Tuesday, December 16, 2008
NEW YORK--We are a country of spenders who must learn the hard way to practice what our grandparents have always known: A penny saved is a penny earned.
Consider that about 43% of Americans spend more than they earn, according to estimates from the federal government, and the average household carries some $8,000 to $10,000 in credit-card debt.
To make matters worse, the average American no longer saves money. That's tumbled from a 10.8% average savings rate in 1984 into negative territory today. It's no wonder that many of us have been living way above our means for some time.
But that is getting harder and harder to do. Available credit for people to finance their lifestyles has shrunk if not dried up altogether and many Americans are standing by in shock watching their mortgage payments surge while the value of their 401(k)s drop.
It's clear Americans need to start spending less and saving more. That may sound easier said than it's done. The key is to be aware of your where your money is going and take steps to stop the leaks. Here are five simple tips that could save you hundreds of dollars a month:
1. Cash back at the pump
In the past five months gasoline prices have dropped 56%, from an average price of $4.11 to $1.80 a gallon. Somehow, households found the money to pay the higher price and survive so now people should take that excess money they are saving and bank it.
Jean Chatzky, author and personal finance expert suggests using the money you were spending on gasoline to build up that rainy day fund or to pay some your holiday expenses instead of racking up more debt.
2. Supper savings
Another great way Americans can cut costs each month is to eat at home, says Jonathan and David Murray, twin brothers who are financial advisers.
According to a recent Zagat survey, Americans will spend an average of $34 this year every time they go out to eat dinner, that's for one dinner, drink and gratuity; $76.00 if they live in one of the 20 most expensive cities. If a couple does that four times in a month the expense is close to $300 in low-cost areas and $600 in higher-cost regions, and if you have more than one drink or are treating family or friends, costs can add up quickly.
Plan a dinner or party at home and ask guests to bring a dish. If you're big on getting together with friends, family and work associates, this could save you hundreds of dollars a month.
3. Renegotiate bills
You may not be able to negotiate with the gas company or the electric company, but you can with credit cards, cable and phone services, among others. Do the homework and find out what competing cable companies, for example, are offering and ask your provider to renegotiate your bill. You may have to get through to a manager but Chatzky said she recently did this and got her monthly bill reduced by $50.
4. Smart shopping
Retailers are poised to have one of the worst holiday shopping seasons in decades and are offering deep discounts to move merchandise. But smart shoppers can save even more money by hunting down coupons. Before ordering online or going to a store, go to sites like Couponcabin.com and Ultimatecoupons.com or Google the name of a store and often you'll get a coupon code to enter at checkout. You can save 10% to 20% or more on the total order or maybe get free shipping.
There are also coupons to print out and take to the store for deeper discounts. And don't be afraid to pit one retailer against another by asking for a price match on sale items.
5. Keep the receipt
It is important to hang on to all your store receipts and keep track of sales. Savvy shoppers can possibly save even more on purchases by checking back to see if the retailers lower prices even further. If that happens within two weeks of your purchase, most stores will credit you the difference.
Copyright © 2008 MarketWatch, Inc.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Shining in front of us is the reality that our churches MUST teach Stewardship. And we need to do so quickly! A look at history will reveal that during the Great Depression, churches realized what was missing and reversed the trend. They began to teach stewardship in the Biblical light of Lordship (which is the right way) and what followed were some of the greatest days of ministry and growth in America by these churches.
Will the current economic crisis wake us up? I pray so! When we get Lordship right and thus Stewardship right, we get the church, our lives, and our families back in line with the Word of God. Stewardship is your great friend Pastor! Allow me to encourage you to teach it and teach it faithfully.
Give me a call should you need ideas or encouragent. I can share with you how God is using the teaching of Stewardship in some remarkable ways in many churches around the country!
May God Bless you as you teach STEWARDSHIP faithfully!
Thursday, October 9, 2008
#1 - Simply our lives!
We all live more complex than needed. It appears that we have failed to realize that our complexity is one of the ingredients leading us to financial disaster. We each need to look at what we can cut from our expenditures. We need to take a serious look at it. Mow our own grass. Wash our own car. Cook our own food. Take our lunch to work and school. Have our children ride the bus. Iron our own clothes. Rediscover family time with games and walks in the park. Ride bikes! Get back to the simple things of life that do not cost!
