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Let’s paint a picture. You’re scrolling through social media when you look up and see the date. You start thinking of all the goals you had throughout the year, trying to remember which ones you achieved. Maybe a few come to mind but not as many as you hoped.
Concerned, you decide this next year is not going to be like that. You’re going to plan ahead, get the new planner and get the exercise bike!
And I am here to tell you: Stop. Take a deep breath. I know, I know. You want to make this year better. But while the intention is great, the results can vary.
Preparing to give your new year a fresh start can start great but often slump after a few weeks, making it hard to reach goals. However, all is not lost. There are a few credit card tricks that can set you up for success and make this year better than ever.
Take a minute to recap 2022
As December winds down, and another year comes to an end, we tend to reflect on all the memories of the past year. It’s the perfect time to think of the highs and lows as well as the upcoming year and the changes we want to make. Whether it’s New Year’s resolutions or making plans to build healthier habits, it’s tempting to look toward the new year and its potential. It’s a fresh start after all. There’s no better time to start improving than right at the beginning, right?
While the intention is great, what you may actually be doing is setting yourself up for disappointment or stress. Having a break from work and quality time for a few days is a great way to reorganize yourself but what happens when life rushes back in? When unexpected events, work projects or distractions make that new exercise bike look less exciting?
Now, I’m not saying self-improvement is impossible. Self-improvement is essential to us, our goals and our health. But there may be a few smarter ways we can approach it.
Remember, inflation is still rising
While there have been some financial news highs — including the announcement of possible student loan forgiveness and extension of card perks from top issuers — there have been a few lows, too.
One of the most pressing concerns for Americans has been rising inflation. On top of that, interest rates are at record highs. Since March, there has been a record of seven interest rate hikes for a total of 4.25 percentage points, with more to come.
Out of context, these changes can seem small, but a trip to the grocery quickly proves otherwise. Not only has it put a strain on necessities but it also has slowed the way we approach fun. Vacations are being postponed and holiday shopping is either being planned earlier or downscaled.
The worst part: It doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. In fact, many financial experts have predicted the possibility of a recession hitting in early 2023 and staying throughout the year.
But you still got this
Despite this, not all is lost. There is no time like the present to make changes that help make next year better. However, you don’t have to wait until the new year to get a “new you.” There are so many ways you can start improving even this late in the year for better financial health in the upcoming months, small changes that up your savings and mindset around your money in general. There are also a few things that you can be doing now with the card you already have (or the one you’re double checking you qualify for).
Card statements are your friend
Credit card statements and year-end summaries are unassuming but useful tools when reevaluating your finances. They lay out all your monthly spending plainly without any language or features to distract you, giving you the chance to pause and see where you’re spending is least effective.
For example, if you notice you paid for a subscription service, used it for the first few months of the year but abandoned it the rest of the year? Renewing it in January may not be the best use of your money.
Once you’ve seen the patterns of your spending, you can start introducing tools to help you shift spending to better suit you. Credit card apps, as well as budgeting tools like Mint and You Need a Budget, can help give you an overview or declutter your spending. For example, the Chase app’s Today’s Snapshot feature shows you both your daily spending habits and overall spending trends.
Check your perks
Credit cards can come with some awesome perks, like TSA PreCheck credits for travelers or 5 percent cash back for online shoppers. However, there may be some smaller perks that are just as helpful but less advertised.
Some offers don’t even restrict you to a specific purchase, instead offering cash back with a minimum spending level, such as if you spend $1,000 within three months on a Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card, you’ll receive $200 back.
So, let’s say you’re looking to start cooking more in 2023. If you have the Discover it® Cash Back, you’ll notice that you can earn 5 percent up to $1,500 on grocery stores purchases from January to March (activation required). Or if you like to shop online and have a Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card, you can find discounts on cookware when you use the Capital One Shopping feature. Simply seeing what’s available to you on your card can be a great first step for those looking to switch things up.
Invest in what you already enjoy
Often, when talking about self-improvement, we leave what’s already good out of the conversation. Yet, maintaining what makes you happy can be just as beneficial as improving areas you may be weaker in. It’s also a way to avoid the post-new-year slump as it gives you not only a feeling of accomplishment but an activity to look forward to.
Think about your hobbies and your favorite pastimes. Is there a way you’ve always wanted to expand them but haven’t gotten around to? Were there classes you thought about taking or experiences you kept putting off?
Not only are there offers that may knock down the cost of these activities but there are memberships that you can take advantage of. For example, American Express Experiences gives cardholders early access to concerts and sports events. And if you have a Bank of America credit card, you can get free access to top museums just by flashing your card, thanks to the Museums on Us benefit.
No matter the method, this is the perfect time to double down on those activities you love already.
The bottom line
The exercise bike can be a great addition to your home, a useful tool that helps you become more active. However, it can also easily turn into a feeling of failure or a regretful purchase, depending on the price. When trying to make your next year your best one yet, you need more than just good intentions. And you definitely want to avoid throwing money at a problem, if it’s going to become another problem.
Remember, life happens. There will be changes you don’t see coming that can knock your plans all out of order. Most importantly, at the center of all the plans and changes is you. Remember who you are, how you interact with the world and what makes you happy.
Don’t worry about being ten steps ahead. Make small steps, using your cards to your advantage. Review your expenses for the year. Resolve to try out new tools that can help you hit your financial goals. Look at offers and experiences that appeal to you and your goals.
Whatever you do, please don’t buy the exercise bike on an end-of-year self-improvement impulse. Sit with that idea for a minute or a month. The bike will still be there in February.