I can't help but feel slightly giddy at the start of each year. Flipping the calendar from December to January seems to wash away all the mistakes of the past and offers a clean slate from which to start the next 12 months.
Our family was able to achieve some significant financial goals last year - most notably fully funding our emergency savings account - so I can't help but enter the new year with a sense that 2013 will bring good things. Turns out, I'm not alone.
A survey conducted by American Express finds more Americans are feeling optimistic about their finances this year. Nearly four in ten survey respondents report optimism, while two percent are feeling downright indulgent.
Savings balanced with a little extra spending
While 57 percent of those surveyed say they plan to make savings a priority, others are expecting to boost their discretionary spending as well. Compared to 2012, more individuals are planning to increase their spending in the following categories during 2013:
- Leisure travel: 26 percent in 2013 vs. 22 percent in 2012
- Clothes and accessories: 28 percent vs. 23 percent
- Home redecoration: 24 percent vs. 23 percent
- Dining out: 19 percent vs. 14 percent
- Entertainment: 19 percent vs. 14 percent
More than a quarter of respondents say they plan to buy a car in the next 12 months while one in ten are expecting to do major home renovations.
On the savings side, consumers are expecting, on average, to stash away an ambitious $10,893 during 2013. That's significantly more than the average 2012 goal of $7,633 and may be a difficult number for some to meet. In 2012, average actual savings were $5,906.
Make the most of your spending with rewards
Regardless of your specific financial goals for 2013, make sure you maximize both your savings and your spending with a couple easy tactics.
If you are one of the 55 percent of Americans who plan to travel in the upcoming year, don't forget to shop around for the best travel credit card before booking your itinerary. Chances are you'll be using a credit card anyway to make your reservations, so don't miss the opportunity to earn some perks as well.
A good travel rewards card not only can earn you points or miles toward future travel, but may also come with benefits such a complementary upgrades or travel insurance. If you prefer a specific carrier, consider an airline credit card. Otherwise, look for a good all-purpose travel credit card.
However, rewards credit cards aren't just for those planning to travel. Rewards points can be earned on clothing, gas and even grocery purchases. Compare cash back rewards cards to find one that offers the maximum benefits for the purchases you make most often.
Finally, if you are making purchases online with your cash back credit card, don't forget to double-dip by signing up for an online rewards program. Websites such as ebates, MyPoints or ShopAtHome offer cash back rebates which can add to your total overall savings.
Then, when you get your rebates or cash back reward from your credit card, deposit it in your savings account and watch the balance climb.