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10 Credit Card Hacks to Help You Get Through The Holidays

10 Credit Card Hacks to Help You Get Through The Holidays

Whether preparing for Turkeys, Santa or a New Year’s Parade, the most expensive time of year is upon us. From gifts to travel, budgets will be stressed, stretched and busted. Here are 10 credit card hacks on how credit cards can really help you spend smarter, save more and travel cheaper during the next few months.

1. Price Protection

Ever feel like you got the short end of the stick because an item went on sale days after you paid full price? Never worry again. Your credit card can protect you! Some cards offer free price protection, where if you make a purchase with your card and find the same product advertised at a lower price within 60 days after purchase, the difference will be refunded, up to $500, subject to a calendar year maximum of $1,000 per account.

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2. Purchase Assurance

Nothing’s worse than buying those new sunglasses, only to have them sink to the ocean floor days after you bought them. Purchase assurance covers most items purchased with your credit card for the first 90 days from the date of purchase, and it comes as a free benefit with many credit cards. It can be a great way to protect your investment from theft, damage and in some cases even loss!

3. Extended Warranty

Never, ever fall for a pushy salesman upselling you an extended manufacturers warranty again. Aside from the fact that they tend to be dramatically overpriced, your credit card likely already does it for you, automatically and completely free. Most credit cards offer an extended warranty that doubles the written warranties for up to one additional year on most new purchases made with your credit card.

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4. Satisfaction Guarantee

Ever buy a product, use it, and then have buyer’s remorse. Sometimes, it’s too late. However, with some credit cards, if you become dissatisfied with a product you purchase using an eligible MasterCard within 60 days of purchase, and the store won’t accept a return, you could be eligible for a FULL refund for the cost of the product up to $250 ‒ that’s awesome.

5. Zero Liability

If you’re about to make a purchase where you don’t see the product, it has a wait time or relies on delivery, such as an online order, furniture or travel, use a credit card. If you pay cash or use a gift card, you run the risk that if the product never arrives, or your tour company goes under, you’re out of luck. However, if you use your credit card, your bank is on the hook for a dispute and fraudulent charges like undelivered goods, delivery of incorrect merchandise, etc…

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6. Introductory Rates

If you need to carry a credit card balance for the next few months, plan in advance. Instead of paying 20% plus interest rates, get yourself a credit card with a 0% balance transfer or 0% introductory rate on new purchases. This will allow you to avoid interest charges, often times for up to a year or more, while you pay down your balance.

7. Retail Credit Card Promos

Retailers like the Gap, Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s love when you sign-up for their store credit card, often offering an additional discount on your purchase. These discounts of 15% or more can really add up. Just make sure to use the opportunity for savings not credit, and pay back the balance immediately ‒ retail cards charge interest rates north of 28%!

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8. Welcome Bonuses

Instead of paying for a flight for your holiday travels, why not just apply for a new credit card? There are many opportunities from American Airlines, Delta, Southwest, or United to get great credit card welcome bonuses. If you want to get two tickets for the same airline (for you and a special someone), match one of the U.S. airline credit cards above with another credit card that allows you to transfer miles to that airline.

For example, some of the best Aeroplan credit card offers give you enough points for a free return flight to anywhere in continental North America, and allow you to book on United. Apply for a United and an Aeroplan credit card, and you can get two free round-trip tickets on the same flight!

9. Companion Vouchers

Some credit cards, such as the Alaska Airlines Visa card, offer an annual companion voucher, each and every year. For a mere $121, you can buy a voucher for a travelling companion to any destination in North America Alaska Airlines flies, including Hawaii!

10. Cash Back

The average person spent over $800 on gifts during the holiday season alone last year! If you’re going to spend the money, you might as well get rewarded for it. Cash and debit cards get you little if any rewards at all. A cash back credit card can get you 1% to 5% in cash back depending on where you shop. You’ll likely spend more on big ticket items during the holidays than at any other time of year. Get rewarded for it.

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Marc Felgar

Marc Felgar is an aging, health & senior care expert focused on improving the lives of mature adults.

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Last Updated on September 2, 2020

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Personal finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. That’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways to set financial goals and actually meet them with ease.

4 Steps to Setting Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task, if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps to get you started.

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream, and this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore, if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it’s for. It could be anything, including your child’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car, etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives that you foresee in the future and put a value to each.

2. Keep Goals Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a Pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going beyond what you can realistically achieve will definitely hurt your chances of making meaningful progress.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic, as it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said: “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman.” This quote sums up what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore, account for inflation[1] whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far into the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years from now, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is a mere 3%. Always account for this to avoid falling short of your goals.

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4. Short Term Vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach to achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It’s important to bifurcate goals into short-term and long-term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal that is due in next 3 years should be termed as a short-term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long-term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short-term vs long-term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

By now, you should be ready with your list of financial goals. Now, it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

How to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a two-step process:

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self-realization is the best form of realization, and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your spending. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you will be surprised by how small expenses add up to a sizable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different buckets so that you know which bucket is eating most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pumping up your savings rate.

If you’re not sure where to start when tracking expenses, this article may be able to help.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classic mistake when setting financial goals. We pay ourselves last!

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Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world, i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement this is to put the savings on automatic mode, i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (mutual funds, retirement accounts, etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will help release some control and compel us to manage what’s left, increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick With It

Learning to create a budget is the best way to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be organized

Nowadays, several money management apps can help you do this automatically.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely, but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options, and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that, in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counterintuitive to many, there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

  • Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Weekends are more expensive.
  • If you are a travel buff, try to travel during off-season. You’ll spend significantly less.
  • If you go shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

The key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice, which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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5. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission.

Therefore, in order to stay the course, surround yourself with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

6. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

If you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energized to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot easier for you to track your progress.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However, savings, when invested wisely, can do wonders.

1. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investment doesn’t come naturally to most of us, so it’s wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings, and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

2. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about the common ones, like a savings account, Roth IRA, and others.

Just like “no one is born a criminal,” no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference[2].

As a general rule, for all your short-term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature, for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds, etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less compared to equity instruments.

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3. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding:

“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.”

Use compound interest when setting financial goals

    Make friends with this wonder kid. The sooner you become friends with it, the quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

    Start saving early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

    4. Measure, Measure, Measure

    All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments and taking stock of how our investments are doing.

    If we don’t measure progress at the right times, we are shooting in the dark. We won’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not, whether the financial advisor is doing a decent job, or whether we are moving closer to our target.

    Measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

    The Bottom Line

    Managing your extra money to achieve your short and long-term financial goals

    and live a debt-free life is doable for anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort. Use the tips above to get you started on your path to setting financial goals.

    More Tips on Financial Goals

    Featured photo credit: Micheile Henderson via unsplash.com

    Reference

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