If you limped through last year on not quite enough cash, these are the tips that can boost your fortunes – and they’re simple enough for anyone to master.

1. Give yourself a review

Just like an annual appraisal at work, a yearly spending review can leave you better off, give you #goals, or flag up things you would rather never face again! If you track your income and spending every month, reviewing is a doddle come December – but even estimates and a bunch of receipts can help you get an overview of…

  • Months you were skint, over-spent, or struggled to get by. What happened, and what would have made things easier on you?
  • How much you spent, and on what – and did it leave you happier or better off?
  • Avoidable extras: late or missed credit card payments, overdue books, or paying over the odds on household bills. What will you do differently next year?

If you’re not sure how good you are with money – or you avoid thinking about your spending habits altogether – a review is your chance to pop the bonnet and see what really makes you tick!

2. Pick a side-hustle

A side-hustle is a way to bring in extra cash through part-time or freelance work – ideally, jobs you can set-up and run for yourself. For our money, you can’t beat passive income (long-term earnings for short-term effort!):

  • Raid your phone (or hard drive) for photos to sell to stock libraries: try PicFair, EyeEm or Alamy.com/students
  • Start a blog or YouTube channel – they’re easy to monetise with advertising, sponsorship or freebies
  • Sell art or home-made goodies online at Etsy or Cafepress, or through craft fairs and car boot sales locally
  • If you’ve got a car (or a parking space), consider joining a rental club – you can earn money lending out your stuff when you’re not using it
  • Teach languages, skills or hobbies through video messaging, or by selling subscriber-only content on your own website.

Give yourself time to research how it might work, think about where you’ll find punters (and how much you’ll charge them), and how you’ll make it work around your studies. Then give it a bash!

3. Get into investing

Investing is a big word for a simple concept: getting your money to earn extra money!

  • If you’re yet to nail the savings habit, start there. Pick an amount and commit to putting it away every month without fail. Then challenge yourself to put away a bit more each time, leave it alone for longer, or to bag the best interest rates.
  • Don’t ignore fun investing: trading cards, comics, vintage toys or books – even sold-out Primark gear has been known to sell at a massive profit online. Just do your research before shelling out for duds!
  • ‘Auto’ apps make light work of commitment: they monitor your bank account and move small amounts of cash into savings or investing funds when you can afford it. Investing isn’t as foolproof as saving (it’s possible to lose more than you put in) but that doesn’t mean you should write it off! Find out for yourself how it works and get expert advice if you need to.

4. Be mean about repeat payments

If you start tracking where your cash goes, you’ll probably find the bulk of it goes towards a handful of bills. That means you can reap the biggest savings from just a couple of tweaks!

  • Whenever packages come up for renewal, do a quick scout to see what the cheapest deal is. If you’re not on it, either switch or ask your provide to price-match.
  • Subscriptions and in-app purchases seem like small change from month-to-month, but can cost you hundreds over a year. If you’ve subscribed to things you don’t use to the max or, worse, you have multiple subscriptions to similar services, get rid!

5. Be realistic about unwanted gifts

Chances are that some of what you get gifted this Christmas (or for birthdays) will never get used. If you’ve been given something hideous by someone you see a lot, you may just need to suck it up – but for everything else, you’ve got options!

  • If you’ve got a gift receipt, swap unwanted prezzies for something you really need and can make good use of instead
  • If you can’t swap, sell – but check first if demand or rarity could make you a bit of profit. Compare prices on eBay, Amazon/Facebook marketplace or, for collectables, specialist websites.

If you haven’t used a wishlist before, it could pay to set one up for the year ahead: friends and fam may prefer to pick presents they know you’ll love and definitely use – plus it’ll save you splashing out later on.

Finding ways to save or make cash isn’t rocket science – and it doesn’t have to be hard work at all. Even trying just one of the tips on this page can boost your cash flow at the start of the year: give it a go!

Guest blog written by Ruth Bushi, an editor at Save the Student – the UK’s largest student money advice site.