Make your money stretch until payday

Mon, Dec 31, 2012, 00:00

When TS Elliot described April as the “cruellest month” in his epic poem The Wasteland he clearly hadn’t just wasted the guts of a grand on a Christmas blowout that seemed like a great idea at the time. Nor was he facing a four-week wait for a pay cheque that he knew was going to be smaller than his last one thanks to more cuts imposed by a Government trying to manage its way out of the worst recession in several generations.

A spending survey published before Christmas suggested that a majority of people would spend more than they had, while 70 per cent said it would take more than a month to recover from festive overspending. What is needed then is a spending bootcamp. A month-long financial operation transformation to get you back on your feet before the first day of Spring.


Decide that once the New Year’s Eve madness is done, you’re going to be done with alcohol until February 1st. New Year’s resolutions are, for most of us, a disaster because they are open-ended and we get bored after a few weeks. This way your resolve only has to last 31 days. The average Irish adult drinks the equivalent of eight pints of beer a week. That’s around €35 if you do all your drinking in a pub. Cut it out for the month and save yourself as much as €140.


Drink is not the only thing that should go in January – knock your caffeine habit on the head too. Remember it is only a month. There are 22 working days in January. If you drink just one cup of takeaway coffee, at €2.25, on each of those days it is going to cost you €49.50.


If you’ve run up any kind of balance on your credit card, switch to a zero-interest option. Several credit card companies offer 0 per cent interest on balance transfers for the first 10 months while others have 0 interest options for six months. If you moved an outstanding balance of €20,000 from a card with an APR of 16.5 per cent to a zero interest option, you’d save €160 in interest payments in the first six months. That’s €20 in the first month.


The biggest weekly expense for most people is food. You have to eat but, you can make savings. Plan what you are going to eat for the next seven days. Stick to that plan. As part of your money bootcamp, resolve to eat less meat – if you were to go vegetarian for just three days a week you could easily knock €10 off your weekly food spend. That’s €40 in January.


Plan to eat porridge. Enough Flahavans Progress Oatlets to keep a whole family going for seven days costs just €2.29 in your local Tesco. A week’s supply of milk for that porridge will cost €4.90 which takes the total cost of breakfast for a family of four to €7.19. A 1kg box of Kellogg’s Cornflakes meanwhile costs nearly a fiver. By going the porridge route you’ll shave another €20 off your monthly bill.


Eating al deskois big now as employers demand more of staff. If you spend just a fiver a day on a lunchtime sandwich, you will run up a bill of €110 this month alone. Make a week’s worth of warming chorizo stew with the Spanish sausage, potatoes, cabbage, onions and (good quality) stock for €5.78. Splash out on a multi-grain loaf from Avoca at €2.25 and the cost of your lunch for a working week is €8.03. That will save €74.80 for this month alone.


Obviously if you’re a smoker, you should stop. Smoke 20 a day between now and the end of the month and €279 of your net income will just go up in smoke. You’ll smell bad and feel worse too.


If you have a bike get on it. A commuter who lives in Sutton – some seven miles from Dublin – will spend €5.25 on a return Dart ticket into the city daily. That is €115.50 in January. The cyclist will spend nothing. If you don’t have a bike, get one. The bicycle-to-work scheme covers bicycles and accessories up to a maximum of €1,000. Your employer buys the bike and you pay for it, tax-free, over 12 months, which effectively knocks around 40 per cent off the price. Details from If you live in the capital, sign up to the Dublin Bikes ( scheme too. It’s a lot cheaper than cabs.

While taking these simple steps will not get you out of a financial black hole, they will make a not insubstantial difference. When you tot it all up, some people could save amounts up to €738.80. Although to make that saving you will need to be a soon-to-be-ex smoker. For non-smokers, the savings outlined here amount to a more modest but not inconsiderable €459.80.

Twitter’s top tips for  making it through January

Go through your freezer. There is probably a month’s worth of food in it.

– Eimhear Ó Dalaigh

Collect lots of nuts and hide in a darkened room until the daffodils have poked their heads up. – Aidan Mulligan

Review membership subs, standing orders and direct debits and make hard decisions, if needed. – Angela Holohan

Walk everywhere and forsake coffee-to- go. – Gerard Burke

Avoid poking around shops after work (that’s when I do all impulse buying) and only eat what’s already in the fridge/press. – Kathy McKenna

Buy food in bulk, spend a day cooking 20-30 dinners and freeze them.

– Eoin Murphy

Make your own lunches and snacks for work and never ever carry any cash during the week. – Paul McLoughlin

Skip meat two or three days a week. I love meat but it adds 20-25 per cent to food cost . – Simon Woodworth

Bring lunch to work, walk or cycle instead of car/public transport, curb the social life, and if all that fails, call MAMMY! – Josh Whelan