#2 - Buy Smart!
Rather than buying new cars, figure out how to get more miles out of the cars we have. Don't fall for the "cheaper gas mileage" scam and take on a big car note just to save gas. Make the clothes you wear, last longer and forget about being "in style". Watch out for the sales! A sale may not be cheap enough for you to afford! Stay home on Tax Free weekends! If you must buy, buy two weeks after a Tax Free weekend when the items are on sale for 20% off - get the savings?
Stay tuned... More to come!
Thursday, October 2, 2008
First, teach Stewardship! If God is first, then our spending and managing of money should reveal this. For those who cling to the idea that "tithing" is for the Old Testament only, great! Teach new Testament Stewardship where the 10% was raised! The Bible is not silent about this subject and we as leaders must learn quickly to put our fears aside and teach the people that God has entrusted to our care the real answers to the needs in America - Great Stewardship!
Second, ministry needs are in need of changing! We must focus on "true" ministry that reaches people with the Gospel. Missions is a must. We must also insure that those things we fund are essential in growing disciples of Christ. I am a firm believer in churches leading the way in their budgets and spending plans. Drop the frivolous, and embrace that which is needed!
Third, focus on you can do things in a simple manner. Simple does not have to be "cheap" but it can be less expensive!
More next week!
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Friday, September 19, 2008
As we move through the waters of this quickly moving flood, there are some key issues of leadership that we need to understand and live by. The following is a good list to guide us all in helping during these trying times.
1. Keep the vision of reaching people at the forefront of all we do.
2. Teach people to rethink their priorities.
3. Teach the Biblical principles of Stewardship that are missing in our culture.
4. Lead by example in the church in keeping Missions a priority.
5. Be smart - a church that retreats is a church that dies.
Our ministries should be recession and depression proof. We as leaders make the difference!
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
There was a problem though! Things of importance were still needed. School was starting and teachers had not posted the list of supplies until after the first day. Tax free was long gone. So was the money. While this couple shopped, they noticed what my family had noticed several years ago. The items they purchased tax free were now on sale at 10 to 30 % off. Do the math - tax free cost more than waiting three weeks.
Sales and gimmicks are designed for one thing - to make you spend money! They are not "take it to the bank" savings and can lend in you over spending. So here is a good thing to remember. When you see a SALE sign or TAX FREE advertisement, think BEWARE!
Actually, stop and think. You might remember that other items will be needed soon and the things on sale are suddenly not that important.
This principle works well for ministry offices! It can save you money needed for ministry at home and at the office!
Friday, August 22, 2008
Here is a quote from a Baptist Press article by Dr. Ron Herrod, a friend and man who has lived this principle out his entire ministry who is now serving as President of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelist:
"The two functions to accomplish that goal are to win the lost and grow the saved so they can win the lost, Herrod said. Anything on the church calendar or in the church budget that does not meet those two functions is a waste of time and money, he noted."
I think his comment is right on track! Take a long look at your budget with this quote in mind, it just might open the door for God to bless!
Monday, August 18, 2008
In preparing for your budget data collection, let me challenge you to examine the contracts and leases on your office machines!
Did you know:
- The average church spends more on interest in leases than it does in Children's Ministry?
- The average church spends twice the price for leases on copiers than the copier really costs?
- Have you thought about those postage machines? Think about them!
Good stewardship needs to begin in the office of our churches. As churches struggle to provide the funding for needed ministry and pay the ministers what they should, a great place to look for adjustments can be found in the office leases and service agreements. You might be surprised how much your church can save, and thus put into real ministry, without sacrificing in the area of needed equipment.
Two churches in the past (3) weeks have saved over $30,000 over 5 years in these areas and are now putting that money into reaching and ministering to people. The benefits of living STEWARDSHIP in the office will bless you and your ministry more than you can imagine.
Call us if we can help. Eklund Stewardship ministries has partnered with a great company that works with us in assisting you in meeting your office needs without robbing your ministry budgets. Give us a call. We are here for you!
