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8 ways to stretch your salary in January

December is a rough month for your finances. Even if you've done all the right things like made a budget and stayed out of credit, your bank balance probably isn't looking terribly pretty right now. And you have the whole of January to get through. What's a girl to do?

The single most important thing to do is avoid getting into debt. January is a tough month, but if you can avoid spending more than you have, you won't spend the rest of the year paying it back. Here are 10 ways to stretch your budget until the next payday.

1. Do a budget
Of course, to stretch your budget, the first thing you need to do is work out how much money you have. Look at your bank account (stay calm), and calculate how much money you can spend each week to get you to the end of the month. Then don't spend a cent more.

2. Host a pot-luck dinner for friends
December's done, you've had your fun. Now settle in at home to save some cash. Invite your friends around for a pot-luck dinner where everyone brings along one item to share.

3. Television is your new best friend
There's more good television out there than any reasonably sociable person can get through in a year. January is your freebie month for being a couch potato. Download or borrow all the series and movies you've been meaning to catch up on, microwave a bag of popcorn and go!

4. Cook cheaply
Plan your meals for the next month carefully. Focus on healthy, hearty options that you can cook one night and then adapt for a couple of days afterwards. Roast a chicken then use the leftovers in a tortilla the next day, and cook up the remains into a soup the day after that. You can visit blogs like Easy Cooking from Nina's Kitchen for inspiration on delicious, affordable food. And remember to pack a lunchbox of leftovers for work each day.

5. Give up an expensive habit
You must have some little indulgences that keep you going your daily cappuccino, your game credits on your phone, your data usage when you're not in a wifi zone, your monthly visit to the nail bar… Whatever your vice, put it aside or find a cheaper alternative for one month.

6. Earn some extra cash
If you have any skills that you could press into service in this tough month, go ahead. Whether you can offer babysitting in your neighbourhood, bake cakes or curries to order or host a jumble sale to get rid of old clothes, there are many ways to earn a little extra cash to make ends meet. Be proactive and market yourself, and you may even find that you can earn a little extra for the rest of the year as well.

7. Plan inexpensive outings for kids (and adults)
Keeping kids busy and entertained is an expensive business. But it doesn't have to be. There are many free and affordable outings to be enjoyed if you set your mind to it from a picnic at a local park or beach to a visit to a museum or gallery. You can check this list out for some ideas in Johannesburg. And it's not just the kids who will have a great time…

8. Cash in your loyalty points
Last but certainly not least, now might be just the right time to cash in your loyalty points. Use your eBucks or your Dis-Chem points to buy what you need to see you through January - debt free!

You can do it!
Remember that your primary goal is to get through January without slipping into debt. If you manage it, your salary at the end of the month will be yours for the keeping and you can treat yourself to a bit of a splurge in celebration.

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