Wednesday, January 6, 2016



There's something about January that makes me want to crawl under a rock and reappear in April. Aside from the New Year's optimism and resolutions which lull me into another year of crazy goals (this year's doozy being to write a novel - insert 'lol' emoticon here), January is awful. From the weather to the fact that everyone is completely skint from Christmas, it really is enough to make someone crawl under their duvet, while resenting the fact they are eating yet another cheap and cheerful meal (cereal counts, right?).

This year I am going to be publishing a post every Wednesday to hopefully help us beat those January blues together, and today we start with how to socialise on a budget.  Let's face it - if you are going to survive the next 4 weeks, you need some friends around.

There is nothing sadder than meeting for a drink and having to order an overpriced blackcurrant squash and split a bag of crisps, because a bottle of wine is out of the question. In January, why don't you turn your evening at the pub, into a night on the sofa? A bottle from Tesco, and a couple of cheaply made canapes come to less than a fiver (shared between 2). If you decide to make a night of it, have a homemade quiz night. Dish out the categories to each of your friends, who come up with one round of questions and then meet up, drink, have fun, save money, and avoid a taxi fare home.

2. ARRANGE A BRUNCH WITH FRIENDS (the more the merrier).
We did this today and it rocked. Everyone brought a plate of food, or ingredients and for the cost of about a tenner per couple we ate for FOUR HOURS. We had: blueberry muffins, croissants, homemade muesli, yogurt, berries, fresh bread, cheeses, cold meats, boiled eggs, jams, fruit juices, tea and coffee. I threw in a bottle of Prosecco we had left over from our wedding and it was a great way to ring in January. As if by some miracle, the clouds lifted, the drizzle stopped and the sun came out.*

* I can't promise better weather. Sorry.

...but exercise with a group of other optimistic people who also decided to 'get fit in 2016'. It is very tempting when it rains most days to sign up for that discounted gym membership - just don't do it. If you are anything like me, you will celebrate your new-found fitness by buying a completely new gym outfit and trainers (so you aren't the chubby one in a stained, old T-shirt and baggy joggers that have seen better days). Instead, buy yourself a reasonably affordable running coat, stick on whatever old work-out gear you want, download a free APP like Couchto5k, meet your friends and get going. Not up for that? There are lots of fitness videos on YouTube for free, where you can do pretty much any sport from the comfort of your own or a friend's living room. Bonus: no dubious shared showers, athletic people, or fitness instructors to make you feel bad.*

*motivation needed - or you will do what I did, which is to watch the exercise videos on YouTube while eating Maltesers.

One of the best skills you can learn to save money is how to cook or bake. An afternoon of learning how to bake bread, make crumpets, scones or biscuits, will give you a great chance to natter, knead out some January stress, and have a yummy warm treat at the end of it. I am seriously considering giving this a go, but with pastry. I already have a couple of friends up for making an afternoon of it. If you are trying to diet, then you could also improve your knowledge of cooking vegetables. When I first moved into my flat, I saved money this way by learning to cook a particular vegetable (that maybe I hadn't eaten at all before) in lots of different ways. Recipes are really easy to find via Pinterest and sites like GoodFood or Delicious, and often the more seasonally you eat, the cheaper and more scrummy the produce is. Oranges, parsnips, kale and leeks are all in good form in January, or so this useful BBC page tells me. You could also 'shop' your store cupboards for those unusual ingredients you bought once and never reused as a basis for choosing which recipes to cook with.

 If you are craving new clothes in January, then shopping your own or your friend's closets can work for you. Either hold an evening where your friends each bring 3-5 items of quality clothing that they have never worn (we all have them), rarely wear, or have become bored of. You can then shop the selection, exchanging clothes at no cost. If no-one wants what you bring, then you have easily sorted out what you need to donate to charity, saving you space in the wardrobe ready for a shopping binge in February. Shopping your own wardrobe can also be fun. Invite a friend over to help you select new combinations of outfits; a fresh pair of eyes can often give you enough inspiration to peel you out of your January onesie-wearing marathon. Return the favour and that's two evenings of sterling entertainment.

There are lots of other activities that you can do to socialise without spending lots of money. I have an afternoon tea with friends planned, and a wintry walk with flasks of homemade soup and hot chocolate on the horizon. As soon as the weather perks up, there will be budget BBQs, picnics in parks and craft afternoons. I will be sure to keep you updated as to how they all go. Any suggestions would be really welcome, so tweet me or leave comment below with your ideas (even if you are doing it while snuggled up in your duvet!)


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