The New Year is already stressful, don't make it worse by spending money you don't have. Picture: iStock
We all tend to overspend from time to time but we can get it particularly wrong when it comes to December’s festive season. Most of us start off with good intentions and make promises like keeping to a budget, not paying too much for Christmas presents or only inviting a ‘few’ people over for lunch or dinner. But sometimes it doesn’t quite work out that way and we end up having quite a depressing time in January as we struggle to cope till payday.
The good news is that there are strategies we can adopt to ensure that January doesn’t end up being the miserable financial month that it can be:
1. Shop for groceries like an economist
When it comes to buying groceries there are many ways you can save. Embrace the concept of scale, i.e. if you buy in bulk you’ll likely save money. Use your freezer if you have excess food. Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season because they’re much cheaper. Try not to buy fruits and vegetables that have been sliced and packaged. Buy them whole and slice and dice them at home because it’s often cheaper that way.
2. Create a budget, and stick to it
Now is a good time to revisit the idea of creating a budget and sticking to it. If you work out what you can afford and stick to it this will help fight the blues. Check your bank account online regularly or make sure you’ve downloaded the relevant banking app to track your spending. Make sure you’ve got alerts coming to your phone whenever you spend a cent – it will help you to keep track of it all.
READ: 5 steps to help you draw up a budget today
3. Cook more
Create larger, but inexpensive dishes. Leftovers can be used for lunch the next day or if you’ve made a huge pot you can always freeze the food for a later date. Create a meal plan that’s within your budget.
4. Try not to throw away any food
Keep a vigil over the contents of your fridge to make sure that you eat food before it expires. Throwing away food is equivalent to tossing your money out. Keep items that are close to the expiry date in the front of your fridge so you don’t forget about them.
READ: Why you need to review your car finance ASAP
5. Cut back on luxuries
Ditch that coffee you buy from your local coffee shop when you go to work. Turn down those offers of going out for dinner or lunch with your friends – that can be done in February when you have more money. Make your own food to take to work – you may be tempted to overspend when you go out to get takeaways.
6. Sell your stuff
Do you have reusable bric-a-brac lying around in your garage or attic? Why not sell it and use the money to see you to the end of January? You could also throw in your unwanted Christmas presents that you received but can’t return. Sell your items on Gumtree or find secondhand clothing or goods groups on Facebook.
READ: How to boost your income
7. Stay at home
This may sound dull and boring but staying at home will ensure that you don’t feel obliged to spend more money than you can afford. Keep yourself and the family entertained by enjoying and using your Christmas presents. Watch your favourite movies from your DVD collection – it’s cheaper than going to the cinema. Rather than going out with friends invite them over to your home for some board games and use the left over booze from Christmas and New Year.
January can be a depressing time after you’ve overspent during Christmas and New Year. But it can also be an opportunity to correct any bad spending behaviours – something to adopt for the year and beyond. Being conscious of the money you spend and having a realistic plan you can stick to till payday will go a long way to helping you feel better and able to cope.