Fight the Post-Holiday Blues: 20 Cheap Ways to Make January Special


January can be a tough month — the post-holiday blues and dreary weather can be enough to make anyone feel a little down. Combine this with failed New Year's resolutions and a long month, and you've got a case of the winter doldrums. (See also: 4 Tips for Making Resolutions Stick in the New Year)

But don't give in to the Holiday Hangover. Here are 20 ways to make January feel a bit more special.

1. Change Your Diet

Always felt that eating animal products wasn't right but weren't sure if you had what it took to become a vegetarian? Or maybe you've been keen on the Atkins diet but didn't think you could make a long-term commitment. You don't have to — just set aside the month of January to try a new diet. It doesn't have to be drastic. You can try a quick and easy detox. It's only a month, after all.

2. Volunteer

Find a cause and volunteer for one month. You might find that you like it so much that you don't want to stop when January's up. 

3. Decorate for January

It can be kind of depressing, taking down all of the lights and chipping the Christmas tree. Well, why not decorate the house for January? Create paper snowflakes and string them around the living room. Or get a headstart on Valentines Day, and start decking out your home in hearts.

4. Start a Journal

Keeping a diary is a good way to jog your memory, but it can be tough to keep up every single day. Try doing it for the month of January — knowing that you have a quitting date can make the task seem easier.

5. Spring Clean (a Few Months Early)

Get started on spring cleaning before spring is here — and make a big donation to Goodwill, The Salvation Army, or your favorite secondhand store, or sell excess stuff online. If you really pare down your belongings, you can start out the year fresh and uncluttered.

6. Get a Makeover

Not a big one — but little changes to your appearance can make you feel better. Get a fresh haircut, try a new hair color, or test out some new drugstore cosmetics.

7. Go on a Date Once a Week

Whether you're single or not, date nights are great. Going out every night is pricey, so pick one night per week to go out for some frugal fun. Whether you grab a burger or just go stare at the stars, spending time with your partner, spouse, or a new love interest is a good way to build a solid relationship.

8. Get in Touch With Long-Lost Friend

You've always wondered what happened to Becky from first grade — so try to find her.

9. Write Letters

When was the last time your wrote a proper letter to your grandmother? Some grannies are on email, but others don't know how to operate a computer. Regardless, real letters aren't often sent anymore and are appreciated. Take some photos, write about your life, and ask lots of questions. Write one letter per week, and take your time.

10. Chronicle Your Past Year

How did the last year go for you? Sit down for five minutes every morning and look back on emails that you sent over the past year. Note major achievements and mistakes. Don't dwell on problems, but think of ways to avoid them in the future.

11. Stay in and Watch a Movie Every Night

Dig into your movie collection or hit your local library and check out movies that you've always wanted to watch but never got around to seeing. Going out is fun, but staying in is affordable (and if you live in a cold climate like I do, it's preferable). If you're not a big movie buff, you can do the same with books (although perhaps at a slower pace).

12. Start a Workout (That You Enjoy)

Exercising can sometimes be a drag, which is why it's better to find a workout routine that you can look forward to. If you played basketball or tennis in high school, look into joining a local league or playing at your gym. Try kayaking or rock climbing, or take tai chi at a community center.

13. Get Your Taxes Done Early

OK, this might not be FUN per se, but it's a real load off of your chest if you have all of your taxes in order before January is done. Set all of the appropriate paperwork in one central location so you won't lose sight of it, and once you have everything, either prepare your taxes online or have them done by a professional. You'll feel awfully smug in April when everyone else is scrambling to get their taxes finished and filed.

14. Audit Your Finances

Performing a financial audit of your expenses is a good way to face up to holiday spending, as well as set your financial behavior for the year. Find out how much you owe (if anything) or how much money you should be saving, and make the requisite changes to pay down credit cards or set aside part of your salary for retirement. While the idea of taking a hard look at your financial habits can be daunting, it's also a relief once you finally know what kind of monetary challenges you face.

15. Thank Someone for Something Every Day

There's a Facebook tradition in November in which people post a daily status that indicates thankfulness for something — friends, family, coworkers, and more. Do the same in January — if you're not on Facebook, email or write to people who you are thankful for and let them know why. This little exercise reminds us of all that we have to be thankful for, and it reminds other people why they are important.

16. Perform Random Acts of Kindness

I have a weekly habit of paying for the person behind me at the Starbucks drive-thru. The first time someone paid for my coffee, I nearly cried with gratitude (I was having a really bad day). It's a fun way to be anonymously kind, and doesn't cost much more than what I normally spend (usually less than $3 extra per week).

17. Start Growing Things

From window herb gardens to paperwhites, growing stuff indoors is easy and brightens up a room. Or start ordering your seeds for your outdoor garden.

18. Indulge Yourself a Little

You don't have to sacrifice something in order to start off the year. Go ahead and indulge in something — a piece of chocolate with your morning coffee, a glass of (not terribly expensive) wine with dinner every night. Take a long hot bath with bubbles.

19. Take a Break From the Internet

Sometimes, a vacation from our plugged in lives can be good. Take a break from Facebook and the Internet (except where it is absolutely necessary), and even email, if you can handle it. Just be sure to let people know that you will be unavailable on social media, and enjoy a vacation from your screen.

20. Organize Some Parties

Potlucks and soup swaps are popular these days, and why not enjoy the same kind of familial camaraderie that you had during the holidays? Get friends an family together a few times during January for some home-cooked meals and conversation.

How are you working through the post-holiday blues? Do you have traditions in your house to make January feel less boring?

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Meg Favreau's picture

I usually feel a little disappointed when the holidays are over, but this year I signed up for a half-marathon in mid-January. It's really nice to have something to work towards, but that isn't a huge long-term goal like a New Year's resolution.

Guest's picture

I like the idea of making a resolution of doing something different for the month of January. Not only will achieving some of these January-resolutions feel good, it will motivate you to keep it going throughout the year. Good ideas here, I especially like the thought of random acts of kindness!

Guest's picture

I'm Becky from first grade, and I'd like to register my lack of enthusiasm for that particular idea (#8). It can be nice to hear from old friends, but at the end of the day, it's a bit of a nuisance to have to take the time and correspond with yet another person, especially a virtual stranger who wants to reconnect. I barely have enough time for my close friends and family, and I'm afraid the long lost friend is only going to be disappointed.
But otherwise, this list is great, and I'm happy that #17 reminded me to start organizing my seeds.