Monday, August 11, 2008
Thanksgiving for men like Dr. Bob Eklund, Dr. Jerry falwell, Dr. John Bisgno, Dr. David Hampton and many others flowed through my blood as I tried to pass along what had been shared with me over the years. Stewardship is not something to be feared. Stewardship should be embraced. It is our plumb line with all things pertaining to Christ and our relationship with Him.
Stewardship is more than money. It is the essence of our daily walk with our Lord. We are called to be stewards of all things; earth, gifts, talents, time, and money. I have found that when I embrace STEWARDSHIP in all areas, the power of God is so evident in my life. Freedom is found in the faithful act of being a good steward. Ministry is birthed when stewardship is practiced.
Just yesterday, I had recieved notice of a family struggling due to an illness their son had. On the spur of the moment our church recieved over $1,200 for this family while also giving to meet the budget needs of our ministry. Pastors before me had taught stewardship and the people had learned. Yesterday was just one of hundreds of examples that I could share with you.
As you move into a new week and as you begin your budget process, be sure you embrace personally the practice of STEWARDSHIP! It is not something to fear. However, when it is left alone, one might begin to realize something truely to FEAR!
Have a great week being a FAITHFUL STEWARD!
Thursday, August 7, 2008
1. Keep evangelism at the top of the list!
2. Keep Missions at the top of the list!
3. Involve people in the process - it shares the ministry and grows commitment!
4. Watch your fixed expenses. Review all contracts and shop insurance contracts.
5. Promote, advertise, and share vision with the whole church as you begin the process!
6. Allow people to share how the ministries of the church are assisting them in spiritual growth.
7. Get rid of "golden cow's" in the budget! They bog you down!
8. Consider adopting a spending plan instead of the usual BUDGET approach.
Remember that VISION is key in helping to avoid the sometimes too frequent "budget spats" that occur in many churches. Teach your people Biblical Stewardship and lead by example.
Eklund Stewardship is here to assist you in this process. Email or call us to see how partnering with us can change your nightmare into a great dream of Biblical reality.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
What can you do to make sure your church financial house is in order?
- Have a yearly REVIEW (see some options available here) that will walk you and your leadership team through the finances from top to bottom and then give your church a full explanation.
- Learn how you can share insights weekly with your people without sounding self serving.
- Know how to develop and keep accountability.
- Train your lay teams in Church Finances and learn to develop a team approach!
- Determine to never get lazy in the area of stewardship - it will cost you!
Eklund Stewardship works with many churches in the area of Budgeting, Spending Plans, and Reviews to prevent the disaster from occuring. We would love to hear from you concerning your needs. We love the role that God has provided in allowing us to partner with you in living out the true reality of STEWARDSHIP in your church. You can avoid the messes that are being read about today.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Credit bureaus keep track of your payment history, outstanding loan balances and legal judgments against you. They then use this information to compile a credit score that reflects your credit worthiness. The numerical rankings go from a low of 300 to high of 850. The higher the better. It's this score that lenders use to determine whether they'll grant a loan. In general, any credit score below 600 means that you are probably in over your head.
Sign No. 2 - You are Saving Less Than 5%
In 2005, the average rate of personal savings was an astonishing -0.5%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. That means that not only were we spending all of our income, but also that a good number of us were also dipping into personal savings. This was the worst savings rate that Americans have recorded since 1933 when it was -0.7% during the Great Depression. The rate has bounced back into positive territory, but in 2008, it still hadn't cracked 1%A savings rate below 5% means you could be in real danger of financial ruin if someone in your family were to have a medical emergency, or your family home were to burn to the ground. With savings this low, it likely means you wouldn't even have the money to pay the necessary insurance deductibles. Ideally, everyone should try to save as much as they can, but in terms of targets, the rule most financial advisors suggest is 10% of your gross income. Beginning at age 30, if you were to save 10% of your $100,000 annual income in your 401(k), or $10,000 every year, and earn a rate of return of 5%, that money would grow to more than $900,000 by age 65.
