9 January 2015
Beat those January blues with positive financial planning
Kate Murray, Savings Product Manager at Principality Building Society, takes a look at how planning ahead financially can help you through the January blues.
January can feel like a long month, not just in terms of our emotional wellbeing but our finances too. When the glow of the festive season subsides, the thought of facing a new year of professional, personal and financial challenges can often be daunting. Combine this with the realisation that the dark nights of winter are not quite yet done and that your pre-Christmas pay packet, which undoubtedly felt like it came in a lifetime ago, must last until February and it’s easy to see why many of us fall foul of the ‘January blues’.
There are plenty of measures that can be taken to help us overcome the feelings of financial gloom this festive hangover period, however, and with minimal planning the pathway to February and the rest of 2015 could suddenly become a whole lot brighter.
Many of us will have used credit or store cards to treat ourselves and our loved ones during the yuletide period, but discounting the settling of these in order to pursue your New Year’s resolutions won’t make them go away on their own. For example it’s a well-known fact that gyms tend to see a sharp influx in new memberships in January as people commit to getting healthy for the new year but, as beneficial as exercise is, spending more money on ‘quick fix’ endeavours without dealing with existing budgeting issues is unlikely to make for a happy new year on its own, especially if you quit the gym after a few months.
If there’s anything positive to have come from the recession then it’s the return to old-fashioned values when it comes to finances, with debt seen as undesirable and a focus on savings for major purchases rather than a buy-now-pay-later culture. Keep this ethos in mind as you enter 2015 and work out a monthly payment amount early on that will not only help towards clearing your existing debt but, if feasible, also allow you to focus on the next big treat for 2015.
It could be a new car, getting rid of your existing debt, a summer getaway for the family, or as simple as taking the children to the beach for the day. It doesn’t really matter what the end game is, the point is to lighten the load of January and February by aiming for it in the first place. Of course, a key aim must also be to ensure that the resulting treat is realistically achievable before the off, but ultimately the very act of looking forward financially can bring a host of emotional benefits to you in the present too. Setting aside £40 per month at the beginning of 2015, for example, would bring with it a near £500 saving over 2015, so look at your end goal and budget accordingly.
It’s also important to remember that any saving is a positive saving, and that the very act of setting up a new direct debit, savings account or simply acquiring a new piggy bank will help you to keep focussed.
Add to this the fact that, unless wage inflation gets too far ahead, interest rates are likely to remain small and sustainable for many throughout 2015, so you’re unlikely to lose out by using the early part of 2015 to save as much as you can now and give the family a well-earned treat later on in the year. Funding is also still strong through lenders within the housing market and, although supply shortages remain, house prices should remain stable to positive in 2015 and recent changes to stamp duty guidelines make it more of a buyer’s market at the lower end of the scale than ever before. So January and February could also be a good time to start budgeting for a deposit and what that may mean for you, if it’s on the cards.
Whatever your aims are for 2015, and whatever your circumstances, personally or financially, the key to beating those January blues is to start taking control of your lifestyle and your financial situation as early on in the year as possible. 2015 looks set to be another positive year for the UK economy so it’s worth looking to make those changes now that will put you in a stable position to reap the benefits of the upturn in outlook later on. Just make sure the changes you make and the goals you set yourself are realistic, achievable and above all not too far away, and soon your end goal will be in sight.