Life / Money

Making the absolute most of "Make Do Month"

After the excesses of the holiday season, stretching out resources in January helps to set a smart tone for the rest of the year.

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Still coming to terms with the excesses of the holiday season? You’re not alone. 

Despite resolutions to not go into January with debt, loads of people find themselves hesitant to open up their credit card statements. With debt to deal with, higher hydro bills and ever-rising food and gas prices, it’s time to focus on ways to trim back.

Welcome to Make Do Month: It’s the month when you stretch everything a little farther so you spend a lot less. You’ll scoop the last drop out of every bottle or jar. You’ll dig to the back of your food cupboard to use up the noodles, the soup, the bag of beans. And you’ll go through your freezer and eat everything that’s been sitting there for the past six months. (Hey, don’t let a little freezer burn scare you off. Turn it into soup!)

January is also a good month to experiment with a new routine as you make do. Used to buying coffee every day as you head to work? Brew your own at home or work and save big-time. Go out for lunch?

Brown-bag it four out of every five days so you have the money to pay off that holiday debt.

If you have family or friends whose birthdays fall in January, committing to Make Do Month means you won’t rush out and buy a present. Instead, you’ll find a way to give something of yourself instead. Make their favourite cookies, offer to cook a meal or a bunch of meals for the freezer for those extra busy workdays, or create a coupon for free babysitting. Maybe you’re a computer genius and can offer to do maintenance or repairs. Perhaps you’re a mechanic and can offer a tune-up. Substitute your energy for spending money.

While you’re being frugal and using up all your stuff so you don’t have to spend money in January, why not inventory the things you seem to have a lot of: screws, magazines, nail polish, face creams, shampoo, books, yarn, scrapbooking supplies. Measuring your abundance and committing to buying nothing more until you’ve used up what you have is a great way to take Make Do Month and make it a year-long way to save money.

After the buzz of the holidays you’ll no doubt be happy to stay home for the first couple of weeks. Then you may start feeling itchy. You’ve got to get out. You can feel the walls closing in.

Before you hit that great new restaurant that just opened up or head out to the clubs, remember that January is Make Do Month. Call up a couple of friends and throw a potluck dinner instead. My girlfriend Annie asked all her invitees to bring a dish from their cultural heritage. I showed up with oxtail soup and partook in everything from cabbage rolls to kafta.

January is a great month to start a tradition of once a month game or poker night  and rotate from one friend’s home to another. No one says you can’t have fun in Make Do Month. You just can’t spend gobs of money.

Make a conscious decision to stretch every dollar as far as it’ll go. Try it and see if just becoming conscious saves you money.

I’ll bet you’re pleasantly surprised.

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