If you are not feeling in the best of moods today, don't worry it's not just you. Today is officially the most depressing day of the year, and financial worries are thought to be at the heart of our January woes. However, help is at hand. Here are a few tips to help you beat those January blues.
Today is the day when the dire weather conditions, failed New Years resolutions and the realisation of how much debt we really managed to build up over Christmas finally catch up with us. And it's not the kind of thing that would cheer a person up.
On top of these annual worries, the economic outlook this January is particularly bleak with house prices continuing to fall, consumer confidence at a low, and a major slump on the stock market worrying investors.
Your New Year's resolutions may have fallen flat and there is not much you can do about the weather. However, there is plenty you can do to get your finances in order so this is the best place to start if you want to rid yourself of the January blues. Here are some tips that should help you feel better:
The first step is probably the most difficult part. You need to sit down and figure out how much you owe and who you owe it to. This year, of all years, it is really in your own interests to keep your credit rating clean so get a credit report to see where you stand with the banks. Once you have a clear picture of your financial situation then you can really start doing something about it.
Check all your statements – bank account, savings, credit cards, loans and utility bills – so you can see where your money is going. Make sure every month that there are no double or missed payments and that you pay your bills on time.
You've got to be realistic here. Set one or two attainable goals, such as clearing your credit card debt, that you can work towards in the coming months. Review your plan every month to see how well you are doing.
It is often the little things in life that end up costing us a lot. Look closely, we mean closely, at where your money goes. Going to the cafe around the corner from work for lunch every day could be costing you around £1,000 a year. You would be surprised how much you could save by cutting out some of the seemingly small expenses. Also, with price hikes across the board in the region of 15%, now is a good time to shop around for the cheapest gas and electricity supplier in your area. And while you are at it, see if you can get a better deal on your home and car insurance as well.
Clean up your credit history
We mentioned this earlier but it deserves a sub-heading all of its own. During the current credit crunch, it's more important than usual to have a good credit report – lenders check it whenever you apply to them and a history of missed repayments or a mountain of unmanageable debt won't impress them. So make sure your credit report is up to date and accurately reflects your circumstances.
Look at your loans
Banks aren't handing loans out like Smarties any more, but if you have a clean credit rating and a good income you should be in a strong position to shop around for cheaper credit. If you are a homeowner, it may be time for a remortgage. Or if you have heavy credit card or personal loans debts, it might be a good idea to consolidate. In every case, remember to factor in any penalty or set-up fees if you decide to switch – they can make the difference between saving and losing money.
Keep your identity safe
More and more people are getting stung by identity fraud every year and it is now costing Britain billions annually. However, you can safeguard yourself with some simple precautions. Our articles Identity fraud: Are you protected? and A closer look at identity fraud will tell you everything you need to know.
So, if the January blues are getting you down, don't despair. Spring is just around the corner and if you follow the tips above you'll be back to your cheerful self in no time.