Alice-Azania Jarvis: 'A fresh start is needed to ease my spending hangover'

In The Red

So how was it for you? The spend-fest that is Christmas and New Year, I mean. I had been so bogged down in domestic disasters (theft, crooked locksmiths, BT's terrible customer service) that I had let the whole thing escape me until the week before, when I frantically bought all my Christmas presents in one swoop.

Until then, I was so preoccupied that I had even managed to forget all those awful corporate Christmasisms: the "traditional" foods you've never heard of before (Chocolate snowballs anyone? Christmas flapjacks? Mince pie Latte?); the inducements to start spending long before December had even dawned; the new-fangled decorations that you really don't need. Every cloud, silver lining, eh?

On the down side, even with my spending stripped down to just a week, I'm still feeling the hangover. It doesn't help that around this time of year everyone you've ever met in your life suddenly wants a "festive catch-up", usually entailing a slap-up meal and a bottle – or three – of wine.

And, for all my good intentions, I know from experience that January is never cheap. It's freezing so your fuel bill soars. And it's the time of fresh beginnings, a concept which – I was reminded this week – has a price tag all of its own: all those year planners, calendars, diaries and diet books add up.

Still, I'm determined that they will be put to good use this year. I've made a longer list of resolutions than usual and I intend to keep them (apart from the one about avoiding sweets, I'm afraid, which has already fallen by the wayside; but give me a break, I'm running a marathon in April!).

I'm limiting my takeaway coffees to treat status, bringing a thermos of soup into work for lunch (apart from the days when I run in, when some of the money saved on the tube fare can go on my favourite £2 salad from M&S); I'm sorting out my various subscriptions, phone bills and bank accounts to become more streamlined (actually, I've already done most of this – and how satisfying it is) and I'm going to stop using cash points that charge fees just so that I can buy that piece of gum that I "really really need".

It's not that I want to save money as such (though that would be good). What I really want is to be able to afford more. Instead of frittering my cash away on a pack of gum here or a latte there, I want to be able to consume more meaningfully. I'd like to save up for a holiday abroad. I'd like to take photography classes with my amazing new Christmas present of a camera. And, um, I'd like some new clothes. Please.

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