Money-saving tips to help make your last pay stretch until next one

By Linda Howard

January can be a tough month for managing finances at the best of times, but the knock-on effect of the festive fortnight and bank holidays means it may be even more difficult for some people to make their December pay stretch this month before the next one is due.

Thousands of workers and people claiming benefits were paid earlier in December than they usually are in other months so the money will need to last until January's pay day arrives, which could mean waiting up to five or even six weeks.

And while some may already be feeling the pinch, there are a few things you can do to help make the most of your money this month.

To help you make it through to the end of January, Andy Barr, a personal finance expert and co-founder of online price tracking website alertr.co.uk, shares eight tips to help you make your last pay stretch.

1. Try returning any unwanted gifts

If that reindeer jumper from your relative wasn't what you wanted over Christmas, try getting a refund if you can. This may need to be done via the person who originally bought the item, so you may need to be prepared for an awkward conversation with the gift-giver.

If a refund is not possible, see if the store will offer a credit note that you can save for later or use on something that will come in handy right now, whether that's towards your food shopping or something else.

It might feel like you're crossing a line, but you're better off with something which is of use to you - and if you approach the conversation in the right way, the gift-giver may be more understanding about the situation than you'd thought.

2. Set a budget

Stop what you're doing right now and take stock of the money you have left and calculate how much will be paid out before your next pay.

Include essentials including food and fuel payments. From here, you can see what you're left with and then divide the remainder between the days or weeks you have before your January pay day.

3. Search for those yellow stickers

Many supermarkets and convenience stores discount fresh meat and produce that's coming up to its sell-by date. Many stores have a set time of day when they like to reduce their products, but a lot of the time it can be potluck. Be sure to have a look through the discounts when you spot them.

4. Batch-cook meals and try out new recipes

If you have a variety of items in your cupboards and aren't sure what to make, there are many apps and websites where you can input the ingredients and recipe suggestions will be offered.

Having simple, staple ingredients like flour, dried yeast, butter and eggs can offer up a variety of home-baked solutions including bread, pizza dough, scones, shortbread and sponge cakes. Even if you've never dabbled, having these ingredients and access to YouTube for recipe ideas could be a quick and cheap win.

5. Shop around for discounts and deals

Before making any purchase, in-store or online, do a quick online search to see if there are any discounts or deals you can apply to your purchases. These might be a discount off the total spend, free delivery or even offers that make your money go further.

Also make sure to use any loyalty schemes with the shops and retailers you use regularly. This could entitle you to additional exclusive discounts and vouchers if you're on their mail lists.

6. Recreate 'going out' experiences cheaply at home

Staying in can save people some money - particularly as you can set a budget for the night before and won't have to scroll through your banking app the morning after to work out how much you ended up spending.

Whether it's by creating a nice meal at home instead of at a restaurant, or having a movie night at home complete with popcorn instead of a trip to the cinema, you can save costs and have an entertaining night in.

Share your money-saving tips with Daily Record readers in our Money Saving Scotland Facebook group here, or with Record Money Twitter followers here.

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