Blue Monday is the lesser-known ugly stepsibling of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In short, Blue Monday is the name given to what has been determined to be the most depressing day of the year, the Monday during the last full week of January. Though its origins are primarily commercial (as a way to get people to travel), the reasoning behind it makes sense – Christmas has passed, New Year’s resolutions have failed and people are in debt from overspending during the holidays.
If the latter sounds like you, don’t let Blue Monday – or any day of the week – get you down. While you can’t recreate Christmas, dig yourself out of your financial hole by following the steps below for 30 days, and repeat as often as necessary to be out of the blue and in the black again.
Track your spending
You may think you know where your money goes, but your spending on little things will likely add up in a big way. Keep a small notebook and pen with you during January and write down what you spend outside of bills for a week.
Now that you know where your extra money is going, it’s time to rein it in. Resolve to do a no-spend month, which means you spend only on necessities – groceries, bills and gasoline. If you need inspiration, Google “no spend month” and read about many frugal bloggers who are doing or have done the same thing.
Snowball your debt
No, this doesn’t mean put your credit cards in the snow. Instead, vow to pay off the credit card either with the highest interest rate first or the lowest balance – experts are torn on this one, so it’s up to you what will motivate you more. This means if you have multiple cards, pay only the minimum on all but the chosen card (with either the highest interest rate or lowest balance), and aggressively pay that until it is paid off. Then move on to the next card, until you’re out of debt.
Don’t forget to save
Ideally, you should save 10 percent of your monthly income, but if you can’t do it while you’re paying off debt, at least save something – 5 percent, all of your loose change or a certain amount (say, $200) each month.
Cut back where you can
Turn off lights when you’re not in the room and unplug “energy vampires” such as cell phone chargers and hair dryers. Switch to basic cable or watch TV on the Internet. Cook meals at home, eat or repurpose all your leftovers and bring your lunch to work. Don’t run the water while you’re brushing your teeth, and wash clothes in cold water on the Regular cycle (as opposed to Permanent Press). Walk or bike to places in your neighborhood, or when you use the car, try to run as many errands together as you can. These seemingly little changes could make big impacts on your utility and gasoline bills.
Prepare for next year
Don’t let what happened to you this holiday season happen in 2012. Instead, once you find your way out of your debt hole, set aside $5 or $10 per week in a savings account or drawer to prepare for next year, or purchase gifts all year whenever you see them on sale. That way, not only can you avoid the rush to buy items in the crazy, marked-up month of December, you can relax and enjoy your Christmas decorations at home. And there’s no gift like peace of mind.
Photo Credit: iStockphoto/DNY59