Dear Friends,

I am very concerned about rising gas and food prices, ongoing losses of jobs, and the financial hardships these situations cause.  I am worried about rising debt in America and the resulting hardships people will face later if they rely too much on credit cards now.  One or two years of accruing debt can easily take 10-12 to pay off. 

I’m not a financial expert. In fact, my husband would laugh if he knew I was writing this.  However, I’ve been in debt and want to 1) help others avoid mistakes I made, and 2) share things I’ve learned since.

CHRISTIAN FINANCIAL TEACHING:  Check out Crown Financial Ministries.  www.crownfinancialministries.org

To avoid drowning in debt, keep these things in mind:

CREDIT CARDS

1) Only spend what you have.  If you don’t have the cash, don’t buy it. 

2) Try to avoid using your credit cards.  If you DO have to use them, go on to #3, 4 and 5.

3) Total your receipts EVERY DAY and don’t allow yourself to spend more than you’ll be able to pay at billing time. 

4) Unless you’re paying your credit card bill in full each month, only allow yourself to use credit cards for things you absolutely need but can’t pay cash for. 

5) If you can’t pay your credit card bill in full, pay as much as you can.  Remember that credit card providers make their money on interest fees, late fees, all other fees.  MANAGE YOUR ACCOUNTS WELL to avoid having to pay fees.  Credit card providers love it if you only pay the minimum amount due because that means more interest for them.  Your balance due will likely grow if you only pay the minimum amount due = more interest paid to the card provider.  WHEN YOU PAY INTEREST FEES AND LATE FEES, YOU’RE GIVING UP YOUR MONEY FOR THE CREDIT CARD PROVIDER.  

MINIMIZING YOUR GAS BILL

1) Less is more when it comes to saving money by saving gas.  The less gas you use, the more money you’ll save. 

2) To use less gas while driving, ease into accelerated speeds (increase speed gradually), don’t ‘gun it’ when you accelerate.

3) Plan your trips carefully, minimizing and eliminating unnecessary mileage.

4) FYI: In town driving uses the most gas because of all the stops-and-starts.  Air conditioning uses more fuel, too, but opening your windows causes ‘drag’ that pulls more fuel.  A recent car expert said there’s no significant advantage either way, so do what you prefer.  I wonder if adjusting your AC temp in the car helps like it does at home — by keeping AC set at higher temp it won’t run as hard.  Just a thought.  I don’t know facts on that.

SHOPPING

1) Be a smart shopper.  Minimize/eliminate unnecessary spending  <<< For me this is especially important at the grocery and Target.

2) Use cheaper shopping alternatives like Sam’s, Cosco, Super Wal-Marts, etc.

3) Watch for sales for things you need.  Give up buying your ‘regular’ brands and buy what’s on sale.

4) Make fewer shopping trips.  For me, fewer trips means fewer temptations to buy extra things.  Fewer trips to the stores saves gas, too! 

5) Do your own cooking and prep.  Premade foods are great for convenience, but you spend a lot more for them.  Buy your own ingredients and do cooking and preparation yourself.  Kids can help!  My younger son (age 7) loves making foods and eats better when he’s helped with food prep!  Last night he made the Banana Pudding Dessert (You know the one with vanilla wafers and bananas?  Yum!)

5) Store-roasted chickens:  This is one pre-cooked food that I do buy regularly.  Our local store roasts chickens cheaper than I can buy and roast them.  Mine wouldn’t taste as good anyway, I’m sure!  I like to buy them on the days they’re on sale.  When I do, I buy a couple of extras, serve one for dinner and pull the meat from the others to use in recipes calling for cooked chicken.  A quart-size freezer bag is perfect for the meat pulled from one roasted chicken.  You can use it within the next day or two, or freeze for use at a later time. 

6) Check local churches for food ministries.  Our church is getting ready to start ANGEL FOOD MINISTRIES(Weddington Church, 704-846-1032).  This ministry is offered in many locations.

FINDING HELP IF YOU’RE IN DEBT:

The Today Show offered info on this site: www.debtadvice.org 

You can also use services to advise you on how to reduce your debts.  BE SURE TO USE ONE THAT IS NOT FOR PROFIT.  Otherwise they’ll be making money from you, taking advantage of your debt situation!  It is realistic to pay $30-$50 per month for services, even for not for profit organizations.  I’ve heard of some that don’t charge anything.  Your Better Business Bureau might be able to guide you to a good organization.

Have a bill you can’t pay?  Call the creditor and negotiate with them to work out a realistic payment schedule based on what you CAN pay.  Even if it’s just a little bit each month, it’s better than nothing.

As stated above, I’m no expert on these things, but hope to share something helpful if needed.  Each of us needs to do our best individually to avoid debt or our whole nation will be suffering the effects otherwise. 

HOW WILL YOU BE SAVING MONEY THIS SUMMER?  TRIPS?  ENTERTAINING KIDS? STAYING COOL?  FOOD?   I’d love to hear your ideas. 

God bless you!

Renee

 

 

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