Have you managed to break all your New Year’s resolutions yet? We all do it don't we? After eating like there's no tomorrow and slumping on the couch for a couple of weeks over Christmas, we suddenly decide we're going to diet like a 1970s catwalk model and eat with the discipline of an Olympic athlete. It's never going to work. This is why most New Year’s resolutions don't make it past the first weekend in January. They're simply too much of a radical change.
Don't get me wrong, we should all set goals. But they should be realistic. Something we at least have a fighting chance of succeeding at. And going on a health kick when the kitchen cupboards are still full of cakes and boxes of sweets probably isn't the best idea.
Apart from health and fitness other popular New Year’s resolutions revolve around money. Not spending as much, saving more and reducing our debts. However, unlike instant diets and marathon training, financial goals are more achievable. Though they certainly aren't easy.
We can all take steps to improve our finances by being a little more frugal. Now, being frugal doesn't mean you have to turn into a penny pinching miser like Ebenezer Scrooge. And it's not about trying to live on 50p a day. Being frugal is all about being economical and avoiding waste. And we can all do that.
Why be frugal?
"Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves." It's one of those annoying proverbs your grandparents like to quote at you when you moan about having no money left a week before payday. But there's a lot of truth in it. Making some small savings or cutbacks can make a big difference to your finances. And taking those small changes over a full year could see you having more cash in your pocket,which can only be a good thing.
So, how to be financially frugal in 2019? Here's a few tips which could save you some cash during the next 12 months. But, fair warning. Like that crash diet there will be bumps in the road and some cutbacks will be hard .
Let's start with a tough one. Do you really need Sky, Netflix and Prime? Netflix alone has thousands of hours of content. Even the most avid binge watcher couldn't find the time to watch it all. Then there's the hundreds of box sets on Sky.
My point is you're probably only watching a tiny percentage of the programming available to you. So why not cut loose the services you don't use? Pick one service and unsubscribe from the others. You could save hundreds of pounds over the year, especially if you just stick to the terrestrial channels and Freeview.
Cancel those unused memberships
You had all the good intentions in the world when you signed up for the gym. And for a month or two you maybe even made the effort to go every week. But it's not easy to find the time what with work, life and family to consider. Before you know it, it's been months since you went. But the monthly fees have still been coming out of your account.
It's not just gym subscriptions that you may be paying for and not using. That cinema pass that seemed such a bargain isn't at all if you don't go regularly. Then there's the magazine that drops through the letter box every month that you don’t even read.
You can probably think of other examples. If you have regular subscriptions for services or products you rarely, if ever, use then cancel them. You won't miss them and you'll save a packet of cash .
Examine your bank statement
You'll be amazed at what you may find. Have a look at the direct debits you're paying out each month. Any you don't recognise? They may be for subscriptions or services you've forgotten all about. It's easy to overlook - especially if they are for small amounts. That monthly service charge for the cooker you threw out a couple of years ago for example, it happens. And yes, I am speaking from personal experience.
Automate your payments
You'll have expenses you have to pay every month. Try and arrange to pay as much as possible from your bank account by direct debit, and schedule the payments to go out when you're paid. This won't save you money directly, but you may save cash in the long run by avoiding late payments fees and other charges. And you'll find it much easier to budget.
There have been a lot of stories in the news recently about how suppliers are charging long-standing customers more than new customers. It's something which is happening across the board. Energy, broadband and mobile phone companies are among the worst offenders. They rely on customers just renewing their contracts because it's easier and quicker than looking elsewhere. This is particularly true with car insurance. But by being frugal and shopping around for the best deal you'll be able to save money on many of your regular bills.
The internet makes shopping around so much easier. You can search for deals or use comparison websites. Although switching accounts can be a pain, it can also be a real money saver.
Write it down
This can be painful. Every time you spend money write down what it was and how much it cost. Include everything. Coffee on the way to work? Write it down. Didn't fancy cooking one night so grabbed a takeaway? Write it down. Visited the supermarket? Write it down.
Remember, being frugal isn't about not spending. It's about spending wisely and cutting out unnecessary expenses. It's doable. Well, probably more doable than the Olympic style fitness regime anyway.
Keep this up for a couple of months and you'll be able to see exactly where your money is going. But as I said earlier this can be painful. You'll discover patterns of spending you never realised and will find plenty of expenses you can cut down on. You'll identify where you're overspending. And where you can cut back. But you do need to be honest with yourself. If you know you're having too many takeaways, vow to cut one out and have a home cooked meal instead.