Sign No. 3 - Your Credit Card Balances are Rising
If you are one of those people who pays only the minimum due on their credit card balance each month, or if you send in only a small contribution toward the principal balance, then you are most likely in over your head. Ideally, you should only charge what you can pay off at the end of each month. When you can't afford to pay off the balance in its entirety, you should try to make at least some contribution toward the outstanding principal. The importance of paying down credit card balances as soon as possible cannot be understated. A person with $5,000 in credit card debt that makes the minimum payment of just $200 per month will end up spending more than $8,000 and take almost 13 years to pay off that debt.
Sign No. 4 - More Than 28% of Income Goes To Your House
Calculate what percentage of your monthly income goes toward your mortgage, property taxes and insurance. If it's more than 28% of your gross income, then you are likely in over your head.
Why is 28% the magic number? Historically, conservative lenders have used the 28% threshold because their experience has told them that this is the rate at which the average person can get by, make their mortgage payments and still enjoy a reasonable standard of living. Certainly, some homeowners can get by spending a higher percentage on their homes, particularly if they cut back elsewhere, but it's a dangerous line to walk.
Sign No. 5 - Your Bills are Spiraling Out of Control
Buying on credit and paying by installment has become a national pastime. It's much easier to buy a new flatscreeen TV when the salesman breaks down the price in monthly installments. What's an extra $50 per month, right? The problem is that all of these bills start to add up, and you end up nickel and diming yourself into bankruptcy. If your monthly income is being sliced and diced to pay for dozens of unnecessary installment purchases and services, you are likely in over your head.
Lay out all of your monthly bills on your kitchen table, and go through them one by one. Do you have a cell phone bill, a PDA bill, an internet bill, a premium cable TV package, a satellite radio bill, and all of those other gadgets that generate countless monthly bills? Ask yourself whether each product or service is really necessary. For example, do you really need a 500-channel premium cable TV package, or would you really notice the difference if you had fewer channels (and paid less)?
Some of the best places to find savings include your telephone bills (cell and land line), your utility bills (turn off the lights, and don't run the air conditioning if nobody is home) and your entertainment expenses (you could stand to dine out less and to pack a lunch for work).
Bottom Line, as a nation, we are digging ourselves ever deeper into debt. To avoid becoming part of the gloomy bankruptcy and foreclosure statistics, it's important to measure your financial health regularly. The five signs presented here are not a death sentence; instead, they should be seen as symptoms that allow you to diagnose a problem before it gets worse.
Being a Steward should be a top priority for everyone! We will not be able to reach the world if we cannot get a handle on our daily lives.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
# 1 - God is the creator and supreme giver. Psalm 24: 1 "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it." Thus there is not any room for us to claim ownership - God owns it all.
#2 - God is the sustainer of all things. He as creator is the one who knows how to sustain it. Not us! He gives life. Our job is to be obedient and to accomplish His will - not ours or our thoughts! We are not needed apart from our limited role as STEWARDS.
#3 - God is the one enables us to accomplish! James 1: 17 "every good and perfect gift is from above. God has enough of everything. He never lacks anything. He works to help us in our obedience to to get His best in, and working through, our lives.
#4 - God is a God abundance. He has more than you and I can imagine or even dream! It is His desire for us to soar. We limit ourselves. We need to seek His desires and His parameters.
#5 - God is a God of Grace! He is the all time most loving and most forgiving of all! He is also the ultimate Steward in every way, all of the time.
Next, we will look at what it means to be a Steward. Are you ready for 2009 Budget preparation? Eklund Stewardship can help!
Sunday, July 6, 2008
DELIVERING GAS SAVINGS
UPS squeezes every last drop of mileage from its fleet of 94,000 vehicles, saving 3 million gallons of gas a year. Some expert tips:
Plan ahead. Map out the most efficient routes and make single stops for multiple tasks in the same area. "Do all your work in one trip," says Jack Levis of UPS, "and time your trips so you don't run into congestion."
Keep moving. "Left turns waste time and energy," says UPS spokesperson Donna Barrett — you don't want the engine idling at a green light while you wait for oncoming traffic to pass. When you do make a planned stop, turn off the engine.
Avoid aggressive driving. "Drive as if you had a hard-boiled egg between your foot and the gas pedal," says John H. Davis, host of PBS's MotorWeek. "It's OK to break the eggshell, but you can't squash it." By observing speed limits and avoiding abrupt starts and stops, you can increase mileage by 5% on city streets and up to 33% on the highway &mdash that's $27 per 20-gallon fill-up.
