Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Can we learn to teach STEWARDSHIP?

Here is a great article with simple "to do's" that anyone can apply. Being a good STEWARD is not only important - it is Biblical!

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

Teach Stewardship or...?

As we approach the year 2009, we find that the economic situation is far from reaching the bottom. I am hearing from many Pastors and church Administrators that they are "cutting" budgets in 2009 and expecting the church financial picture to get worse. At one national conference, a speaker even informed attendees that buiding and expanding ministry needed to halt due to the simple fact that the younger adult generations would NOT pay for these.

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!