We all spend money every day. Of course, it’s true that God gives some more financial resources than others, but we are all called to be found faithful with as little or as much as He has entrusted to us at this time. And, we are told clearly in Luke 16:11 that faithful money management is the beginning of being entrusted with true riches.
A big part of financial stewardship is controlling the outflow of funds that you receive to ensure that your expenditures reflect your values and priorities. There are two distinct categories of funds that you receive each month, those funds that are left up to you to direct and those funds that are not. Your taxes and tithe should be taken out right off of the top leaving your net spendable income (NSI) to distribute among an unlimited number of alternatives.
Managing the outflow of your NSI is often difficult to do because there are so many things pulling at our wallets. I find that the truly discretionary, and often insignificant, expenses are common budget busters. If you find that the money runs out before the month does, I have assembled a list of 10 money savers that should help you plug up that leaky wallet.
Paying bills online
The average household receives approximately 15 bills per month. With the postage rate at 41 cents, that adds up to approximately $74 a year in postage. Most banks now offer free online bill pay services so you can schedule payments in advance and avoid postage. It will also save time once you become familiar with the system.
Cancel credit cards with an annual fee
Beware of credit cards that charge you an annual fee for the privilege of carrying their card in your wallet. Frequent-flier cards make sense only if you charge $10,000 or more per year. Otherwise, if you pay off balances monthly, opt for a no-annual-fee cash-back card that offers from 1 percent to 5 percent cash back on each purchase. If you are working on paying off old credit card balances, take a look at BankRate.com for a list of cards with the lowest interest rates.
Get a SunPass
If you pay cash for your tolls, you are not only spending more time in the car, but you are also spending more money. SunPass, the Florida Department of Transportation’s Prepaid Toll Program, offers savings of approximately 25 cents off of the cash toll at most toll plazas and exits on Turnpike roads.
Bundle your cable, TV and phone service
Consider a package deal from your local cable or phone company for Internet, television and cable service and save up to 35 percent over á la carte prices.
Do more than the minimum
The average U.S. household carries more than $9,000 in credit card debt, according to CardWeb.com, a credit card research firm. At an average annual interest rate of 13 percent, you’ll spend almost $1,000 on finance charges per year. Take this opportunity to declare war on debt and pay off your cards once and for all.
Take advantage of flexible spending accounts
Many employers offer flexible-spending accounts that let you sock away up to $5,000 per household tax-free for medical expenses, which you can use for health-insurance co-payments, prescription drugs, eye glasses, contact lenses and even non-prescription drugs. This can be a great way to save for medical expenses on a tax-free basis.
Purchase life insurance independently
Purchasing life insurance independently can save you up to 25 percent annually over the same policy offered by your employer. It can pay to take the time to have an independent insurance agent evaluate your needs and recommend a policy that fits your unique situation.
Get annual credit reports free
Federal law now entitles you to a free credit report from each of the three major bureaus (Equifax, Trans Union and Experian) once per year. The only Web site that offers the free reports is AnnualCreditReport.com.
Seventy percent of credit reports have inaccurate information, so take advantage of every opportunity to keep track of your credit file.
Avoid frequent trips to the ATM
The average consumer visits the ATM five times per month. The cash taken from an ATM is often spent without any clear plan to track where the funds have gone. This can wreak havoc on the family budget. In addition, ATM fees add up quickly if you pull money from a bank other than the bank that holds your account.
Evaluate your cell phone plan
If you select a plan with too many minutes, you are wasting money. Spend too many minutes on the phone and your cell phone bill will go through the roof. On average, according to JD Power & Associates, cell phone subscribers only use 64 percent of the minutes they pay for. Call your cell phone company and ask for a review of your account to see if there is a plan that is better suited to your wireless phone needs.
Any attempt to cut expenses begins with a family budget. Most families live beyond their means simply because they don’t have a spending plan in place. If you can’t account for as much money going out each month as is coming in, you might want to begin by tracking everything you spend for five weeks. If you have never taken the time to track, I can guarantee you will be surprised at how quickly the little things can add up.
Rob West is the training and communications director for Kingdom Advisors, a non-profit Life that exists to equip and disciple Christian financial advisors to integrate their faith and profession. Please send questions and comments to [email protected]. The information in this article is for information purposes only and does not constitute advice. You should not rely on any information in this article to make (or refrain from making) any decision or take (or refrain from taking) any action.