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Prophet from a money doc

January, the month where most people live in a state of near penury, some of us even lacking the basics, such as water. I always believed that to get through the hardships of January it's a good idea to endure some psychological torment too.

And this year, for the second year running, I've been abstaining from the gargle; for one, to prevent me leaving cash in the pubs and offies; and two, to convince myself that I'll be spiritually enriched come February.


January, as the 'money doctor' John Lowe might put it, is the best month to 'take stock' and give yourself a good 'wealth check'. And what better way than with a vision unclouded by red wine and Solpadeine. And if, like me, you live in a constant state of debt denial, then a good book on the basics of home finance is really essential, if somewhat torturous reading. But John Lowe's Finance Annual 2010 is probably the best there is.

If you do nothing else but start at the back and work your way through the top tips, you will be well on the way to financial enlightenment. Simple things that even in dreams sodden with red wine I would never do. Shop just once a month. Bring your own bags to the store. Never ask for cash back. Don't buy on an empty stomach (do off-licences count?).

Use eBay. Subscribe to Skype. Use the local library. Use your friends' holiday pads and vice versa (just make sure they bring their own booze). Kidnap the family cat from down the road and wait for the reward posters to go up.

Well, he doesn't recommend that, but times are hard, John.

Tips aside, Lowe's book is at its most useful when calculating benefits, tax credits, entitlements and various claims that I hardly knew existed. You can actually make money by studying this book, not just save it. And when this apocalypse (we've had the floods, the plague of ice and the drought already) reaches its cataclysmic conclusion, it will be the savvy hoors who have studied the 'money doctor' will survive. Now, where's that book on home brewing . . .

The Money Doctor Finance Annual 2010 (Gill & MacMillan, €10.99)