Most families are looking for ways to save money, and financial consultants by the hundreds feel that they have the money-saving methods for which these families are looking. These include everything from refinancing home mortgages, home equity loans, and low-interest charge cards to no-down payment investment property, borrowing against retirement funds, and no-charge-at-all discipline.
In evaluating the multiplicity of suggestions and money saving options, 10 suggestions seem to be advised more than any others: (1) give to God; (2) start small; (3) put money into a retirement account; (4) monitor ATM withdrawals; (5) pay off charges and loans; (6) pay extra on home mortgage; (7) pay off car loan; (8) open an IRA; (9) evaluate life insurance; and (10) be accountable for your money.
Give to God
When we recognize that God owns everything and all blessings come from Him, our role as managers, or stewards, becomes evident. Part of being a good steward is giving back to God a portion of what He has entrusted to us. It is not that God needs our money. Rather, giving serves as an external, material testimony that God owns both the material and spiritual things of our lives and that He is the source of all our supply.
Malachi 3:10 is the first place that really directs the tithe: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house.” In the Old Testament, the storehouse was a physical place where the Jews would deliver their offerings of grain and animals. Ideally, the church should serve as the storehouse in God’s economy today.
Although the tithe is an indicator of our obedience to God’s laws, He is looking for the right attitude in our giving. If there were not a willingness to give back to the Lord a portion of what He has entrusted to us, then giving tithes upon tithes would be of little use. So, since the tithe’s purpose is to be a testimony of God’s ownership, each believer should give bountifully and cheerfully.
Most financial experts feel that we need to save at least 5 percent, and preferably 10 percent, of our income and place it into an interest-bearing, liquid savings account. However, don’t give up if you’re not able to put aside 5 or 10 percent. Establishing a saving habit and saving consistently will eventually add up; even as little as $5 per pay period will accumulate. Once saving becomes a habit, set as your savings goal a maintained savings account of at least three to six months’ income.
Put money into a retirement account
If it is available, sign up with your workplace’s 401(k), 403(b), or similar retirement plan in which your company will contribute matching funds to the plan in your name. The most common match is 50 cents on the dollar. If this is the case, you will get an immediate 50 percent return on your contributions.
Monitor ATM withdrawals
Decide how much money you will take out each week and make it last; discipline yourself to stick to your decision. Try to decrease the amount withdrawn every month. If you discover that you have money left over, deposit it into your savings account.
Pay off charges and loans
With the desire, discipline, and time, anyone can pay off his or her charges and loans and stay out of debt. There are four basic steps to eliminate charge and loan debt: (1) Transfer ownership of every possession to God; (2) Allow no more debt (no bank or family loans and cut up the credit cards); (3) Develop a realistic balanced budget that will allow every creditor to receive as much as possible; and (4) Start retiring the debt. Begin by first paying extra on the debts with the highest interest rates. If interest rates are comparible on all of the debts, first pay extra on the one with the smallest balance. After this first one has been paid, apply the regular payment as well as the extra money that was going to it toward the next highest balance. After the second is paid off, apply what was being paid on the first and second to the third highest, and so forth.
Pay extra on home mortgage
You will add equity to your home, reduce the amount of interest paid over the term of the loan, and reduce the length of the loan, if you pay extra monthly on your home mortgage. If you consistently pay $100 extra on a $150,000 loan at 6 percent, you will save almost $73,000 in interest and shave more than 7 years off the original loan. If you can’t commit to an additional $100 each month, just round your payment up to the nearest hundred.
Pay off car loan
Interest on your car loan is not tax deductible and the rate is generally higher than on your home mortgage. Pay it off as soon as possible by rounding up your monthly payment to the nearest hundred and then add $50 to that amount.
Open an IRA
If your funds are limited, open an IRA only after you have maxed out with your company’s retirement plan. If you do not have a company retirement plan, open an IRA immediately.
Evaluate life insurance
If you’ve had the same term life insurance policy for five years or more, you can possibly cut your premiums by changing policies. If you apply for a new policy and get a new medical exam, chances are the insurer may feel that you are a better risk than fixed insurance health assumptions indicate, which means that you will qualify for a lower premium rate.
Be accountable for your money
Know where your money is going by establishing a budget and sticking to it. If the expense is not budgeted, the money should not be spent. Keep a small notebook with you to record miscellaneous budgeted expenses.
Debt-free living is still God’s plan for His people today. The blessings of becoming debt free go far beyond the financial area. They extend to the spiritual and marital realms as well. No one who is financially bound can be spiritually free. And the effects of financial bondage on a marriage relationship are measurable in the statistics of failed marriages. Therefore, God’s people need to make saving money and debt freedom top priorities in their families.
Reprinted with permission from Crown Financial Ministries, www.crown.org.