Four ways to conquer the winter blues without breaking the budget


Lower temperatures and shorter days have a way of making us feel blue. Doing something about it, however, needn't blow a hole in your budget.

In fact, there are many ways to stay warm and upbeat that cost very little, if anything at all.

Here are five ways to avoid moping on the couch without going broke:

treat yourself on a budget

1. Lodge your tax return

Ok, not the most fun thing to do, I know. But the fun comes from all those things you could do with your tax refund!

Perhaps a well-earned family holiday; brightening your home with a cheery coat of paint and better lighting; a garden makeover; or taking up a new hobby.

Because it's money that was effectively forced savings, you won't need to dip into your everyday finances to pay for it. Plus, you're saving yourself the hassle when things are busier - October school holidays and the pre-Christmas rush.

Be sure to claim your full entitlements to maximise that refund - it's easy to miss things like work-related parking, travel, stationery, printing, and depreciation. Even financial advice costs and charity donations are generally tax deductible.

2. Spend for the long term

Most of us are guilty of looking for a quick fix when we're feeling down - like comfort eating or reaching for the liquor cabinet.

Like most quick fixes, the long-term effects are anything but good, for your health or your budget. Poor health means higher healthcare costs, and more expensive health and life insurances.

Instead, look at things that deliver both a short-term mood uplift and positive ongoing effects. Exercise is a great example - endorphins for an instant boost with long-term health benefits too.

Why not play group sports or take out a gym membership? It's money you would have spent anyway, but a longer-term focus means you get more bang for your buck.

Or save the money altogether and exercise for free - going for runs with a friend or long walks with your dog.

3. Treat yourself, thriftily

Sometimes a shopping spree, pamper day or getaway is just what's needed to put a smile on your face.

And there's no need to raid your savings or delay paying bills to pay for such luxuries.

Consider alternatives to cash such as:

  • Loyalty and credit card points - you may have accrued more valuable loyalty points than you realise. The latter generally offers greater value in stores or travel agencies than redeeming points for cash.
  • Gift cards - a survey by Finder earlier this year found the average Australian has $95 in unused gift vouchers. Track them down and use them before they expire.
  • Housesitting - avoid one of the biggest travel expenses - accommodation - and become a housesitter somewhere warm. Numerous websites offer housesitting services, or you could house swap with someone to take care of your home while you relax in theirs.
  • Insurance - some health insurers cover certain natural therapies and alternative remedies, such as remedial massage and acupuncture. If a particular ailment is getting you down, get it seen to and claim a rebate if you're eligible.

4. Create extra income

Instead of spending money to feel happier, why not make more money?

There are loads of ways to get out of the house and lift your mood while simultaneously earning extra income.

For example:

  • Do an early spring clean and sell unwanted items with a garage sale or on free sites like Facebook Marketplace.
  • Put your DIY talents to use - people pay good money for homemade artworks, photography, furniture, crafts, foods... the list is endless.
  • Become a tutor in your area of expertise.
  • Gain an extra qualification towards a promotion or higher-paying job.

No matter what you choose to do, remember this one simple truth - it's hard to feel those winter blues when you're laughing all the way to the bank.

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Helen Baker is an Australian financial adviser and founder of On Your Own Two Feet. She is the author of On Your Own Two Feet: Steady steps to women's financial independence and On Your Own Two Feet Divorce: Your survive and thrive financial guide. Helen holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting) degree, a Master of Financial Planning, and a Master of Management (Innovation and Change).