Control your speed. Using cruise control automatically reduces the amount of fuel you burn on the highway. When you set your speed, keep in mind that gas mileage decreases dramatically when you exceed 60 mph. Stick to the right lane, and you can reduce your fuel consumption by up to 20%.
Lighten your load. An extra 100 pounds of weight reduces mileage by as much as 2%, the equivalent of 8 cents per gallon. In other words, you can save up to $50 per year simply by cleaning out your trunk.
Don't idle. If traffic is at a standstill, turn off the engine. An hour of idling can swallow a gallon of gas. Also, avoid long lines at drive-through windows. You'll save money by going inside.
CHEAT THE WIND
Roll up your windows. It may seem odd, but you'll get better summer mileage by cranking the A/C on the highway, since open windows create drag at high speeds. (If you're just running errands around town, fresh air is best.)
Maintain a sleek profile. Avoid accessories like luggage racks, which increase drag, and keep your tailgate upright. Fix any dents, especially to the front of the car. A high-gloss finish won't help your mileage much, but keeping the body straight will.
Doing a little can save you a little and that is good STEWARDSHIP!
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Turn on your television and you will see several commercials explaining how you can save enough money to support their organization. The approach they use is that for just .60 cents per day...! You have seen those haven't you. The message of the commercials for groups trying to raise money are actually causing people to think. We as leaders in the church should be doing the same. From missions to special projects, pennies count. I wonder sometimes how much money we literally throw away each year. How many people could be reached with the Gospel of Jesus if we only realized that PENNIES DO COUNT! If one mall parking lot contains more than $3, I wonder what else could be found. And then there is the money that we waste on "things" that really are not essential. It does add up quickly.
I pray that we will become better stewards of all that God has given to us.
Praying with and for you - Eklund Leadership Team
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Like my son, few people think about being a steward in times like this. Do you? Have you shared with your people this specific thought - don't forget to tithe on your rebates?
Intentional Stewardship is what our people need! We have lost this in our current culture. I have senior adults and parents who would have thought about the tithe immediately. Why do most of our younger people NOT?
We are not intentional when it comes to Stewardship.
Think of some creative ways that you can share with your people how they can teach their children and grandchildren about being intentional in the area of stewardship. They will thank you for it years later!
And that, I can promise you!
Friday, June 13, 2008
In our first lesson, we listed several things that we leaders can share with our people that will assist them in making wise choices concerning spending and stewardship. Today, we will highlight one thought that each in the list encompasses. It is the issue of our culture in America changing due to the energy crisis.
Culture changing is difficult. Money will however do more in this area than we ever imagined. With all the ills of our culture - many of them rooted in poor "culture driven habits" facilitated with poor stewardship, just maybe God is going to finally wake us up. What things in our lives are the most valuable? What is it we treasure more than anything?
We can lead our people in this prioritizing. In fact, as leaders we must. Our use of video messages and simple thoughts given verbally and in writing will help accomplish this. Plan these out this summer. As the price at the pump continues to rise, get a jump on this for your families before school begins in the fall.
It will also help your Finance/Stewardship teams in your ministry. Some Pastors are already nervous about budget planning for next year. Remember that the greatest thing you can do for your people is to teach and create an atmosphere of stewardship in their lives and in the life of your church. Our culture is changing! We can not afford to allow the ministry of the Gospel to suffer.
May God find us faithful in leading our people. It may just be the greatest gift we could have ever received. Stewardship is now in the forefront of every ones minds!
Remember, we are praying with and for you!
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
How do we respond to this mentality as leaders?
Share with your people simple principles to reduce their costs. Here are a few ideas:
Teaching these and many more will help your people change their focus and help them preserve the Biblical disciplines of giving the tithes and offerings. We cannot afford to stop the giving of these, even if gas hits $5 per gallon.
Remember, we are praying with and for you!
Let us know if we can assist you!
Monday, June 9, 2008
These are valid questions. Yet at the forefront should be an understanding that we need now more than ever to be teaching STEWARDSHIP. People are already making adjustments in there lifestyles. The key is in making the RIGHT adjustments. As we in America experience a period of economic adjustment, the church should realize the need to be out in front in teaching how to make this adjustment in a Biblical manner.
