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How to Deal With the Post-Holiday Spending Blues

Woman looking at spreadsheet on laptop
Photo by Nicole Wolf

The holidays have come and gone, but one thing remains are bills, bills, and bills. Between paying off holiday purchases and travel, winterizing your home, and the impending tax season, January can be a tough month for your wallet. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to get started on the right foot when it comes to saving in 2020.

Create a Budget

If you don’t have an existing budget already, now is a great time to make one. If you do have a budget, it can be a good time to reassess. From budgeting apps to old-school methods such as organizing money in categorized envelopes, find the budgeting method that works best for you. Think about your spending in categories: Needs, Wants, and Savings/Debt Repayment, and prioritize what percentage you’ll put in each by necessity.

Pay Off Bills First

Before you start putting away money for non-necessities, take a look at your usual bills, such as rent or mortgage and utilities, as well as your credit card statements. Pay your credit card on time, even if it’s just the minimum, to avoid late fees, and don’t forget to redeem any credit card points earned during the holidays. Depending on the type of card you have, you may be able to pay yourself back with cash or get a credit on your current statement.

To give yourself some extra padding in January, consider contacting your financial institution to look into available options such as Skip-a-Pay, which is a service that lets you skip a loan payment by adding an additional month to your loan term.

Put Away Your Credit Card

Now that you’ve redeemed your points, you may want to consider giving your credit card a small break. By spending cash or using your debit card, you’re more likely to feel the immediate impact of purchase, whereas swiping a credit card may not have that same impact mentally. If there’s a large purchase you absolutely have to make, you’ll still want to use your credit card for security, and of course …points.

Reassess and Return

Do you really need that new scarf from Aunt Martha or another set of wine glasses? If it came with a receipt, and you don’t truly love it or need it, take it back before you miss the return window, and put the money toward something more important.

Consider a Spending Cleanse

Could you go a day without spending any money? A weekend? A whole week? Get your grocery shopping done and your gas tank full, and see how long you can go without spending any extra money. It’s harder than you may think!

Create a Savings Challenge

Take the spending break one step further and create a savings challenge. You can challenge yourself, a partner, or your friends to save the change every time you make a purchase, and see who saves the most. Or, try the 52-week savings challenge: put aside $1 in week one, $2 in week two, and so forth. By the end of the year, you’ll have $1,378. Put that in a dividend-bearing savings account, and you’ll have even more.

Now, start saving!