Money always seems to be tight. Every year at Christmas the financial situation always seems to get worse. Increased electricity and heating bills to pay, expensive party food to purchase, presents to buy, travel costs to visit relatives, the list seems to be endless, while finances are certainly not. It is the season to be jolly, whilst trying to forget the long-term costs which will emerge in the New Year.
What can be done to reduce the New Year financial hangover?
Firstly, ensure your incoming finances are being maximised.
If you are in work, is there any part time or freelance work that you can do? Often jobs such as supermarket shelf stacking can be made to fit in around other commitments, while websites such as Dobiz have started springing up to get freelancers and businesses together. Selling on eBay or simply returning unwanted gifts can help recover some of your own expenditure.
If you are not working, then obtaining a job is the most important thing to do. Use the facilities that are available. The Jobcentre can provide some help, but it is frequently better to sign up with several agencies who specialise in your own area of expertise. A quick geographically based Google search will normally locate appropriate organisation in your area. As well as using specialist agencies, it is always a good idea to sign up to a couple of general agencies in order to get some form of temporary work, as these can often provide short or long term contracts to keep your finances above water, and they can be given up without much of a period of notice and they look better on a CV than a period without any work at all. If you need help with CVís or interviews, then internet searches can provide many sites that will be able to help, like Capita or Jobseekersadvice.com.
Regardless of your employment situation, you also need to maximise the money you have already. If you are using store cards to make your purchases, donít. Unless you always pay off the entire balance every month, you will be paying more than you have to. Store cards usually have a very high rate of interest, and you should be able to get a much better rate if you use a credit card. If you are using a credit card to make most of your purchases, what is the APR of that card, and could you get a better rate? Many credit cards currently offer introductory 0% transfer rates, and the increased competition to handle your finances is leading to lower APRs all round. If you have a loan, could you get a better deal? Are you getting the best return on your investments? Comparison websites like Moneynet or Fool are there to enable you to check these details for free, quickly and easily, in order to make your money work for you.
The next thing to do is to try to reduce your outgoings. Budgeting is a good way to reduce costs. By highlighting how much your regular incoming and outgoings are, it is often easy to spot areas that can make huge differences. Most people find that instead of having very little money to spend each month, they are actually frittering away small amounts all the time. This pattern of small spending rapidly mounts up, and can leave little left over to spend on the things that you feel are really worthwhile. Keeping a daily record of your spending is a simple step to take but it can also show where important cuts can be made.
Other ways to reduce costs at Christmas include recycling last yearís decorations, only buying food that will be eaten, rather than obtaining large quantities that will end up being thrown away. Do most of your shopping online to save money on presents. Due to the lower costs of running a shop online, the price of goods can be considerably lower than in the High Street. Sites such as Kelkoo and Pricerunner enable you to compare prices from various suppliers and find the cheapest. Even if you prefer to buy on the High Street it can still be worth going armed with prices from these sites as many High Street shops will discount if they know they are beaten on price.
If you donít win the lottery in the New Year and still feel that things have got out of control then you need to seek advice from one of the free advice organisations that are set up to help. The National Debtline and the Foundation for Credit Counselling are two non-profit making charities that can help with guides and free personal advice.
Regardless of whether you are trying not to shed those few extra pounds, or recover from debt problems, a few small actions like this can make a large difference to your New Year.
All information contained in this article, is for general information purposes only and should not be construed as advice under the Financial Services Act 1986.
You are strongly advised to take appropriate professional and legal advice before entering into any binding contracts.