Surviving the January blues: a few tips on how to make your last pennies last until payday
What goes up must come down, and no more is this true than when we are all forced to make the unhappy crossover from all that end-of-year festive warmth and fuzziness into January – a month that’s rightly known to be the cruellest of mistresses.
January quite justly holds the undisputed title for being the grimmest, most unforgiving month of the year because it’s the time when our Christmas carnival season – aka December month’s – excessive overspending and merriment comes back to haunt us. A time when millions of us in the UK simply don’t have the money left in the bank to cover the cost of anything more than basic survival, if that, even. This can prove must inconvenient, especially when this poverty is combined with the patter of festive bills hitting the doormat, and winter’s uncanny knack of cranking the temperature down to deep-freeze at a similar time.
Taking this Christmas into account, along with the fact that many of us are gritting our teeth through an extended five or six week period without pay, it is of little surprise that surveys like the one conducted by VoucherCodes.co.uk show that over 20% of us Brits have already exhausted December’s pay, while a possible two-thirds of us (68%) will have borrowed money to cover the cost of basic everyday expenses by the time they get paid. If this sounds familiar, perhaps there is some consolation in that you’re far from alone in being utterly skint.
If your bank balance is perilous and you’re not quite sure how you’re going to make it until payday, hopefully, these little tips will help.
Check how much money you have, plan ahead and budget
Seeing as your bank balance is depleted to the extent that you won’t make it until next way, let alone next payday, it is really, really important to make the most of what little you have.
Firstly, check how much money you have left to your name – even if you’ve been desperately avoiding checking your balance out of fear the ATM or your online banking will show a figure you really don’t want to see. While the truth might be terrifying, the ostrich approach of burying your head in the sand is guaranteed to make your sticky financial plight even worse.
Once you know how much you have, simply work out how much you have to spend each week and then each day between now and payday. And try not to panic if it doesn’t make for pretty reading.
Cut back on all spending on unessential luxuries
The cost of feeding yourself and your household is an essential cost, as is covering the cost of your work commute and your bills – in other words, anything associated with keeping a roof over your head and staying fed. Virtually everything aside from this is an unessential spend, and therefore a luxury.
So no pubs, no takeaways, no eating out, no clothes shopping, no coffees at work, no day trips or anything else until payday arrives. Add something about it not being forever and that you’ll feel much better starting February fresh rather than playing catch up from over-borrowing to survive Jan.
Cut back on your food shop by looking for bargains… and put that freezer to good use
Rather than go for your usual favourites on JustEat or buying extravagant meals, treats and baskets of snacks and munchies, a meagre post-festive budget of pounds and pennies means that it is necessary to go back to basics. Not quite bread and water, as such, but perhaps basic ingredients which you can use to cook up food in bulk, from scratch, or maybe even beans & bread, pasta & pesto, if your budget is stretched to the limit. If your budget is tight, and yet not quite on the breadline, you could whip up lasagnas, homemade burgers, casseroles and other marvellous, low-cost meals that shouldn’t set you back more than a fiver.
Also, be sure to visit the lower cost, budget-friendly supermarkets, and to keep an eye out in the food discount aisles – there are deals to be had which are hard to believe. And last but not least, of course, any lovely home-cooked food that you make in bulk can simply be popped in the freezer for later, which means that just one night’s cooking could feed you for days.
Make your work lunch at home… and avoid those expensive coffees
It is thought that the average Brit spends over £1,900 per year on sandwiches, snacks and coffees at work – that’s nearly £160 each month, which is madness.
To avoid (ironically) being fleeced of your meagre funds while at work, prepare your sandwiches and lunch from home and for all that’s holy, avoid those lovely workplace lattes.
Pay by cash, not card
It’s well known that paying for things on card can lead to wild and erratic spending which is difficult to keep track of. Avoid this problem by sticking to cash only – it’ll help you spend in accordance with your available budget which you calculated earlier.
Avoid the January sales
That cut-price 50” telly might bring you no end of Netflix and gaming joy, but this joy will be short-lived if it comes at the price of not eating and paying your bills or even going into even more debt.
You can’t eat TV’s or clothes or anything else that the January sales could possibly offer you, and none of it is worth getting into debt for, as much as you might covet whatever it is you’ve had your eye on. Seriously, stay away from those shops and sales.
Negotiate later payment dates or payment holidays with your creditors
Whether it’s your utility bills, credit card or loan payments or debt payments, if you can’t afford to make your payments, get in contact with them first – don’t just cancel your direct debits and standing orders and ignore the problem. And if you’ve already missed payments for your financial obligations, get in touch with your creditors ASAP and have a chat with them about making your payments after payday.
Some of your creditors might not be happy about it, but many will be quite understanding, what with it being the time of year it is – they’d rather work with you, maintain a good relationship and get their money than make life difficult. If you’re worried about doing this, don’t hesitate to get in contact with the debt support charities, Stepchange or the Citizens Advice Bureau – both organisations offer advice and great service to those of us who are struggling with their debt.
Make sure that you don’t get caught short again by putting a little aside each month for Christmas
To avoid a repeat of this year’s post-festive poverty, take steps this year to ensure that come Christmas 2016, your bank balance is ready. If you can pop £25 or £50 each month into a savings account, such as an ISA, after a course of 12-months saving you’ll find at the end that you have £300 or £600 to cover the cost of all that festive joy.
Not too shabby, and most importantly you’ll barely notice the sum leaving your bank account each month.
Best of luck, you’re almost there!
The one saving grace, perhaps, is that payday is now likely only two weeks or so away – in other words, you’ve crossed the halfway point and are nearly there. So stay strong, tighten those purse strings and grit your teeth, it’ll be different next year (hopefully.)
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