Happy New Year! Like most of the UK, by now you've probably made and broken your new year's resolutions, been trapped in your own home by snow, and are suffering from post-Christmas financial blues. Here's a tip that should help you get through the rest of the winter: use what you already have. You'll have a lot of things lying around at home that you haven't made use of. By using these things you'll create some space to store everything you got for Christmas and hopefully you'll also be saving money.
1. Gift certificates and discount vouchers: They may have been unimaginative Christmas gifts or just something you picked up over the year. You may have to go to shops you don't normally go to, but it's the best way to get what you want or need without having to spend too much. You can make the savings even better by taking advantage of January sales. Make sure you check the expiration date on the voucher before you leave the house.
2. Do you have decorative Christmas or Hanukkah candles left over? Light them after the sun goes down at 4 in the afternoon. A little bit of extra light and heat.
3. Search around your house for loose change. You might find it in jackets pockets, drawers, or the classic, down the back of the sofa. It might take a little longer to count it out, but this is your money to spend. Your bank may provide little money bags so you can group same coins and deposit them in your account. Or you can sort it into rolls of one pound each and use them at the pub.
4. A common new year's resolution is to try new things. Instead of trying your hand at a new hobby or craft, maybe pick something you've done before but given up on. You'll save money on equipment and supplies.
5. You've probably been saving up points on your store loyalty cards all year. Well, time to cash them in. Many supermarket loyalty cards will reward you with money off your shopping, or some cards can be used for air miles to book your summer holidays early.
6. If you have a garden, buy freezer items in bulk. This time of year you can leave waterproof freezer bags like peas and chips out in the snow for a few days. Remember where you buried them though, and don't try this if the bag has been opened as you might attract animals.
7. Take stock of all the food left in your fridge and cupboards and try and think of how to use it all up. Got chopped tomatoes and pasta? Add some cheese and meat to your shopping list and make a lasagne. Dig deep in your freezer and you may find something you forgot you had. Not only will you save money on shopping AND empty your cupboards for more space, but it will save you on trips to the supermarket in the snow.
8. Just like the food in your kitchen, you might have a lot in your bathroom you forgot you had; shampoos from hotels, samples of aftershaves etc. Start using these instead of buying your usual products. If you aren't going to use them throw them out, or give them to a homeless shelter or women's refuge. You can also cut up old towels to make cleaning cloths.
9. Don't rent new films. Watch DVDs you got for Christmas, or DVDs you got LAST Christmas. Or videos you recorded in 1998, or TV shows stored in your Sky Plus or TiVo. If you've got films you're never going to watch again, sell them online or give them to a friend, or to charity. Make some space for the presents you got this year.
10. Check through old books and magazines. You might find some you haven't read in a while, or never read at all. If you find you have a lot of magazines you haven't read, cancel your subscription, at least until you've caught up. If you're not going to read them again, stick the magazine in the recycling, or sell the book on Amazon.
It's also worth keeping in mind how much you've spent this Christmas, and budgeting it for next year. Personal finance software can help you plan for big occasions like birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries in advance, to make sure you have the funds when you need them.