January can be a long, hard month, both in terms of the weather and finances. And let’s not forget frugal February, which can stretch out just as long. Spring still feels like a long way off and if you’re anything like me, you’re still trying to tighten your belt after Christmas. And yet this is the time of the year when I feel we really crave small treats to inspire and delight us and well, just get us through. So here are a few reminders of stuff you can still do when you’re on a budget.
It might help to start off by actually setting yourself a bit of a budget. While it can seem like a depressing thing to do, knowing how much money you have to play with will help you to feel more in control of your finances and prioritise funds so when you do spend on a little treat here and there, you won’t feel guilty. You could try this budget calculator if you’re not sure where to start.
I should point out that this post isn’t about finding major cost savings but more about the little things you can do when you’re watching the pennies. Hope it helps!
1) Go on a winter picnic in the park with a flask. I love the bright, crisp weather we can often get at this time of year and the fresh air and winter sun will do you good. Forage some pretty seed heads or grasses while you’re out and about, which will look lovely in a vase and cost nothing. Look out for faded hydrangeas and pampas grass.
2) While it’s tempting to head out for a hearty roast dinner at the weekend, we’ve been trying not to eat out this month. Instead, we’ve been taking the dog for a walk and then heading to the pub for a bowl of chips and a drink. That way we feel like we’ve still had a treat and an outing without breaking the bank. It helps if you have something tasty waiting for you in the oven or slow cooker when you get back.
3) Shop your own wardrobe. It’s a cliche but true. This is a great time to reorganise your clothes and recycle/donate unwanted items. Or you could try selling them on eBay to make a bit of extra cash. If you really need or fancy something new, try charity shops for a bargain or organise a clothes swap party amongst friends.
4) Make a bee-line for your local art galleries, museums or subsidised visitor attractions. These are a vital, free resource and visitors are life blood them to them. Plus, you might actually learn something!
5) If you have a birthday coming up, request a membership to the RHS or National Trust as a present and enjoy free days out for the rest of the year. They are the gift that keeps on giving and there are so many places to enjoy all year round.
6) If you’d rather stay in and snuggle – I don’t blame you, my instinct to hibernate right now is strong – try a free 30 day trial of a streaming service like Netflix, Now TV or Amazon Prime. I love going to the cinema but it can be expensive so instead enjoy unlimited access to hundreds of films, TV shows or documentaries free of charge. Just remember to cancel your agreement if you don’t wish to subscribe once your trial is up.
7) One of the treats I find hard to give up is my regular coffee fix, especially if I’m not working from home. Take advantage of discounts, freebies and loyalty schemes available from your favourite providers. If you’re an 02 member, download the Priorities app which has regular free coffee offers at Nero’s as well as other great deals. Alternatively, look out for incentives at local indies. One of mine offers cheaper coffee before 9am or a reduced price for those using an eco cup. Every little saving helps!
8) Try to create a home spa with simple affordable treats, which will stop you hankering for a mini-break or expensive beauty products / treatments at this time of year. Have a look at this post for more ideas.
9) Use your local library. I can’t stress this one enough. Support libraries, they are such an important part of the community and I have used them at every age and stage of my life. Also: free books, papers, films and music – what are you waiting for?
10) Finally, if in doubt, just window shop. Trying is often just as good as buying. Sometimes all we need to do is satisfy our curiosity for the new, especially at this time of year when we crave colour, distraction, inspiration and novelty. And then, perhaps later on when you’ve saved up a bit, you can afford that special item that still tempts you. You will probably appreciate it far more than the cheap, disposable, quick-fix you bought on a whim.
Disclosure: collaborative post