standby are still using large amounts of power and an average computer screen left on overnight uses roughly enough energy to laser print 400 A4 pages. TVs and computers should be switched completely off when not in use – whilst newer computers and laptops have become much more energy efficient, they are still energy-intensive. Do not be sucked into the myth that regularly shutting down computers will adversely affect their lifetime.
- Unplug chargers – Laptop, mobile and tablet chargers continually draw electricity when plugged in – even when not in use. Unplug them or switch off the socket when you are not using them. Run your battery down rather than charging when you still have battery life left and do not leave them on overnight. Over charging will also reduce the battery life. Full cycle discharges and charges will prolong the life with most batteries.
- Replace light bulbs – Replace incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient, compact fluorescent light bulbs or, better still, LED’s. They are slightly more expensive but they last much longer and use far less energy. Much of the energy produced in incandescent light bulbs is lost in heating the bulb. With a LED bulb all the energy is used to light the bulb. You can often find special deals in supermarkets and sometimes they are even given away free with newspapers so keep your eye out for any bargains!
- Use energy efficient appliances – If you are still using an older appliance(s) you will be using significantly more energy. The latest fridge freezers, washing machines and dishwashers are extremely energy efficient. When buying a new product there are two labels you should be looking out for. The first is the ‘Energy Saving Trust Recommended’ logo which can only be used on the top 20% most energy efficient products. The EU energy label grades products from A (best) to G (worst) for energy usage. For fridges and freezers, the grading goes up to A++.
- Turn lights off – When your parents asked you “are we competing with Blackpool?” when you were younger, there was a reason behind it! It’s easy to forget to switch them off, but by doing so you are burning money – especially if you are still using incandescent light bulbs. As you leave a room switch off the lights, during the day keep all curtains open to make the most out of the natural light. Using lamps in larger rooms can also be more energy efficient. In the lead up to Christmas, make sure you switch off your Christmas lights when you are not using them – they use up a lot of unnecessary energy!
- Use appliances efficiently – If you are using your cooker, try cooking a couple of meals at once. You can refrigerate or freeze the second meal and you have only had to heat the cooker once. If you are using your washing machine or dishwasher, wait until they are full to save both energy and water. Rinsing plates before placing in the dishwasher will also mean you can use a more energy efficient setting.
- Don’t heat unused rooms – If you have spare rooms or rooms used sparingly in the house, switch off the radiators in them. That way you will cut down on the amount of energy used to heat the house. You should however, give them a blast once a week – at least during the colder months – to help avoid any unwanted damp and condensation.
Change habits to save money
- Switch your bank account for one, which will give you an interest free overdraft, a cash bonus or cashback offers.
- Make your own sandwiches for lunch at work.
- Ditch the car or public transport for short journeys and walk. It’s not only free but good for you.
- Cut back on take-aways, try making your own “fake-aways”.
- Have a night in instead of a night out. Get a few people round and you can still have fun but at a fraction of the cost.
- Look for activities and days out that are free.
- Search for discount entertainment vouchers.
- Look for vouchers and promotional codes for clothes and beauty products.
If you have any tips to help beat the January blues we’d love to hear from you.