Look after the pennies

EVERYONE'S doing it. The Prime Minister, The Queen, the council, and companies across the country – they are all on a crusade to save cash.

Coming up with ideas on how save money used to be a bit of fun, but things have just become much more serious.

VAT has shot up, the price of fuel is making everyone shiver, and both public and private sector wages are expected to stay pretty

static.

Overall, most of us are going to be worse off in 2011, so finding

ways to pinch pennies has never been more important.

Here are afew to get you started.

BUDGET: Making an honest budget about how much is coming in and what's going out is crucial.

Write down all your monthly outgoings and try to predict how much you'll be spending on other things in the month.

If the books don't balance, it's time to make some cuts.

BE SENSIBLE: Don't pay money into a savings account until you have cleared your credit card debt.

One of the top savers accounts right now is paying 2.9 per cent a

year on savings, but your average credit card is charging 18 per cent

APR.

FOOD: Plan your supermarket shop and don't buy anything that's not on your list. Make further foodie savings by taking a packed lunch to work,

and keep an eye out for deals on at your favourite restuarants.

SOCIALISING: Staying in is the new going out. It's not only cheaper, it's also incredibly popular and sociable.

There's no need to forego nights out altogether – it's still fun

to head into town – but when money's tight at the end of the month

opt for a night with a DVD, a pizza and some great company.

And, when you are heading out, look for some of the cut-price deals that are on offer.

SHOP AROUND: There's no excuse for not checking and comparing prices these days for everything from your weekly shopping to life insurance.

RESIST TEMPTATION: Ask yourself one question before you make a purchase: Do I really need this?

THINK ABOUT YOUR HEALTH:. One of the best things you can do for your health as well as your pocket is to stop smoking.

Your 20-a-day habit is costing you over 2100 a year – and it's

slowly killing you.

IT'S GOOD TO TALK: Ask people for a money-saving tip, and they'll happily tell you. Popular suggestions include cleaning carpet stains with vinegar, repairing damaged clothes and shoes, and turning

your heating down one degree.

DEAL WITH DEBT: If you are carrying debt on loans or credit cards you feel you can't manage, talk to a responsible organisation like the Citizens Advice Bureau. Margaret Gray, manager at Denny CAB said:"It doesn't matter whether you have 500 of debt or 50,000, people don't need to be concerned about approaching us.

It's not uncommon for people to come to us with 100,000 of debt,

and we can assist them.

"If you're starting to feel like you're in trouble, the first thing

to do is tell your creditors that you're having difficulty.

"Then get in touch with a professional organisation like the CAB, and we can help you negiotiate with your creditors.

"The important thing is to not be passive about the problem. It's

about taking control."

THE FESTIVITIES are over , the Christmas tree is back in the loft

and the summer sunshine seems like a long way away.

It's no wonder that January is one of the most depressing months of

the year.

In fact, Monday, January 24, will be the saddest of 2011 – this is the

day which scientists have shown is when the January blues will hit

with full force.

The combination of failed New Year's resolutions, the bad weather

and the mounting debt from Christmas all mean that we'll all be sobbing into our sandwiches by lunchtime.

However, this needn't be the case!

There are plenty of ways to ensure that January is a positive month

– and hopefully carry this on for the rest of the year.

First stop, book a holiday. Knowing you've got something to look forward to is key to making yourself feel better .

According to Joanne Davidson, senior travel consultant at Barrhead Travel in Manor Street, the people of Falkirk have been doing just that.

Joanne said: "We have been queued out the door since January 2.

"People are just so fed up with the weather , they want to get booked

up.

"January is the best time to book because we have the best discounts – low deposits and up to 40 per cent off.

"This has been the busiest January ever for us – we've quadrupled the sales we did this week last year.

"Lots of people who maybe didn't have a holiday last year because

of the recession have decided they don't want to go another year

without getting away."

Next up is the January diet. Denise Feist holds 12 Scottish Slimmers classes across Falkirk and Linlithgow and, in common with other slimmng clubs, is expecting an influx of new members in the coming weeks.

Denise said: "For lots of people, their New Year's resolution is to

get fitter and healthier.

"But some people do have unrealistic expectations – the weight didn't go on overnight so people can't expect it to come off straight away either.

"Once you've made a commitment to lose weight though, it's about

coming to class every week.

"The great thing about losing weight is that you don't have to be

at your target weight to feel better – you can reap the bene?ts with

every half stone you lose and see the difference it's making.

"Everyone is feeling guilty about what they've eaten at Christmas

– we tell them not to feel guilty and to look forward to the year ahead."