MOST of us go over budget at Christmas, but January is a great time to save back some of that extra cash.
Mum-of-four and writer Jennifer Barton, 38, from South London, knows all about forking out for festive fun with kids Diana, 10, Liv, seven, Stella, five, and Ada, three.
Jen Barton, 36, and husband Will, 36, save £900 every January to make up for Christmas with their four kidsCredit: Collects
But she and husband Will, 36, who works in finance, more than make up for it in the first month of the year – by going veggie, ditching booze, raiding charity shops and getting the kids to upcycle Pringles cartons.
As a result, they save £900 every January. Speaking to Fabulous, she reveals her tips…
With four kids aged 10 and under in my house, December is a month full of festive cheer – and forking out.
Between advent calendars, Christmas food and treats, gifts for the kids and teachers, it’s also the most expensive month of our year.
They are parents to Diana, 10, Liv, seven, Stella, five, and Ada, threeCredit: Collects
Food and gifts alone normally cost £400, although we spent less in 2020 because we couldn’t have the family over with tier 4 restrictions.
The extra expense can be intimidating for parents, but Will and I always make cutbacks in January to counterbalance this.
I find it’s a great time for me to plan and reflect on unnecessary expenses.
Starting the year in a more mindful, less extravagant way can be really beneficial to my mental health too, not just my savings.
I buy my kids everything at our local charity shops. Books, toys, scooters, clothing… it’s all secondhand
After a Christmas that’s heavy on food and drink, I start by cutting back on these items.
Last year, my husband and I didn’t drink at all in January. We normally share three bottles of wine-a-week, so our bank balance was up £36 for every week without.
As a bonus, this spurred us onto more drink-free months later in the year.
We realised we feel much more energised and fitter when we don’t drink (less late-night snacking happens, too).
I also noticed a bad spending habit when I do drink – I shop online and buy things I wouldn’t otherwise, so not drinking helps cut this out.
Jen and Will ditch meat and booze to keep costs downCredit: Collects
When it comes to food, I try to cook meat-free whenever possible in January which saves a fortune, not to mention feeling better for it after all of that December indulgence.
We don’t do Veganuary – the kids are too young, and would miss sausages and yogurt far too much – but we’ll have meat max once-a-week, saving £80 as a result.
I stopped eating meat myself a couple of years ago – protein-packed lentils and beans are much cheaper.
Vegetarian food also lasts longer and you don’t feel funny about reheating it, so I can batch cook dishes like chickpea curry (chickpeas, coconut milk, tinned tomatoes, lentils, a spoonful of Thai curry paste and rice, occasionally bulked up with sweet potatoes) or a hearty soup, chucking in all the veg that needs eating.
My daughter has a January birthday and really wanted a special present no-one else had. And we found one: a pet goldfish called Juliet who cost a grand total of £3.30
We’re still getting through our Christmas dinner leftovers in the first week in January, too.
No matter how many gifts they get at Christmas, when you’re a mum-of-four the kids will undoubtedly need something new come January.
It’s the law of little ones that they’ll have outgrown their football boots or will lose their scooter within a week of going back to school post-Christmas break.
I buy my kids everything at our local charity shops – and I mean, everything. Books, toys, scooters, clothing… it’s all secondhand.
The kids dress head-to-toe in hand-me-downsCredit: Collects
My eldest started Zoom guitar lessons at school this year; I found her pale pink guitar for £8 in a charity shop a couple of years ago. She loves it and has covered it in stickers.
All the kids’ favourite toys and clothes are from secondhand shops – Heelys wheeled trainers, zebra-stripe Dr Martens and their Slyvanian Families houses and characters.
You can even find new and unused bits there for a fraction of the price.
My children mostly dress in hand-me-downs – from their older siblings, my old clothes or my friends who have older kids.
I’ve got vases made out of loo roll and old Pringles canisters everywhere – the kids fill them with dried flowers which last for a year. They look gorgeous, the kids love making them and we don’t have to keep splashing out to have flowers at home
They love getting hand-me-downs from older kids, they think it’s cool and it’s a nice way to connect with friends who we’ve not seen much of in 2020.
My daughter Liv has a January birthday, which previously meant starting the year with a big birthday party bill.
Last year, I couldn’t justify spending the extortionate £200 on the party alone (and that’s the cost of splitting with someone else!), especially as she often ends up stressed out and crying during the event itself – so went without.
My daughter really wanted a special present no-one else had. And we found one: a pet goldfish called Juliet who cost a grand total of £3.30.
This goldfish cost £3.50 and was the perfect January birthday giftCredit: Collects
The family pictured on Christmas DayCredit: Collects
She’s orange-hued and lovely to look at, has tons of personality and loves to eat. She also loves to poo, a source of great excitement for my children whenever it happens.
My seven-year-old always sits next to her to do homework or play with games. She’s been really responsible in helping me clean the bowl and making sure Juliet’s water is at just the right temperature.
All the kids treat her as a family member, collecting shells for her tank to ‘entertain’ her when we last went for a day at the beach over October half term.
I spent less than £20 last year on the whole gift, which included the bowl with some fake plants, cleaning solution, food and two fish.
Sadly the other fish, Romeo, died within the month. So this year we’re buying Liv a fishy companion for Juliet.
I can’t tell if I’m more excited to spend less than a fiver on a gift that teaches compassion and care, or if my daughter is to receive it.
The Barton family’s January savings
No alcohol – saving £36 a week or £159 a month (based on an average of three bottles of wine a week)
No online shopping – saving £80
Vegetarian meals – with only the occasional meal – saving £80
Charity shop clothes, books and toys instead of new – saving £100
Birthday/birthday gift – saving £250
No beauty treatments for Mum (hair, nails, etc) – saving £150
Thermostat down – £20
Upcycling – saving £70 by not buying flowers & knick knacks
I love upcycling too. My kids turn junk into decorative pieces for the home, meaning we’re buying less trinkets despite being home more.
I’ve got vases made out of loo roll and old Pringles canisters everywhere – the kids fill them with dried flowers which last for a year.
They look gorgeous, the kids love making them and we don’t have to keep splashing out to have flowers at home.
Hydrangea bouquets look just as amazing dry as they do when first plucked, and require zero effort.
The family’s dried flowers are stored in upcycled Pringles containersCredit: Collects
I’ve been on a decluttering binge lately and have unearthed lots of amazing items in the cellar, like clothes and designer bags belonging to my late mum.
I know I could sell them and make a few hundred pounds, but since they have sentimental value I’d like to keep a lot of these items for my children, so they have memories of the grandmother they’ve never met.
It’s a great way to make some extra cash without having to give things up for good. And it would be nice to let those gorgeous garments make some airtime.
One lender on By Rotation made £400 from renting out a polka dot Jacquemus dress for a few months – just for that one item.
I am hoping my mother’s vintage Louis Vuitton handbags and Chanel scarves might prove popular too.