Alice-Azania Jarvis: 'January is not only miserable – it's also hell on the wallet'

In The Red
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January, you might think, is an easy time to save money. No one does anything in January. It's cold, it's grey, and half the people you know have sacrificed all worldly pleasure – also known as chocolate, cheese and alcohol – for a punitive life (or month) of herbal tea, jogging and celery.

But I have this to say: no. January is not an easy month to save money. In fact, it's a particularly difficult month for thriftiness – possibly even the most difficult. This is the conclusion that I have come to after several weeks of highly scientific empirical research. Namely: sales shopping.

Shopping in the January sales can be a penny-pincher's disaster. It's all too easy to fall into the trap of buying a million impractical items simply because of their price. With 50 per cent off, that hot pink dining set suddenly seems like a reasonable purchase, and that Garfield-shaped desk lamp a necessity. I've touched on this before (cf sample sales/shopping chez Lidl) but it's worth mentioning again: when things are cheap, they are more desirable. Ergo, when everything is cheap, everything is more desirable. It's a recurring problem.

Another problem, of course, is the stark, self-evident fact that January is miserable. Every year the same statistics are trotted out: the third Monday of January is the lowest point on the calendar. The weather, our Christmas debt, the sudden lack of yuletide fun, the length of time until pay day, a lack of motivation and a failure to keep New Year's resolutions – together, the various factors conspire to ensure that we have as rotten a time as possible. Which, obviously, is not in the slightest bit conducive to saving money. On the contrary, it's conducive to spending money – and spending it on chocolate, clothes and celebrity weeklies, all those ever-so-slightly naughty things that, when combined with the magical powers of a cup of tea, serve to cheer us up.

On top of that, there are all those start-of-year chores. Not the daily effort to jog or lift weights, but the chores that cost money: the diary-buying, the subscription-paying, the sorting out of those pressing-yet-procrastinated household problems (mine: a broken water-pump). Before you know it, you've spent the entire month's income on doing things that, frankly, you weren't too bothered with in the first place.

See what I mean? January is a minefield. Unless, of course, you do what I'll be doing for the rest of it and refuse to leave the house, eat only soup, and forget about that water pump. Come February, I'll be lucky if I can maintain normal social function. But hey, at least it won't be January.

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