Beating the budget after the Christmas excess

Losing weight for many was the ‘number one’ New Year’s resolution, but the downturn in the economy has pushed this annual goal into second place.

Losing weight for many was the ‘number one’ New Year’s resolution, but the downturn in the economy has pushed this annual goal into second place.

Many of us have had a wonderful Christmas break with family and friends, and yes, we have all probably spent too much.

The most frequent question I have heard from my friends in the last week is ‘financially, how are we going to make it through to the next payday?”.

For those fortunate enough to be in employment, the next monthly pay day is going to be January 25th at the earliest, and January 31st at the latest.

That’s five to six weeks of a wait if you were lucky enough to have got paid before Christmas. If you’re like me, your budgeting skills have probably improved a lot in the last couple of years; however I am sure that not many have been able to hold back from the annual Christmas splurge.

Local retailers reported a bumper Christmas, and if you think you were the only one that threw cautio to the wind and blew much of the December wages long before the end of the year, you are not alone.

For this week’s column, I have recruited the help of a colleague at Ocean FM to try and give us a bit of advice about how to keep a hold of the cents, between now and the end of the month. Daniel Browne presents ‘Up and Running’, The Business Programme on Saturday mornings, and has heard all the personal finance tips. Being from Bundoran he is naturally mean-

spirited!! (only joking Daniel).

Don’t Panic

The first bit of advice from Daniel is ‘don’t panic’. “A lot of people get themselves tied up in knots about being short of a few euro, and tend to stick their heads in the sand and maybe even spend the last few euro they have on something stupid like drink or comfort food, thinking they wil treat themselves ‘one last time’.

Firstly, we are all in the same boat, no-one has spare cash at the moment, so don’t panic, don’t feel like you’re too proud to admit you’re in the same boat as everyone – a bit fecked for the next couple of weeks!!! Once you take a step back, you will find there are options open to you.

Shop Around.

We are all sick to death hearing this piece of advice but it really does save you money and makes a difference. Amazingly however, we as a nation have stopped shopping around and don’t switch suppliers as much as previously. Two years ago, forty per cent of us were shopping around and that’s dropped down to thirty per cent. As a result, Ireland is seventeen per cent more expensive than other EU country for everything, from credit cards to electricity, and even insurance. One great tip is to change your credit card; you can get three months interest free by changing to a new credit card supplier, meaning you get a break on your repayments for the next few months.

Shopping List

It is the simplest thing in the world to do and the cheapest and easiest way to save money. Write out a plan of what you are going to eat each day of the week. Start with porridge in the morning (you can feed a family of four on porridge every morning for seven days, including milk, for as little as seven euro), use leftover food from the previous night’s cooking for lunch, and plan each evening meal, so as you use similar ingredients. For, example if you buy spaghetti, you can cook bolognaise one night and carbonara the next night (one pack of pasta will give you eight servings). Before you set foot inside the supermarket, write out a list of exactly what you want for the week and do one shop to buy the lot and NOTHING else.

Avoid the brands and the freezer cabinet. This is the one month of the year when you are just going to have to ‘get over yourself” when it comes to your favourite kind of ketchup or yoghurt. Honestly, there is little or no difference between your big brands and cheaper brand options, except a big marketing budget and perhaps one‘s pride?!. If there was ever a month to give the cheaper options a go, this is it!

Remember when doing your shopping, fresh vegetables are the best brand you can buy. The amount of food you can cook and the range of recipes open to you by using fresh veggies is vast and very affordable. A simple rule to follow, ‘if it is processed and packaged it will cost more money”. Keep away from the freezer aisle. Fresh meat is cheaper and healthier for you.

Give up the Alcohol and the Cigarettes for January.

You might not do it for the whole year, you might not want to do it by choice, but at the end of the day, the average Irish adult consumes eight pints a week. Simply knock the drink on the head for the month and save yourself one -hundred and forty euro, and more importantly, improve your health for the month. The same goes for the cigs. It’s never easy giving up, try a ‘Gloria’ One Day At A Time, if, like me, you smoke up to 20 a day - that’s a saving of over two-hundred and eighty eight euro for the month.

Ok, so I guess you are probably thinking I have hear this all before…but I challenge you to do an ‘Operation Transformation’-type effort with your finances for this TIGHT month, and hopefully instead of shedding the pounds,you will be gaining the weight in your pocket! For more tips and conversation, don’t forget to tune into Daniel Browne on Saturday mornings from 09.30am for ’Up & Running’.