Even if you haven’t gone into debt over Christmas, chances are you’ll be feeling the pinch this January. Getting your salary a little earlier than usual in December may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but it just makes the wait for your January paycheck seem endless.
The good news is there are ways to save your pennies – and all those pennies soon mount into pounds. Try some of the following tips to avoid going into the red this month:
Make your own lunch
If you’re in the habit of popping out of the office every lunchtime to buy sandwiches (or any other foods for that matter), you can save cash by making your own and taking them to work with you. And don’t draw the line at food. Your daily coffee shop habit could be draining your resources too (try making your own at work or switch to something cheaper, such as tea or good old-fashioned water).
If you can continue preparing your own lunch and making coffee at work throughout the year, it’s a good habit to get into (and your bank balance will love you for it).
Avoid takeaway temptation
The same principle applies to meals outside work hours. There are lots of savings to be made if you take a break from buying takeaways and buy supermarket versions (supermarket brand pizzas, for instance, are far cheaper than the ones you get delivered). Better still, make your own from scratch and you’ll save even more.
Also plan your meals a week in advance and make a shopping list that only includes the ingredients you need. Then when you go shopping, try to stick to the list and not buy any extras, the cost of which can mount up.
Clear out your freezer
According to the website lovefoodhatewaste.com, the average British household wastes around £60 of food each month. So before you go shopping for more food, check what’s in your freezer and tins cupboard. There’s a good chance you have lots of unused food that needs to be eaten. If you’re stuck for ideas of what to do with the ingredients you find, make a list and visit myfridgefood.com, tick the ingredients you’ve already got, and then find recipes that you can use them in.
Leave the car at home
If you live within cycling or walking distance from the office, try doing without your car until you’re better off. Alternatively you can try car sharing; if you don’t live near any of your work colleagues, you could try a website such as National Car Share, or GoCarShare if you want to share or offer a lift on a longer journey. Even using the bus can save you money compared with using your car – or the tube, if you live in London.
Cancel your gym membership
If you cycle or walk to work, you may not need your annual gym membership any more. Many people sign up to a 12-month gym contract in January, so now may be the ideal time to cancel your membership and save potentially hundreds of pounds a year. And if you still want to go to the gym – but you don’t go often enough to justify the monthly charge, try a pay-as-you-go gym such as Pure Gym and PayasUgym, where you don’t have to sign a contract and pay a fee each time you work out.
Give up expensive habits
Smoking isn’t just harmful to your health, it’s harmful to your pocket too. If you haven’t kicked the habit yet, now’s a good time to try. The NHS Smokefree service is offering free quitting support, so you won’t have to go it alone. With cigarette prices continuing to rise, you could currently save more than £60 a week if you smoke a pack a day. Also, according to the Independent Cancer Taskforce, cigarettes could cost £15 a pack by 2020, so it may now be time to take giving up seriously.
If you don’t smoke, you may want to consider having a dry January – especially if you drank a lot of alcohol over Christmas. According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, the average British household spends more than £15 a week on alcohol. That means by giving up for just one month you could save around £60 or more.
Take stock of your spending
While you’re making changes to save money in January, you may also want to look at your budgeting in general. You may be surprised at how much better off you could be if you reviewed your income and expenses by drawing up a budget plan. Find out more by using the budget planner in our Money matters guide.
If you need advice about debt, we offer impartial and confidential advice to help you regain control of your finances.
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