They call it ‘Blue Monday’ – the day of the year when Christmas bills, dark nights and post-Christmas grumps coincide to make us as miserable as possible. This year it falls on January 16, two weeks before most of us get paid, on a day when the sun sets before four thirty in the afternoon.
But instead of seeing ‘Blue Monday’ as a day to be feared, why not use the day to brighten up your finances with a few well-chosen decisions: that could improve your life for the rest of the year? Taking a few simple actions now could ensure you are in a better financial position for the rest of 2023 and knowing that you have taken some positive steps could even help you to see the next ‘Blue Monday’ in a more positive light.
Set yourself a goal
The very act of setting a goal is known to increase self motivation and self esteem – so a day like Blue Monday is the perfect time to do it1. Financial goals can turbo-charge your savings and investments because they concentrate the mind on what you are saving for, making it more likely that you will hit your targets.
Good financial goals are those related to something you can visualise, with a recent study from the University of Stirling showing that those who set good goals are better savers. The authors of the study, suggest opening savings pots with meaningful names such as ‘holiday’ or ‘house deposit’ and giving them a target figure and an end date.
Tackle financial stress
Worrying about money is bad for our mental health. A recent study suggested financial worries are the top cause of stress outside work, overtaking relationships. Making a plan to tackle it this Blue Monday will therefore improve wellbeing.
Taking back control is the first step. For those with worrying debt, the charity Mind has resources to help, but even those of us with more stable finances can find money stressful. Some ways to counter this include ensuring you have all of your financial documentation and resources in one place (whether online or physically) and that you have a clear calendar of the financial deadlines you must hit over 2023. These may include filing your tax return, using your ISA allowance, making a second tax payment on account or switching expensive bills when contracts run out.
Allocating an hour to thinking about what stresses you out financially and the best ways to tackle this could pay dividends this Blue Monday.
Plan some perks
Getting into debt is not advisable, but if you’re the type of person who pays off the credit card every month and has a good credit score, it might be a good time to consider whether a new card could get you rewards to enjoy in 2023.
Many credit cards come with cashback or points that can be used to pay for holidays, groceries or leisure activities, so you are being rewarded for spending you would be doing anyway. Try the Preferred Rewards Gold Card from American Express which is free for the first twelve months, for an introductory bonus worth over £150 (depending on how you use the points) and two free airport lounge passes. This card also gives £5 cashback on up to two Deliveroo orders a month.
Or try Barclaycard’s Reward Credit Card for 0.25 per cent cashback on everything you spend.
As with any credit card except those with 0 per cent rates, ensure that you pay these off at the end of the month or the interest you pay will far outweigh any perks you receive.
For further perks consider switching your current account for cashback. First Direct pays £175 to those switching, and you can also access a Regular Saver paying seven per cent. Chase’s current account offers one per cent cashback on purchases.
Complete your tax return
If you’ve not done your Self Assessment return yet, getting online and doing it might seem a poor way to spend Blue Monday. However, getting the return done will take a weight off your mind. You may also find that you can claim money back on pension contributions if you are a higher rate taxpayer, as well as any charitable donations made.
9th January 2023