Post-holiday savings tips

Do you have a money hangover after spending your way through December? Here are a few simple ways to get your finances back on track this month

Most people who create a holiday budget stick to it, according to a TD Bank survey. But, for those of us who winged it through December and ended up overextending ourselves, it’s time to dial back the spending and pay off those incoming bills. If you can bite the bullet now and find enough savings through the month of January, you won’t have to carry the extra credit balance and make matters even worse with ongoing interest payments.

Here are a few suggestions for timely savings:

Skip the gym membership. While everyone who joins a gym with the New Year’s resolution to get fit thinks they’ll use their membership to the fullest, chances are your enthusiasm for the workouts will wane long before your financial obligations to the health club do. If you’re really committed to improving your fitness, start by adding extra time into your day to walk, jog, climb stairs or do home-based workouts. Once this becomes a habit and you’ve successfully carved out the time in your schedule for exercise, you can go ahead and reconsider the gym option if you feel you need a more challenging routine.

Brown bag your lunch. If you binged on your holiday eating as well as your spending, packing simple soup/sandwich/salad lunches will not only get you back to healthier eating, but also save you some money. Prep your lunch at the same time as you pack your kids’ lunches — so it won’t seem like an added inconvenience.

Make gift returns and exchanges a priority. Retailers will usually only accept returns and exchanges for a limited time, so if you received anything that isn’t quite right or you think you won’t use, take care of these sooner rather than later. (That’s why gift receipts were invented!) Also, keep track of any gift cards you received and make sure to use them; according to CardSwap, $1-billion worth of gift cards in Canada go unredeemed every year.

Bring out the blankets. Despite being a lifelong Canadian, I am not a fan of the cold. We have our thermostat on a timer, so that it goes down to 62º F overnight and during the day when the house is empty. The rest of the time it’s set to 68, which is admittedly on the chilly side — but I find I’m a lot less likely to raise the heat if I have lots of blankets handy in the living room and den.

Get or renew your library card. There’s your entertainment for the month. Seriously! Books, movies, magazines, music — it’s all on loan from your local. Most public systems also have excellent websites that allow you to request items and have them sent to your local branch, or borrow/stream digital media. Some also offer free family passes to museums, art galleries and other attractions.

Do a spending fast. Challenge yourself not to buy anything aside from absolute necessities for the entire month. Get the whole family involved if you can. It will also be a great exercise for your kids as to the difference between needs and wants.

Take a break from Facebook. Research shows that social media can make people spend more money out of FOMO (fear of missing out), or just trying to keep up with the Joneses. As such, your spending fast might be more successful if you forget about Facebook for a while.

Keep the conversation going

What’s your favourite money-saving tip?  Post a comment below.

Disclaimer

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of CPA Canada.

About the Author

Tamar Satov

Managing Editor, CPA magazine
Tamar is a journalist specializing in business, parenting and personal finance. She blogs regularly in this space with advice and anecdotes on her efforts to raise a money-smart kid.