Planning one last hurrah at Christmas in preparation for incoming frugality and self-denial?
Well, it needn’t be like that. Whilst a cruise or designer shopping weekend in Dubai may be off the list in 2023, you can still get through the cost-of-living crisis and have a decent time.
These are yours - and other people’s. We often spend way more money than we intended to, or indeed can afford to, because of habit, or the weight of expectation.
Ever ended up being dragged into a club, restaurant, clothes shop, or travel agent by a friend or relative and emerged considerably worse off? Gone halves on a bill you really didn’t want to be faced with?
To make sure you don’t put yourself in these compromising and sometimes embarrassing situations, explain what’s going on. You don’t have to shout it from the rooftops, but make sure that family and friends know that you are making some cutbacks in 2023. You might find they are in the same boat.
Instead of a blowout restaurant meal, invite your friends around for brunch, and take it in turns. Rather than going on an expensive spa weekend, organise a DIY version at home by planning some free fitness – a long walk, a wild swim, outdoor gym workouts – then back for a home-cooked meal with everyone bringing one course each, and sharing the cost of any alcohol.
Rethink your social activities. There are tons of ways to spend time with mates that won’t break the bank.
Home swaps and house sitting
Already well-publicised, this cheap getaway concept is likely to surge in popularity in 2023. The idea is that instead of paying to stay at an Airbnb or hotel, you swap homes with like-minded people elsewhere in the country – or if you can run to the airline ticket – the world.
It’s an opportunity to stay in some truly wonderful homes and discover areas that you might otherwise never visit. An alternative is to offer yourself up as a house or pet sitter. That way you also get paid for having a holiday at someone’s else house, albeit with the real responsibility of looking after their home and/or pet.
Bored of your wardrobe but can’t afford to renew it? Why not throw a swap party with friends? Not only is it a fun evening, but you get to find some new outfits. And anything that doesn’t get swapped can be donated to a local charity shop.
If you’re all different shapes and sizes, that’s fine. Accessories, scarves, even jewellery can be part of the swapping fun.
Artist Emma Scattergood was introduced to the tradition of bartering for good or services on holiday in Donegal. “I had a coffee with the owner of the cottage I was renting, and showed her the paintings I had done of her house and the surrounding countryside,” says Emma. “She loved them so much she commissioned me to draw some more to hang in the cottage, and offered me two nights’ accommodation in return. It was a perfect arrangement for both of us.”
You don’t have to be an artist to barter services. Are you a keen gardener who could offer your services to a neighbour who could perhaps mend a leaking tap in return? A local mechanic might appreciate some painting and decorating help or perhaps piano lessons for their granddaughter.
Ask around or put a card in your local newsagent’s window or place an ad in your local newspaper.
If you are creative, make a gift instead of buying one. People love home-made chutneys, hand-drawn sketches, home-assembled hampers and garden-grown flowers or vegetables, tied up with a beautiful bow and a gift card.
Waste not, want not
Let’s look at your eating habits. We are all aware by now of the health and environmental benefits of eating less meat, but it makes financial sense too. Consider switching to a vegetarian diet or restricting your meat and fish intake to 1-2 times a week. You will see a significant drop in your shopping bill.
Although slightly more expensive than supermarket vegetables, organic boxes are a great way to minimise food waste because they come with recipe cards which enable you to use every last veggie in the box. Plus, they are better for you, and cut your carbon footprint.
If you can’t do without meat, look around for deals such as meat boxes, particularly popular at this time of year. Provided you have a large freezer you can store the meat for months, saving money on your weekly grocery shop.
Or perhaps your local butcher might even be up for some kind of barter!
Bills, bills, bills
Unless you have been living on the moon, you will be aware that prudent housekeeping comes from making sure you are getting the best value for money on everything from utilities to broadband suppliers and gym membership. There are numerous comparison sites which make this task a lot easier.
Take the time to go through all your subscriptions and memberships, checking any automated payment systems set up on your smart home, PC or directly from any bank accounts or PayPal. One friend recently discovered that both she and her husband had been paying monthly for Amazon Prime rather than combining their account and saving 50%.
The best things in life are free
No one wants to live like a hermit, never going out – and there’s no need to. There are plenty of events, visitor attractions, and even gigs that you can go to for free. Check out local tourist information sites, local community groups, and websites for schedules of events happening in your area. Facebook groups can be good for this.
A lot of pubs, especially in urban areas, have regular gig, comedy, or open mic nights which are usually free to get into and can be great fun. Look out for deals and vouchers on two-for-one meal deals, and enter competitions to win holidays, prizes or, if you’re really lucky, a new kitchen.
Don’t act in haste
If you have some time on your hands, put it to good use. One of the main reasons people waste money or make unwise purchases is because they rush. Planning is key to saving money, so do your homework about everything – buying train tickets, your choice of supermarket, renewing your insurance, even buying a graduation present for your child (or grandchild!).
There are multiple different outlets and ways of buying nearly everything these days, from a car to a bar of chocolate. Make use of websites such as Which? They do all the hard work for you and can you save you lots of money. Plan train journeys well in advance and take advantage of offers and deals. Are you eligible for any passes or discounts?
Sound research really does pay off! Have a great 2023 everyone!