Beat the winter blues without blowing the budget

4 min | 31 January 2023

The Chase team

The winter blues are real for many people – and this year, the cost-of-living crisis is causing further strain. So, how can you make the best of the situation? Readers share their tips on banishing the winter blues without breaking the bank.


Cocoon yourself in a calmer, tidier living space by decluttering – and find purposeful ways to sell or donate items that you no longer need.

Juliet, a productivity coach from London, is an avid reader. But since space on her bookshelves is limited, the new year is a good time to prune her collection.

“It’s liberating to let go. Giving books away to people who will treasure them is particularly rewarding. And it’s uplifting to donate to charities that resell books not only to raise funds but also to support training. Research shows that doing things for others releases happiness-boosting endorphins in the brain.”

She donates books through:

Consider a house swap over a hotel

Fancy a change of scene without spending money on accommodation? Arrange a home swap with someone you know and trust. It means you stay in someone else’s place while they stay in yours (or elsewhere).

Alternatively, there are websites where you can house-swap with a stranger in both the UK and beyond.

Tim from Durham has done exactly that.

He says: “My mother has offered us her home for a few nights in January. My wife and I plan on going with our two young children and two other couples with children of similar ages. She has five bedrooms and plenty of space. She'll stay in our home or with friends. We originally looked into hiring a holiday cottage for a few nights but couldn’t find anything for less than £1,500 – a huge amount to pay just after Christmas.”

What’s a city treasure hunt?

A treasure trail can be cheap and gets the kids out and about.

“A treasure hunt is a great way to rediscover your own town or a place you’re visiting. We’ve done six – and obviously you don’t need children to enjoy them!” says Catherine, from Oxford.

Search 'city treasure hunt free' to find options near you.

Gardening helps you look ahead

If you have access to outside space (even a balcony), you could plan which flowers, fruit and vegetables to grow. Sweet peas, strawberries, lobelia and geraniums are seeds you can sow in January. February is good for begonias and cosmos.

“Gardening keeps me occupied and gives me something to look forward to,” says Dalia, from Leeds. “I am a SAD sufferer, so the more I can do in winter to get me excited for spring, the better. My favourites are daffodils, crocuses and lots of tulips.”

For tips on what to grow and when, check out BBC Gardeners World (Opens in new window) and the RHS (Opens in new window)

Other ideas:

Take a course or volunteer

Starting a new hobby or learning a skill can break daily monotony and help you meet new people. Volunteering in a business or subject area you are passionate about could also lift your spirits as you share your experience.

Town or city park walks with the elderly

Fresh air and gentle exercise do wonders for our physical and mental health and it's even better with a walking buddy. Why not volunteer to make a lonely elderly person’s day by inviting them to join you. If they need a wheelchair, you could 'stroll and glide' in a park or through town.

A games or film night in with friends

A get-together gives everyone something to look forward to. Each person brings a dish to share, a drink and a board game. Having a good laugh releases neuropeptides that naturally help fight stress, and what better way to see off the winter blues than with a good laugh?

Tidy house, tidy mind

Fancy ideas on how to save money while cleaning your house? Here's how you could feel virtuous while benefitting from a spring clean.

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