You’ve spent your December bonus, bought what you need to send your kids back to school, and tighten your belt to get you through the longest month of the year, but it’s still a tough time for cash‐strapped consumers.
The time between the end of December and the next few paychecks of the new year can be tough at the best of times. Add to this the expense of sending the kids back to school, and many of us find ourselves with very empty pockets.
This is also the time of year when you can least afford to spend money on unforeseen costs such as repairing or even replacing broken appliances. But Murphy’s Law will ensure that this is exactly when things go wrong.
However, there are a number of ways to help you through these lean times. Here are some sensible suggestions from Rami Sassen, chief executive of online retailer Teljoy.
Avoid taking short‐term loans
This is the time of year when many lending companies know that consumers are cash‐strapped and you may well be tempted by the large numbers of ads you’ll see post the festive season. While these short‐term loans may seem like a good idea to ‘bridge the gap’, ultimately the stress of paying them back, with the high interest they attract, will leave you in even more of a financial crisis.
Use your cash back and loyalty points
Many retailers these days offer cash back rewards or special deals if you have signed up for the loyalty programmes they offer, and often consumers may have points or qualify for discounts of which they are not even aware. Check the balances on all your loyalty cards, particularly the ones you used for shopping before the festive season began, and take advantage of whatever they can offer you.
Consider renting, rather than buying, appliances, electronics and furniture
If you have a large‐ticket item that’s gone on the blink, you may want to consider a rent‐to‐own option rather than replacing it at a huge once‐off expense. Teljoy, for example, is an online retailer that specialises in the supply of all major appliances, electronics and even furniture on rent‐to-own, with contracts that run on a month‐to‐month basis. According to CEO Rami Sassen, customers not only have the financial flexibility to upgrade or cancel their contracts at any time, they also have access to maintenance and risk cover.
Give up something
Challenge yourself to give up something on which you regularly spend money, even if just for a month or two, such as a takeaway coffee on the way to work, chocolates, alcoholic beverages, buying clothes, or even a cheaper package for your DSTV watching (you can always upgrade again at a later date).
Go green or at least greener
Consider walking or cycling to work, if not the entire distance then perhaps part of it, and save on exorbitant fuel costs. Alternatively, if you have a reliable public transport system in your area, consider buying a ticket, taking a seat and leaving your vehicle at home for a few months while someone else drives you and your family to work or school.
Find free things to do
Having enjoyed ourselves to the hilt during the festive season, many of us are now experiencing withdrawal symptoms from an overload of fun which we’ve obviously paid to enjoy. Now is the time to check your local newspaper for events and other happenings in your neighbourhood which may not cost a cent or cost very little, such as a visit to a park or a museum, going hiking, taking in an exhibition or even an open‐air, public concert.
Budget around your next paycheck
Start working on your budget now for how to spend your next paycheck and, in fact, all other paychecks. According to financial guru, Maya Fisher‐French, on her website Maya on Money: “With a budget, everything becomes achievable as you break down seemingly huge amounts into manageable portions.”
Now is also the time, says Fisher‐French, to cut back on all the non‐essential items until you get yourself back on firmer ground. “Finding the extra cash is a bit like dieting. While you’re trying to shed those extra kilograms, you need to eat fewer calories a day than normal. However, once you are at goal weight, you can eat a balanced diet with a higher calorie count which will maintain your weight. So it is with paying off debt.”