What is it about this time of year where regardless of your good intentions, you somehow still ending up having little to no money left before payday or your next invoice gets paid?

Last year I made a point of drawing up a list and divided it according to necessities, bills and wants.

The funds that I allocated to debit orders I didn’t touch.

The amount on necessities were within the allocated amount I set out (I was actually so careful I didn’t touch on the additional and emergency funds that I set within that perimeter) and the money I set aside for a bit of self-gifting love was enough that I thought I’d still have something over for the month of January. 

And yet… and yet… it’s mid-January and somehow it’s gone.

There’s nothing I can do about the lack of funds but I certainly can do a bit of damage control. And it turns out that many of us are in the same boat, so in light of this, here are some tips to help you get through the rest of the month.

Don’t buy lunch

By now, most of us are back to work and are surrounded by a number of restaurants, cafés and takeaway stops that make your lunch options so tempting.

There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself but if you want to make your money stretch a little, pack something from home instead – this includes breakfast if you skip it before your commute, snacks and refreshments.

Leftovers are your friend.

Come month end, you can treat yourself all you like.

Avoid the sales

Unless you’re buying grocery items or household products that have been discounted and that you actually need on a day-to-day basis, chances are that you’re being tricked into spending money you can barely spare on things you don’t need right now.

There will be many more sales, and chances are at times where you might be in a better place financially.

Visit Pinterest or Instagram to get ideas on how you can style existing items in your wardrobe that make them feel more exciting.

READ MORE: 5 things you should stop wasting money on

Don’t make unnecessary purchases on your store card

Put it away.

You really don’t need to buy those new pair of shoes or that dress you’ve been eyeing on credit. If you want to jazz up your outfit without spending a cent this month, trying doing what our fashion ed, Marisa recently did – have fun with your friends and do a clothes swap.

It’s tempting to purchase something and tell yourself that you’re going to pay it off in instalments, but if you’re constantly buying on credit, you’ll struggle to get out of the debt cycle you’ve inadvertently created for yourself. 

Also if you have to pay interest, think about how much extra you’re paying.

If you want to go out, try going out to places where you can hang out for free

Go out and pack a picnic from whatever you have in your kitchen. Get a group of friends together and head to places like the beach or any local hiking spots where you can braai and chill together.

If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, there are still plenty of places you can check out that won’t cost you a thing.

Alternatively, you can choose to stay in. You’ve already paid up your Netflix or Showmax subscription right?

When asking for some ideas on how to save money, many responding to my thread suggested staying home:

Georgina’s all for movie nights:

“Stay home! Cook vegetarian food. Make enough to last the week. By Jan it's too late to do clever things like pay your bills in December when you get your bonus. So you really have to just not spend. Invite friends over for low-cost movie nights and eat home-made popcorn, which is affordable if you are feeling social.”

Also, use this time to catch up on activities you’ve been meaning to get around to.

Helen and Monique suggest tackling “all your unwatched movies and unread books, ” while author Joanne Macgregor takes it a step further by suggesting that readers looking for books can ask the author for one of their books in exchange for an honest review.

Come dine with Verushka, who says you could turn having friends over for dinner into a fun event:

“Turn it into a Come Dine with Me event and get everyone to cook a course and bring a bottle. It’s definitely cheaper than a night out and so much fun.”

Shop carefully and smartly

It’s all about economising what you’re buying and the key here is clearly to think ahead.  Buy in bulk and don’t go to the shop more than once a week without having a solid idea of what it is you need.

Author Masha du Toit says it’s all about knowing what your weaknesses are.

“Know your impulse buy triggers and plan ahead to avoid them.

“For example, if you tend to buy ebooks on impulse plan a trip to the library and take out a stack of comfort reads. My experience is that the less money I have, the greater the temptation to splurge to make myself feel better. Forewarned is forearmed!”

Trying to save on food costs?

Talullah, another one of our readers has suggested the following when it comes to saving on groceries:

“Plan meals ahead of time so you can buy in bulk. Go for meals with cheap ingredients that don't use a lot of electricity. So stay away from bakes and rather do things like making a huge pot of rice and mixing it with frozen veg or making a giant pot of soup that you can freeze in little re-usable bags.”

Marisa, our fashion and beauty editor adds that you should “buy the exact ingredients for those meals - don't pop in and out of shops spending R50 here and R30 there on unnecessary items.”

Cat Hellisen suggests buying fruit and veg from the market traders at the station. “You can get a fair whack of food for R30), or shop small, local non-touristy fleamarkets (like Muizenberg) where you can get groceries/food/spices for a better price than in shops.”

Buy foods that last. Angela Meadon adds that she stocks up on hardy vegetables that will hold in the fridge. “I'm bulking out meals with beans and lentils which are filling and cheap.”

We also chatted to Sam Beckbessinger author of the up coming book, Manage Your Money Like A F*Cking Grown Up (it releases mid-February and is published by Jonathan Ball publishers) and she gave us some extra solid advice:

"Plastic’s great, but dealing with cash makes money feel much more real to our silly monkey brains.  Go to a (safe) ATM and draw all of the money you have left for the month (try not to sob when you see how thin your wad is). Work out how many days this money needs to last you, and break up your cash into a physical daily or weekly budget.  

"Now, be creative about ways to add more cash to your pile. Pick up a few hours of freelance work using a site like Fiverr, Upwork or Italki, or offer odd jobs to friends and family using whatever skills you have (maybe you’re great at knitting tiny jerseys for goldfish, for instance).

"Do a spring clean (well, late-summer clean, I guess) and sell a few old gadgets you don’t use any more. Your house is already filled with stuff, so spend some time organising it, this will remind you of all the food that’s hidden at the back of your pantry that you can eat, and stuff you already have that you can entertain yourself with because you’re too skint to go out.

"Use the panic you’re feeling now as motivation to make sure this doesn’t happen again next year. Set up a savings account and an automatic transfer into it immediately after payday, so that this time next year you can be the smug one whose money situation is totally under control. Boom."

With advice like this, you’ll definitely be able to make it through the rest of January. What are some of your money-saving tips for when the going gets tough? Share with us and we could feature it in a follow up article.

WATCH: No Spend January Envelope Stuffing - Money Saving Challenge 2018


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