Beat the January money blues: 5 smart saving tips

Has your bank balance got the January blues? Time for a fresh start!

Take some budgeting tips from one of INTO’s favourite guest experts, Student Money Saver editor, David Ellis…

The New Year is traditionally a time of reflection. Resolutions are made and plans are formed.

Granted, both are usually in vain, but it’s nice to think you’re making the effort.

For some of you, there might be a moment of realisation in January that frankly, you’re terrible with money.

1. Know yourself 
If you have more receipts than banknotes in your wallet, you’re probably doing it wrong.

Sometimes it’s all too easy to wonder where the money goes – you don’t remember splashing out, after all.

Take a little time to analyse your habits and find your weak spot.

Is your internet history stuffed full of trips to Amazon and eBay? Is your ideal afternoon a tour of the high street? Or are you the type that can’t start the day without a ‘proper’ coffee? You realise that’s £12 a week being wasted?

You can’t limit your spending until you realise where you’re wasting your money.

2. Use cashback websites
Cashback is sometimes treated as if it were about as legitimate as an email from an ‘Exiled Prince’ who has inexplicably decided to give his billion dollar fortune to you.

Cashback is perhaps the best way to get money back on your online spending.

Websites get paid for directing you to brand websites – and cashback websites pass this saving onto you.

The real charm of a cashback site like Quidco or Top Cashback, though, is that they often run special deals, meaning you can get all sorts of things for free.

If you’re still not convinced, read this ultimate guide to cashback.

3. Shop carefully
Value for money. Three simple words that should be your mantra.

If you shop lazily, you’ll waste far more than you ever save. The new year is the perfect time to go sales shopping – but beware of being drawn into buying what you don’t really want or need.

Draw up a list every time you shop: not only will you stay on track, but you’ll avoid the impulse purchases which slowly but surely throw you off budget.

In fact, where possible, stick to cash. Give your card some time off in the new year. Plastic makes it too easy to spend and too easy to forget that you’ve spent.

4. Remember – the small things add up
If you avoid a big purchase for a while, it’s easy to think you’ve been awfully good. Get smug and you’ll go broke – it’s the continual spending on small things which do the most damage.

An extra drink here, a snack there, a bus journey when you could walk… these are the things that make you run out of cash, quickly.Money 1 - Food

It’s easy to think you always need a ‘spare’ tenner on you – but the likelihood is, if it’s in your wallet, you’ll spend it.

Be strict with yourself and get out small amounts from the cashpoint every time. Having to go back daily will remind you how quickly you’re frittering away your funds.

5. Save whatever you can
Many budget for a perfect world, where they can spend a set amount each week and survive merrily enough, which sounds fine until one factors in, erm, the real world. Whether it’s a day where you forget to pack lunch, or an unexpectedly high phone bill, expenses will always roll in.

You can’t foresee everything, so you need to have a little extra aside for any emergency spending. At the end of every week, put a fiver in a jar and by New Year’s day 2015, you’ll have 260.

Be strict with yourself and hopefully, this year can be the year when you really get smart about money.

David-Ellis-1.pngDavid Ellis is the editor of Student Money Saver and writes a regular column for the Daily Telegraph. His work has also appeared in the Independent, the Guardian and the Financial Times, among others. He is on twitter as @dvh_ellis. You can also follow Student Money Saver on Facebook and Twitter too.

Buying new books in January? Read David’s 6 smart tips for saving money on textbooks.

You might also like: 10 ways to have fun for free or 6 ways to eat out cheaply on a budget.

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