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Use payment cards to keep your New Year’s resolutions

Jeremy Simon

The end of 2009 is just a few weeks away, which means it’s time to think about New Year’s resolutions for 2010. Amid the economic downturn, financial resolutions are increasingly popular, according to a recent study by Fidelity Investments, with saving more and spending less topping the list of consumers’ fiscal commitments.

While it might seem like canceling your credit card accounts would be the best way to reach those goals, plastic can actually help you achieve your New Year’s resolutions. Here’s how:

Budget with plastic. Try loading a specific, budgeted amount on a reloadable card. Say you want to spend no more than $30 a month on Starbucks. Get a $30 card, and if you use it up, stop it with the double lattes, already. Since there are some downsides to this method, like not earning interest on those funds and the possibility of a store bankruptcy, you may also want to consider the use of a debit card account to achieve similar results, outlined (actually, hand-drawn) by Ramit at I Will Teach You to be Rich.

Keep your cards in a sleeve. I’ve previously written about how keeping your plastic in a sleeve can provide a helpful reminder to think before you swipe. Perhaps you can wrap a picture of their savings inspiration around their credit card to ensure you reconsider before charging. Being more thoughtful about what you buy is a good way to avoid overspending and getting into debt.

Dispute mandatory tips when service is bad. Gathering for holiday meals is a tradition for many families, friends and co-workers, with restaurants often tacking on a mandatory gratuity (such as 18 percent) for large groups. Blogger Len Penzo recommends that when service is poor, rather than make a scene, one of your options includes calmly paying the bill with a credit card instead of cash. Soon after you leave, let the restaurant know about the poor service and ask for your tip money back. Then call your bank and dispute the mandatory gratuity. You may have had a disappointing meal, but at least you won’t end up paying extra for it.

Credit goes to Lifehacker for highlighting the first two tips provided above.

Readers: Do you have any other ways that payment cards can actually help fulfill New Year’s resolutions to save money?

See related: How to cancel a credit card, Credit card ‘sleeves’ encase plastic in a reminder to think before swiping, Poll: 1 in 3 resolve to slash debt this year

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  • Alex Phelps

    Stay away from Barclays Bank and Credit Card Services. Shakey business practices Billing due dates vary and are on Sundays and the interest rates are as hight as 27.24%. SHADY VERY SHADY