January was way too long, so I can’t tell you how happy I was to to wake up to that SMS from FNB on payday. And I’m pretty sure many can relate. After splurging during the Xmas break, buying stationery and (in some cases) new school uniform, I had to really tighten my belt to get through the longest month of the year. Even though January is officially almost over, that does’t mean most of us have recovered from the December spending – which might have caused some January debt.

There are a number of ways to help you through these lean times, check out a few sensible suggestions below.

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

This was an interesting one for me. 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.”

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