I got them January blues

Aaah, January, you little sneaky bastard. There you are, all full of vim and vigour, promising the shiny hope of a brand New Year. But behind that glossy façade is an ugly truth: you’re just another brutal month, filled with bills and credit card statements.

And February. Well February doesn’t offer much either, particularly for us freelancers. It sits there, all pretty with hearts and Valentines schmaltz, but the only good thing about it, is that it’s mostly 3 bloody days shorter than most months. Except this year. Leap year. Weep. Because why? Because clients phaff about in January. They swan in from holiday, catch up on emails and then finally get around to briefing the years’ work about the third or fourth week of Jan, which means lots of twiddled thumbs and panic for those of us who would love to bill a full month round about now.

These first few months of the year are killer, man. Reeling from Christmas, you’re also belted in the gob by the January sales. And all those annual payments that always seem to fall due round about now.

It doesn’t matter how much I plan for this, it still feels like I stagger around during January in a state of impending doom. I’m convinced no one will ever hire me again and that the carefully horded pennies will be gone before the invoices start rolling out again.

And I remember from my corporate years that it wasn’t much better for the gainfully employed. January is generally just a long, dry wait until bonus time.

No wonder everyone has turned Easter into such a chocolate fest – it’s relief eating!

So how the hell do you survive the post New-Year slump? These are my four, top “get-through-the-first-quarter” tips.

Be grateful you live in the southern hemisphere
The beach, the mountain, braais at mates, swimming pools – these things are (mostly) free. And they keep you out of the malls. Hide the cards and embrace the summer vibe. Just be easy on the aircon – damn, I’m chowing petrol in this heatwave. Tap into your childhood nostalgia and take chip butties, watermelon, bunny-licks or whatever floats your boat (and isn’t expensive) with you. Wear sunscreen. Get wet. It’s good for the soul.

Declutter
Use the “new year new me” energy to tackle that cupboard, garage, store room. See what you can sell on through sites like Gumtree or your local neighbourhood Facebook re-sell site. Recycle what you can. And give away the rest to a worthy cause. Even pop down to a local car boot sale to flog your tat. Make a few bucks, feel good, make some space. It’s deeply satisfying. And you’d be amazed what you can make on those odds and ends gathering dust in your cupboard. And believe me, those who benefit from what you can’t sell, need it more than you do right now.

Come dine with me
If you and your mates are serial eater-outers, consider eating in for a change. Each take a night to host, and either all contribute one dish or the host is responsible for the meal. Keep it cheap and cheerful. Help each other washing up so that it doesn’t feel onerous. Cackle in the kitchen over reasonable wine and the chopping board. It’s awesome.

Grow something
Much to my grandmother’s eternal shame, I’m rubbish in the garden. But I’m giving it a go. There is something exceptionally glorious about picking your own herbs or your first crop of tomatoes. In fact, we got really fancy the other day. By accident. We accidentally bought brinjal (instead of basil), and planted it anyway. ZOMG! That first glimpse of a little knobble of purple goodness made me actually squee out loud. Now I’m on aubergine watch. CAN.NOT.WAIT. Now I’m not saying it’s going to save you your veggie bill, but I can confidently say that eating your own tomatoes on hot toast will rival any restaurant you can name.

And before you know it, it’ll be March and chocolate time.

Flippancy aside. January is rough. February is marginally better. This year particularly seems full of uncertainty and angst. The above might not save you from the financial peril, but they will make you feel a little more human.

Originally written for 22seven

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