Money Wellness
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category iconcost of living
calendar icon15 Jan 2024

Top tips on how to survive until January pay day

January is the longest month of the year. Not in days of the month but in days since you were last paid, especially if you are one of the third of UK employees who got their salary early in December.

While at the time it might have been handy to have the extra cash to spend on festivities, now the new year is here and you’re having to stretch your salary across five or six weeks, it might not seem like such a bonus.

If you’re in this boat and don’t have enough cash to see you through the month, don’t panic - you’re not alone. We've put together ways to stretch what you have or places you can find help to see you through the rest of January.

Cut out all unnecessary costs

Everyone has unnecessary costs that can be stripped back such as picking up a Pret, grabbing a cappuccino on the go or signing up for monthly subscriptions that are quickly forgotten. When money is tight, these luxuries need to go.

Be ruthless – make food at home, walk or cycle where possible, or start a lift sharing scheme at work where everyone contributes to fuel. Use up all the points you’ve accrued on incentive cards, cancel or pause subscriptions and spend some time searching for helpful discount codes online.

Find extra cash

Sell anything you don’t use or need through sites like Ebay, Vinted and Depop. You could even use Facebook Marketplace or your local car boot sale for cash more quickly. If you have items of value, you could try a pawn shop, but be cautious with this as you’ll pay interest on any loan secured and will lose your things if you miss a repayment. You could also take the opportunity to return any unwanted Christmas presents for refunds or store credit.

It’s worth checking for spare change in draws, down the back of the sofa, coat pockets or handbags you’ve not used for some time – you might be surprised about how much you find.

And with Brits believed to have £140 on average lying around the house in foreign currency, it’s worth seeing if you can change your unused Euros and Dollars into pounds.

Use up what you have in the cupboard and feezer

Use up food that is in your cupboards or buried at the back of the freezer. Use websites like SuperCook or the Tesco Real Food recipe finder for meal options in minutes from whatever you have available.

Food waste apps like Too Good To Go and Olio, where locally people can pass on what they don’t need for a small fee or free are brilliant when money is tight.

Look out for yellow sticker offers in supermarkets to pick up some clearance bargains or make a list of very cheap but filling meals you could repeat like beans on toast, macaroni cheese, pasta with a tomato sauce or egg fried rice. It’s not a sustainable diet but will do for a few weeks.

Food banks voucher or apps that provide free or cheaper food

If your cupboards are bare and your freezer is empty, see if you can get a referral to your local food bank. We can help you with this, as can Citizens Advice, your children’s school, your GP or, if you have one, a social worker. You’ll then be able to collect an emergency food parcel containing things like cereal, soup, pasta, rice and lentils, tinned tomatoes, and tinned meat and veg. You can find your nearest foodbanks by using the interactive maps at Trussell Trust and Food Aid Network.

Emergency grants

Your local council might be able help if you’re struggling by giving you either cash or vouchers for food, help towards energy and water bills or essential items through the Household Support Fund. What you’ll get will depend on how your council has decided to distribute its allocation. And you don’t need to be claiming benefits to be entitled to help, so it’s worth a call.

There’s lots of private businesses, organisations and charities also providing hardship and emergency grants. Food retailer, Iceland is offering interest-free loans of up to £100, which can be used on your Iceland shop, but be careful as it could impact your credit score. And Greggs doesn’t just sell sausage rolls, it also has a hardship fund providing non-repayable grants to people struggling with living costs in the North East. Use search tools at Turn2us and Lightening Reach to see what you might be eligible for.

See if benefits can help

£19 billion of benefits goes unclaimed each year - you can use the Money Wellness benefit checker for free to see what you’re entitled to. While you won’t get financial support immediately – it takes around 5 weeks - you could be offered a benefit-advance to help you in the short term.

If you’re already claiming universal credit, you might be able to get a hardship payment to see you through. As it’s an advance, you’ll have to pay it back and your future monthly payments will be lower until this is done.

Freeze your payments

Don’t bury your head in the sand. Prioritise paying priority debts like rent, council tax, gas, and electricity as your home could be at risk. If you know you don’t have the money to pay non-priority bills like loans, credit cards, overdrafts or BNPL, speak to your providers and explain the situation. They may offer you a payment holiday, freeze interest and charges or take a token payment and support you to get back on track.

Under the mortgage charter agreed last year, your can also take a mortgage payment holiday or switch to interest only for six months without it affecting your credit score.

Sebrina McCullough, Director of External Relations at Money Wellness, said: “Millions of households struggle to make ends meet in January. For many it’s the result of festive excesses and cutting back and making do perfectly acceptable for a short period of time.

If, however, you’re regularly finding your outgoings exceeding your income or you have less than £100 to live on once bills are paid – like the 84% of people we help – then it’s time to get some free debt support. There’s no need to struggle on alone.”

Avatar of Caroline Chell

Caroline Chell

Caroline has worked in financial communications for more than 10 years, writing content on subjects such as pensions, mortgages, loans and credit cards, as well as stockbroking and investment advice.

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