Dealing with finances in January.

The start of a brand spanking new year is always exciting. Wondering what the next 12 months have in store for us is always nice to contemplate – where will we travel, how will our professional and personal lives develop, and which celebrities will actually survive the entire year?!

However, this is also a time when finances can be stretched to the limit. Christmas has come and gone, and the festive period is always likely to hit us in the purses and wallets, what with the plethora of social occasions and the vast array of presents to purchase for friends and loved ones.

Looking at your bank balance when January comes around is often done with fear and trepidation, but the first month of a new year does not have to bring about money misery. Taking ownership of your finances, getting organised and not burying your head in the sand will put you on a firm footing and help you to avoid any nasty surprises when you log on to your online banking or check your balance at the local cash machine.

Here are some handy tips to put you on the right track:

Make a spreadsheet
Okay, okay, not the most exciting three words you will hear during what is sure to be a fantastically fun few years as a university student, but making a spreadsheet is a brilliant way of establishing what money is coming in and going out of your bank account each month, and will also allow you to keep tabs on this activity every month, rather than just being a one-off audit.
Be completely honest with yourself when listing your expenditure. There is no point in sugar-coating it because the only person you will end up confusing is yourself! Think carefully about how much money you spend on essentials like food and toiletries, rent and travel, and then weigh up the amount that is used for your social life.

If you identify something that seems unnecessarily expensive and is putting a strain on your finances, identify ways of spending less on that thing, or spending on it less often if it is not an essential.

Set yourself targets
Once you have ascertained where your money is going and how much you have got coming in, why not set yourself some targets? This is a great way of avoiding the dreaded rollercoaster of seeing a lot of cash exit your account, then breathing a sigh of relief when you get back on track, only to go through the same emotions all over again.

Hitting your financial targets gives you an enormous feeling of satisfaction because it is a genuine achievement. Give yourself a realistic first goal for a specific date, and once you get that under your belt you have a solid foundation on which to build.
Before you know it, your mates will be asking you how you pulled it off.

Keep a money jar
This won’t get your pulse rating because it doesn’t sound like the ‘big bucks’, but you will be pleasantly surprised at just how much money you can save over a length of time by putting your loose change in a money jar.

The odd 20 pence or 50 pence here, the occasional pound coin there – it all adds up and provides you with a nice windfall if you can resist the temptation of dipping into it at every turn. Throw your coins into it as often as possible and think about holding off until the end of the month to count it – what a treat!
Just remember to keep it somewhere sensible, rather than parading it on your window ledge for all to see.

Don’t be afraid to seek advice
You might feel like money is a thorny issue, but it is vital to keep in mind that there is absolutely no shame whatsoever in asking for advice if you feel like you are struggling to get to grips with your financial situation.

It is a million times better to nip it in the bud as soon as you identify that there is a problem. Putting it off in order to avoid a difficult conversation benefits nobody, and you will only become more anxious.Whether it is your parents, siblings, friends or your university, take ownership of any issues you are experiencing and get to the bottom of it! You will feel infinitely better and making this important move will ultimately lead to a happier, more prosperous university experience.