What are your thoughts? As a leader, are you feeling nervous about the plan God has given you in His ministry assignment? One Pastor shared this morning (here at the SBC Convention) his concerns and how God simply revealed during his prayer time today, that it was a time to excercise faith for him personally. This lesson led him to ask specific questions concerning how to teach and what simple things could be done to aid in bringing Biblical Stewardship to the forefront.
Do you have a plan?
Later this week, we will reveal and discuss some simple teaching moments that can be used with your people to assist them in making this adjustment. It is not time to retreat. It is time to get back to basic Biblical Stewardship!
Eklund Stewardship is...
Praying with and for you!
Saturday, June 7, 2008
Question: Should the Pastor and church lead their own campaign?
Pastors and church leaders often debate the issue about leading their own Capital Fund Campaign. The questions range from saving money to preventing the harming of church members (bruising the fruit). It is not difficult to look around and see many Pastors of large churches conducting their own campaigns and some even offering “do it yourself” seminars. The temptation is there and the battle of the decision taxes the mind. Poor experiences with Commercial Capital Fund companies also play in the equation. What should a Pastor do? What is the best approach?
Eklund Stewardship Ministries has a deep understanding of the issues and factors being considered. We have been there. We find that the results of Pastor led campaigns tell the real story. First, the actual monies raised, versus pledged, are normally far less than what is possible. Pledges may be high on the front end but actual dollars in the bank are lower. Second, many Pastors are labeled as "preachers who only want money" when they lead the campaign themselves. This is simple - they are the main spokesman and leader in the church. This labeling can hurt future ministry and cost the church new families who may be visiting the church during the campaign period. Third, statistics show that many who lead their own campaigns do not stay in their current ministries long after the campaign. Fourth, Eklund Stewardship Ministries understands the need to protect the church budget during the Capital Fund Ministry. Our approach extensively addresses this issue through our teaching and training times during the intensive phase and continues the protection during the follow up period of the campaign. We lay a Biblical foundation that keeps this in the forefront of the hearts and minds of the people during and after the campaign. Through the training, big events, and follow up, the Eklund approach emphasizes developing the principles of Biblical Stewardship to the entire church family. Fifth, Eklund Stewardship Ministries experience affords the church the advantage of knowing (how to do, what to say, and when to do it), the processes that need to be done in order to conduct a successful campaign ministry. We are able to lead your church in knowing what NOT to do, which is a common weakness in Pastor led approaches. We become partners with your church leadership. We help keep your campaign on track and maintain the Biblical principles throughout.
At Eklund Stewardship Ministries, we conduct a Biblical approach to Capital Fund Ministry, and our approach is designed to eliminate the often heard horror stories of typical commercial approaches. Think about this: do you think of REVIVAL while thinking about your Capital Fund Needs? At Eklund Stewardship, we do! Revival is our focus. For without a God sent REVIVAL, the capital raised will be meaningless.
We look forward to the opportunity to share with you the difference that many Pastors have already learned - Capital Fund Ministry when done right will produce more than money. It will result in revival, new leaders, increases in commitment by God's people and a pleasant experience accomplishing God's vision for your church by building a culture of giving.
Friday, June 6, 2008
Our culture has lost the discipline of being a steward. The Bible has much to say about how God has blessed us and how we are given the great opportunity and responsibility of being stewards of His blessings. Should we in America fail to correct our current path in this area, soon families and churches will be in financial ruin. We pray that this blog can be part of the solution and help in turning us back to God in the area of stewardship.
Eklund Stewardship Ministries is the premier ministry today in assisting churches in this vital area. Our leadership team is filled with Pastors who are called to Stewardship and equiped to assist others. Here at Stewards For Him, you will find weekly articles on subjects that you can put to use in your daily life and in the life of your church. You will find resources from Pastors doing the work and seeing the fruit in their stewardship teaching. We look forward to hearing from you and cherish the opportunity of learning together how we can truly be great STEWARDS of all God has blessed us with.
Eklund Stewardship Leadership Team