2022 Off to a Rocky Financial Start? Here's How to Regroup

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  • Many people were sidelined in January as a result of the omicron surge.
  • Higher living costs have also been a burden early on in the new year.

It's definitely not too late to turn things around.

To say January 2022 was a tough month would, for some people, be an understatement. The start of the year brought one of the most substantial COVID-19 surges we've seen since the start of the pandemic, fueled by the highly transmissible omicron variant. That, in turn, forced a lot of people to take time off from work -- in many cases, unpaid -- due to illness or quarantine.

We also kicked off the year with record-high prices due to inflation. Last month, American consumers paid more for gas, groceries, apparel, and many other common essentials. That put a lot of pressure on many people's paychecks, and those without money in savings may already be carrying credit card debt as a result.

If the start of 2022 has been less than stellar from a financial perspective, then you're no doubt in good company. Tempting as it may be to just throw in the towel and write off your financial goals for the year, there's no need to give up just yet. Here are three steps you can take to regroup and move forward.

1. Rework your budget

Rampant inflation may be with us for a good part of 2022. As such, it may be time to rethink your budget and cut back on expenses that aren't essential. This doesn't necessarily mean cutting back on everything -- just making a few key changes that allow you to keep up with your bills without having to resort to debt.

You may, for example, decide to trim your spending on leisure by $80 a month to compensate for higher food, gas, and utility costs. Doing so could help you avoid adding to your credit card balance.

2. Fight for a better raise

While wages grew in 2021, they didn't increase at a fast enough pace to keep up with inflation. If you got a modest raise, it may actually feel like a pay cut when you consider how much extra you're spending on basic living costs.

If that's the case, you shouldn't hesitate to approach your boss and ask for a more generous raise -- one that allows you to keep up with your bills and gives you some financial breathing room. These days, many companies are having a hard time retaining and attracting talent. If you make it clear you're not happy with your raise, your employer may be more motivated than usual to make things right.

3. Get a side hustle

It may be that you've yet to put a dollar into savings this year, and you already have a credit card tab to work off. If that's the case, boosting your income with a side hustle could put you on a more favorable path.

There are numerous gigs you can work on top of your main job, so think about your schedule and how much flexibility you need. It may be more than possible to find a gig whose hours you set yourself. That said, certain industries -- notably, restaurants and retailers -- are really desperate for workers these days, so you may be able to more easily pick up weekend and evening shifts.

It's easy to get discouraged on the heels of a rough January. But remember, there's still plenty of time to turn your financial outlook around in 2022, so don't give up hope just yet.

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