student life

5 ways to make your money go further this January

Piggy bank, kettle mag
Written by Nigel Simpkins

We all tend to spend a little too much in the lead up to Christmas, and then a little bit more in the Boxing Day and New Year sales. So, it's likely that your finances are looking slightly worse for wear this January. If this is the case, don't worry — we’re all in the same boat, and there are some things you can do to boost your cash, and make the money you have go further. 

Here, we'll outline how you can make it to the end of the month without having to dip into your overdraft or ask your parents for extra money. Read on to find out more.

Set out a budget and stick to it

In order to make it through January with your bank account in a decent state, you're going to need to budget like you've never budgeted before. Work out exactly how much money you can afford to spend before February arrives, and divide this by the number of days left in the month. You'll then be able to calculate a realistic weekly budget.

Working out how much you have to spend is the easy part: it's sticking to your budget that might cause you some trouble. Staying on top of your spending isn't easy, especially when you take everything from monthly bills to unexpected expenses into account. But, you'll feel a great sense of achievement at the end of the month when you realise you've managed to stay on track.

If you've tried and failed to budget before, or you have no idea where to start, H&T has a guide to creating and sticking to a budget that should help. It explains everything from why budgeting is important to how you can improve your chances of success. Make sure you read it before making a plan. 

Shop smart

Being on a budget doesn't mean you have to cut your spending completely: you just have to make sure that you shop smart, whether you're buying clothes or groceries.

If you haven't already, sign up for a UniDays account with your university email address. This will allow you to get student discount on purchases you make with a lot of retailers both online and instore. Plus, there are often special offers — especially at this time of year — that can help you to save even more.

Additionally, whether you're looking to save money on electronics or your food shop, it's a good idea to shop around. For example, you could fill a basket on several supermarkets' websites with the exact same products to work out where your money will go the furthest. Or, you could price check those wireless earphones you're after on a range of different websites. You should also take into account what kind of promotions certain stores are offering to ensure you don't spend any more than you have to. 

Finally, it's important that you put a hold on any impulse buys, at least for the month. If February rolls around and you're still thinking about a dress or pair of trainers you saw at the beginning of the year, that's when you should take the plunge and part with your cash.

Have a declutter and sell the items you no longer want

January is the perfect time to have a big clear-out. You'll be fuelled by the 'new year, new me' feeling, and will have accumulated a lot of stuff over the Christmas period that you now need to find space for. Plus, you could make some decent money by selling anything you no longer want that's in good condition. 

If you're looking to sell clothes, shoes, and accessories, Depop is the perfectly platform for you. It's an app that allows you to easily upload images of any items you want to sell. Then, you can set your own prices and add details — like where a piece is from, and whether it still has the tags on.

If you have any items that you know will garner a lot of interest — a particularly coveted pair of trainers, or a special edition of a book, for example — listing them on an auction site like eBay might give you the best return. The main downside is that, due to the nature of auction sites, you won't have a lot of control over how much your items will sell for. But, if this doesn't bother you too much, listing your unwanted items on auction sites could work really well for you.

There are also cash-for-clutter websites that will buy the likes of your CDs, DVDs, games, and any old mobile phones. While they're a handy choice if you don't have the time or patience to be waiting around from someone to bid on your items, they don't always offer the best return. So, we'd only recommend using the likes of Music Magpie and Zapper if you're looking to make a few quid as quickly as possible.

Use the gift cards you have lying around

If you were given gift cards for Christmas, or you still have some lying around from your last birthday, using them could help to satisfy your need to spend this January. Every year, 6% of gift cards and vouchers go unused, according to a study by the UK Gift Card and Voucher Association. This means that £300 million worth of gift cards could go unspent this year. So, make sure you avoid becoming part of this problem by spending yours before you get a chance to forget about them. 

Also, if you want to get the most out of your gift cards, spending them in the sales is the best idea — especially if there are bits and pieces you had your eye on that you didn't get for Christmas. 

Have no spend days

A great way to save money is by putting a few no spend days in your diary. This will allow you to see when they're coming up, so you can ensure you have plenty of food in to get you through. Plus, if you plan them in advance, you can let your friends know, so that they're less likely to organise a trip to the pub. 

It's always best to schedule no spend days during the week, as weekends can be tricky. The likes of parties and nights out are most likely to be planned for Fridays and Saturdays — plus, you're going to want some hangover food the next morning. Taking a few days off spending during the week will help you to afford all your costly weekend plans. 

Making your money last through January can sometimes seem like an impossible feat, but taking these tips on board will help you a lot. You can boost your cash by selling your unwanted items, and you can save by shopping smart and having no spend days. Then, when February rolls around, your finances will be in much better shape.