Have you been feeling down lately? Well, if it helps lift your spirits, you’re not alone. January 21, 2013 is unofficially known as “Blue Monday,” the most depressing day of the year. A combination of lousy weather, post-holiday malaise, and holiday related credit card debt has been concluded to result in the third Monday of January being the most depressing day of the year.
While “Blue Monday” is described as pseudo-science at best – and “completely made-up” by others (scroll down to “Fact Check” for more on that) – the combination of bad weather and holiday bills is enough to get anybody down. Here are some tips to get your finances back in the black and stave off the money related blues.
Cut Back to Get Ahead
There’s no denying that escalating debt can cause sleepless nights at the very least, and lead to legitimate, diagnosable depression if it continues to grow. Step one in stopping the debt spiral is to track your spending. (It’s never too late to start a new New Year’s resolution!)
Start small: For the next week, keep track of everything you spend money on, from the change you pop into the office vending machine to utility bills and credit card purchases. At the end of the week, tally it all up and you’ll likely start to see some areas where you could cut back.
I’ve written before about what credit counselors refer to as “the latte factor.” You’d be surprised how much your takeout coffee bill can add up to in a year. A mere $2 a day for a cup on the way to the subway can add up to $500 in a year ($2 times five days a week times 52 weeks = $510). Splurge on gourmet, custom coffees and a treat a couple times a day and you could easily be spending thousands of dollars a year without even thinking about it. Same goes for lunches on the run, drinks after work, and any meal you don’t prepare yourself. I’m not saying you should become a recluse who eats ramen noodles at home alone all week long. But once you start tracking your spending for a few weeks – better yet, months – you’ll spot areas where you can reign in spending.
Treat Yourself to Some Freebies
I love libraries. For an avid reader and magazine junkie, what could be better than a building that houses countless thousands of titles and let’s me take home as many of them as I want – for free?!? If reading’s not your thing, libraries also have extensive collections of DVDs and CDs, along with WiFi – and computers to surf on if you don’t have a laptop, and numerous free events for audiences of all ages.
Rather than spending money on movies tickets and overpriced professional sporting events (and the pricey snacks and drinks that go with the show), why not investigate some of the countless free activities that take place every day? In addition to libraries, community centres, city hall, and other public spaces feature free seminars and presentations; many museums and theatres offer regular free or pay-what-you-can admission nights; and rather than paying to watch some overpaid pros, why not get a group of friends together for a pickup game? It’ll be good for heart, soul, and wallet.
Fact Check: Where Did Blue Monday Come From?
While it identifies a very real frame of mind and financial institution for many people, it turns out that the concept of “Blue Monday” had a dubious start. Initially fabricated by a now-defunct UK travel channel, the concept also cited a “Cardiff University professor” as the source of the supposed Monday Blues formula – who in reality was a part-time night school teacher who was paid to put his name to the report. In a weird case of life imitating fiction, however, a legitimate Cardiff University professor, Dr. Dean Burnett, has stated in the annual Blue Money stories that he’s asked to comment on that the concept has legs. “It’s gotten to the point where, for me, the third Monday in January really is the most depressing day of the year,” he wrote in the Guardian before last year’s “Blue Monday” dawned.
Fight Back Against the Funk
That said, if you’re suffering winter depression over your finances – or anything else – there are resources available. A group of volunteers from another UK school, Canterbury College, has set up the site www.bluemonday.org to encourage people to try help spread some much-needed seasonal cheer. Happy Monday!