As the twinkling lights and good cheer of Christmas disappear further into the rear view window and January, in all its austere, cold, doughy-middle horror waddles into plain sight, plenty of us will be facing an abundance of pounds in the weight department and a severe shortage of them in the bank account.
Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. At the risk of sounding blithely optimistic, January is a great time to wrest control of your finances – and your waistline.
Stay with us, dear readers, and we’ll guide you by the hand to the road to financial and physical wellness…
BALANCE TRANSFER CREDIT CARDS
Think of these like a financial Alka Seltzer – a potentially good way to relieve the financial bloating, discomfort and headaches caused by festive excess.
If you’ve given your credit card a severe pasting over the Yuletide season, you'll certainly be in good company.
But it makes very little sense to be paying more interest than you may strictly need to be on your credit card debt – those presents that you bought over Christmas may end up being far more expensive than you intended them to be if you’re paying excessive rates of APR over a long period of time.
This is where 0% balance transfer deals come in. For a fee – usually a small percentage of your current debt – you can transfer your bill to a 0% card, potentially saving you hundreds of pounds in the long run.
There are a few things to consider. For a starters, think about how much you’ll pay in your transfer fee. If you don’t have much of a credit card debt to begin with, then you may end up paying more on that than the money you’d save on having a zero-interest card, so think on.
Also bear in mind that the 0% terms don't last forever. So if your debt isn’t cleared by the time you’ve paid it off, you might have to end up shifting it again, and paying another fee.
GET FIT FOR FREE
Think that shedding the post-Christmas bulge means paying for expensive gym memberships? It doesn’t have to. Remember Rocky’s training regime in Rocky IV, which allowed him to toughen up sufficiently to beat the chemically enhanced Soviet Ivan Drago? Well, this could be you. Although we’d probably advise that you don’t scale a craggy peak like Mr Balboa did, because they never did explain how on earth he got down.
As Rocky did, make the world your gym – stick on an old pair of daps, load your MP3 player with suitably ‘motivational’ music and and huff and puff your way around the park. Because baby, we were born to run. Have a read of the NHS's couch to 5k plan while you're at it.
Failing that, perhaps you could do some exercise manoeuvres like push-ups, sit-ups in your lounge – just make sure that you’ve cleared the decks and that any pets or children are well out of the way of your exertions.
If, by any chance, you haven’t got the room to get sweaty in your gaff, then make a bee-line for your local park. Should you attract the gaze of any onlookers, harness their bemused looks and thrive on them. FEEL. THE. BURN.
Your local council pool might be a good idea if you prefer a less high-impact way of toning up and burning calories – you won’t have to pay an expensive monthly membership fee for it most of the time. And if you don’t use it, you may well lose it.
EATING CHEAPER CAN MEAN EATING BETTER
Yes, it really can. Think about cutting a few takeaways out and instead cook your own noodles or curries at home. Stock up on spices to make vegetables more interesting, and think about lean cheap cuts of meat like turkey breast – if you haven’t already had enough of the stuff already.
BRIGHT (AND WARM) IDEAS
Are you paying too much for your energy? You may well be. Those pesky big six energy companies have previously been given a verbal smacking down by energy watchdog Ofgem and MPs alike for their notoriously labyrinthine ranges of tariffs. What’s more, research from Gocompare.com conducted last year found that consumers found that energy bills were the most confusing bill of them all.
Thankfully, you can easily compare energy tariffs from the big six and a host of other smaller providers on Gocompare.com. You could save as much as £350 a year, which isn’t to be sniffed at.
START YOUR COUNTDOWN TO ISA SEASON
Think the run-up to Christmas and New Year was exciting? Well, you’ve not seen anything until you’ve experienced the countdown to ISA SEASON – the time of the year Britain’s banks fall over themselves to offer tasty deals on interest rate-bucking savings offers to switched-on financial buffs.
Because of a low and stagnant base rate for the past three years, ISAs (that stands for Individual Savings Account, acronym fans) may present a decent opportunity to make your money work a bit harder for you. And best of all, HMRC’s minions won’t be able to get their hands on any money that your savings generate through interest.
ISA season commences in earnest in March, so make a date on YOUR calendar to make sure that you get in there when it kicks off. In the meantime, have a read-up on them over here.
SWITCH YOUR CAR INSURANCE
If your renewal is going to cost an arm and a leg, that is.
Women – particularly young ones – are likely to feel the effects of this game-changing law the hardest, as they’ve traditionally enjoyed cheaper premiums than comparably aged men.
You can compare car insurance quotes from loads of insurers from the comfort of your own house with Gocompare.com. But if you’ve done far too much sitting around on an ever-expanding backside over Christmas stick your laptop – or tablet computer if Father Christmas was generous enough to give you one – in your bag, step outside, take a lungful of fresh air and take a stroll to your local library and do it there. Providing ‘the cuts’ haven’t got to it already, that is.
While you’re at it, why not review your home insurance arrangements, too?
So, there we have it. After reading this you should be well on the way to a healthier and richer 2013. So what are you waiting for?