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January is never anyone's favourite time of year; there's not much to look forward to, everyone's pretty broke and pay day is a long way off, no one wants to do much and it's almost relentlessly dark and cold! Today I thought I'd share 20 things to lift your mood during the post-festive slump...
1. Discount dining and spa experiencesCompanies have cottoned on to the fact that people tighten their belts in January, so many now offer discounts as good as 40-50% off on experiences usually seen as luxuries, such as eating out and spa days. For example, in Manchester, you can get 50% off food at Alberts Schloss, 3 courses and a cocktail for £23 at the Harvey Nichols Brasserie, 2 for 1 on main courses at Bill's and a whole lot more (check out the offers here). You can also check out the website Spa Breaks for spa deals near you - for example, one of my favourite spas (Elan Spa at Mallory Court, Leamington Spa) has a spa day with a 55 minute treatment, afternoon tea, champagne and all-day access to the facilities for £110 here. Whilst it's far from the cheapest thing to do on this list, if there's somewhere you've been wanting to go to for months then now might be the time to book it!
2. Start booking your next trip, pay laterWe all need something to look forward to and, for me, that's usually my next trip away! Whether it's your summer holiday in 6 months' time, or a weekend away you've been planning, there's definitely a 'feel good' element to actually booking something. Many sites like Booking.com allow you to reserve your accommodation without having to pay anything upfront, with free cancellation until a couple of days before your stay. It's a great way to get at least part of an exciting event booked up and feel as though you have something to look forward to.
3. Go on a winter walkWhilst we've had a bit of a wetter winter than usual here in the UK, if the weather is clear then why not go and explore local country parks near, or a little outside of, your area? Whilst you may have to pay to explore the grounds of National Trust sites, there are plenty of free options out there.
4. Explore free museums and art galleriesHere in the UK, at least, the vast majority of museums and art galleries are free entry with a donation of whatever you can spare. Not only are there the big, famous museums and galleries of major cities, but there are also more niche, specific museums you may not have visited that are really interesting and can keep you occupied for minimal money on a cold Saturday afternoon. Check out Tripadvisor to see what hidden gems might be near you.
5. Get into cookingThe internet is a treasure trove of recipe ideas, with blogs and websites. If you can't afford to eat out this January, then why not spend the time to create something a little more special at home? It really does feel like an achievement when myself and my boyfriend slog away for an hour or two and create something ourselves that's really tasty! Some of my favourite resources (as we try to cook vegan at home) are: Bosh!, Lazy Cat Kitchen and Cookie & Kate.
6. Join a class or a meet-upI know it's a cliche to go on a health kick during January, but I personally find classes a really fun way of doing some exercise and feeling good. You can also 'pay as you go' for classes instead of being tied into an expensive gym membership you may not use consistently. It doesn't even have to be fitness; a lot of people start new hobbies in January, so if you check out that painting or photography class you've been wanting to go to for months; you definitely won't be the only new person! If meeting new people with shared interests (be that cinema, writing or even tabletop games), there are plenty of groups on the website Meetup, and again because it's January, it feels a little less daunting as there will likely be a bunch of new people joining with you.
7. Spend your time hunting down deals and freebiesWith that extra time on your hands, why not spend it finding ways to get things free or heavily discounted?! Staying home when you have no money can feel a bit miserable, but there are people online who've scouted the internet for deals you can take advantage of. For example here the website Money Saving Expert has a list of free tea and coffee deals on offer right now. Whilst usually you might not bother going to the trouble of looking out for offers, in January it's a good way to get out and do something without spending all your money!
8. Have an early spring cleanThis is something I definitely will be doing! Having a clean, tidy, organised space just makes me feel better. Clutter and disarray stress me out. So, with the extra time you have from fewer social engagements in January, why not start having a good old clear-out?
9. Use your time to pursue personal projectsLife can be busy and stressful and there may be things we want to pursue or skills we want to learn that get lost along the way. Whatever that is for you; why not start it in January? It's probably the quietest month of the year for most people, so it's the perfect opportunity to start that thing you've wanted to do for ages; whether it's learning to code, getting into drawing or writing a short story.
10. Finish that book you've been wanting to readThis is probably one of the most valuable things you can do when you don't want to spend money and you're not out and about as much! Start that book you've wanted to read and broaden your horizons. So many people feel they don't have time for reading, but creating a daily habit - whether it's on your morning train or giving yourself half an hour before bed - really helps get you into it. And what better time to start?
How do you keep the energy up during January?