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Sinead Ryan: Facing into a long, lean January? Here's how you can make it to pay day


Lean month: January will be a long month for most of us

Lean month: January will be a long month for most of us

Lean month: January will be a long month for most of us

January can be the cruellest month. It's cold, damp and miserable. You're back at work and it's dark when you're leaving in the morning and heading home at night.

On top of that, you're arriving back to those dreaded bills for Christmas. You just want to throw the lot in the bin and climb into bed for the next few weeks.

It may also be a long way to pay day and ages until we get handed our next pay slip...so, how do you make sure you've enough to get through?

According to research, it takes a full eight weeks to get over Christmas spending. The overindulgent can still be recovering in Spring.

Don't expect miracles. A little cutting here and there, a saving or resisting the urge to spend and you'll be just fine.

Here are my top five tips to make the dullest, and leanest, month of the year a little easier:

1. Food

One of the biggest savings can be made right in your kitchen. Clear out the freezer. There may be leftover turkey, sauces and gravies, some potatoes and veg that you put away.

Now's the time to resurrect them and have a few pot-luck dinners. Yes, you might end up mixing your Mexican with your Italian, but so what?

It's tasty and fun opening up the surprise packets to see what's there. Pad out with fresh veg, like Aldi's Super Six with 39c-a-pack offers every week.

Bord Bia and SafeFood websites both have excellent recipes to use up leftovers. Get creative and make your meals stretch this month.

A kilo of mince can make two days' of dinners for a family of four: shepherd's pie today and meatballs tomorrow. A few leftover, and you can stick them in a roll for Thursday's lunch.

Speaking of which: no eating out this month, bring food to work.

Cut out the designer coffee while you're at it: at €2.50 or more a go, it's a January luxury you can't afford, and you'll sleep better too!

Ask your butcher about cheaper cuts of meat - they're far tastier, cheaper and simply require longer cooking.

Never shop when you're hungry, you'll impulse buy. Consider doing your main grocery shop online - make a budget and stick to it.

It's much easier to put back items on the virtual shelf than the real one. Many stores offer free delivery at off-peak times, too.

2. The Old Reliables

January is a great time for New Year Resolutions and many involve giving up booze or fags. This is brilliant for your wallet, even if it's only for the month.

A cigarette habit of 20 a day costs up to €280 a month, while avoiding the pub will save an average of €35 a week for an eight-pint drinker. You were planning on detoxing anyway, right?

3. Brrr, it's cold

It's cold in your pocket too when the heating bills come in.

Make this year the one you change to a new utility provider; use comparison sites like www.bonkers.ie to find a cheaper gas and electricity company - the market is fully deregulated now, so they're all vying for your business.

In the meantime, drop the thermostat by one degree and you'll save 3pc on your bill straight away.

Keep windows and doors shut and use clothes horses for drying rather than the machine.

4. Pay Yourself

Paying yourself a wage each week in cash and sticking to it means you're not tempted to pull out the plastic.

'Invisible' money like debit or credit cards can be hard to track. It's a good exercise to see if you can manage on a cash amount instead, you'll be surprised how your choices change.

For added determination, ask someone to hide your plastic until each Friday, your 'pay day'!

5. De-clutter

Getting rid of unwanted household items and clothing is a great way to start the year.

Go one step further and make some cash by selling it on Done Deal or Ebay.

You'll be surprised what a market there is for your recyclables.

Just resist the temptation to fill up those shelves again...