If you overindulged at the end of the year, you aren’t alone. Holiday and new year’s festivities are all the rage, and over eating, drinking and spending are common enough in a landscape where the U.S. battle cry is “treat yo’ self.” But all good things must come to an end.
Like so many who wake up on January 1 feeling the weight of overindulging, you make promises to yourself. This includes the one where you say you’ll slow down and take, for instance, the month of January off from drinking, dining out or general splurging. While some commit to a “dry January” as a cleanse, a dry January savings challenge can also pop up as part of those pesky post-holiday office weight loss contests.
But a thinner middle is only one of the benefits of a dry January. It also promises to fatten your wallet if you play your cards right. For example, if you typically spend $100 per week on drinks, the break in drinking during a dry January will net you a $400 windfall come February 1. Instead of running out to spend it, here are five other things you could do with your dry January savings:
1. Pay down some debt
Ugh! Right? “Enough with the debt lectures, we know…” But, before you dismiss this tip, be real with yourself about what your monthly debt profile looks like. All debts, including car payments, mortgages, credit cards and student loans, add up and can go from small and manageable to sinister and overwhelming.
While you might not be able to eliminate all debt
Opens in a new window. at once with your dry January savings, take heart. Even one extra monthly payment can help bring down the balance and reduce the interest you are paying. This, in turn, will get you closer to being back in the black. If you charged too much on your cards over the holidays, one simple no-brainer is to find the credit card with the highest interest and pay up.
2. Donate to a worthy cause
It’s been said that it’s better to give than to receive, and putting the money you’ve saved during your dry January savings challenge toward a cause of your choosing is a great way to feel good and make someone else’s day brighter. While donations to organizations are a great first option, don’t hesitate to get creative with this one if the spirit moves you. Is your friend or colleague training for a 10K race and fundraiser? Is there a program championing a cause that is dear to your heart? There are countless examples out there, and one way to kick your donation up a notch is to find out if a prominent donor (or even your employer) is offering to match contributions. If you donate to a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, you may be able to write off the donation as a charitable contribution.
3. Try a boutique fitness class
If you have a gym membership but you’ve been curious about trying the hottest workouts du jour, your dry January savings can offset the additional cost to attend. Most classes offer a complimentary first round so you can try it out (and get you hooked), but the cost to attend regularly can be a financial deterrent. This is where those dry January savings can soften the blow. If you use your $400 savings to take one $25 boutique class a week, you’ll be able to sweat in style once a week for a whopping four months. In workout terms, that’s through to bathing suit season.
4. Start a travel/splurge fund
Are you fantasizing about taking the epic trip of a lifetime or a hard-to-justify splurge? If you can resist the temptation, your wad of cash is perfect “seed money” to put toward that goal. While skiing the Alps, surfing in Hawaii or cuddling with kangaroos in Australia might seem out of reach given the dollar amount you’ve saved, just remember that you are still $400 closer to your goal than you were on New Year’s Eve .
5. Invest it
That $400 in dry January savings might seem like a drop in the bucket; however, what you’ve invested can blossom into something wonderful over time. If you’re in a DIY mood, there are plenty of apps and websites that can get you started investing on your own, but IRAs and 401(k)s are still popular places to park your bucks. Nervous about the markets? That’s understandable, but remember that dividends and compounding interest have pretty much withstood the test of time.