What do you do when costs are on the rise, your debt is growing, and no matter how hard you try you just can’t seem to make ends meet? You’re not alone. Two out of three Americans do not expect their personal finances to improve in 2023. Now more than ever, you’re probably looking for ways to get a little more wiggle room in your budget so you can pare down your debt, grow your savings, and experience more financial success.
What does financial success actually look like? It depends on who you ask. Some equate success with more luxurious possessions, while for others it's security for the future.
The Bible has a lot to say on the topic of money. There are over two thousand verses that mention it! Any time a topic is brought up that much, you know it’s important – that must mean money, and how we handle it, means a lot to God.
So, what is God’s definition of financial success? Here’s what we know from Scripture:
Based on these passages, what do you think God would want our budgeting to reflect? We'd probably want to start by prioritizing giving and generosity over building material wealth. He'd also likely want us to avoid going into debt. Our budgets should reflect a mindset that sees money as a resource to be handled wisely, not a treasure to hoard or a toy to play with.
No matter what your experience is with budgeting, changing your financial habits probably isn’t something you can do overnight. It takes time to figure out what to prioritize, where to save, and where to invest so you can develop a new routine of generosity and contentment.
A great place to start is by creating more wiggle room in the areas you spend the most to create more margin and flexibility in your budget. According to Ramsey Solutions, there are four categories every budget should include – these are known as the four walls of budgeting: food, utilities, housing, and transportation. Let’s look at some practical ways to cut costs in these four areas:
Saving on Food
- Make a grocery list and stick to it. Shop only for what you need.
- Shop at the cheapest stores instead of defaulting to the most convenient one. Be open to the idea of completing your errands at multiple stops to make sure you’re getting the best deals.
- Don’t go to the store hungry! You’re more likely to make impulsive selections that will add up at the register.
- Try grocery pickup instead of shopping at the store. You’ll see your total add up in the cart before checkout, so you can make eliminations or swaps to stay within your budget. You’ll also be less tempted to add things to your cart that weren’t originally on your list.
Saving on Utilities
- Turn lights and electronics off when you aren’t using them. (The blocks our phone chargers plug into are sneaky – they can pull electricity when they’re plugged in even when nothing is charging!)
- Switch to energy efficient light bulbs that use less electricity.
- Use a programmable thermostat so your household only uses heat and air conditioning when it's needed the most.
- Replace your old appliances. If you have an emergency or rainy-day fund, tapping into it to upgrade your appliances can result in significant water and energy savings.
- Block drafts and add insulation to your doors, windows, and pipes to reduce climate control costs in your home.
Saving on Housing
- Find a roommate to share expenses.
- If you’re a renter, sign a longer lease. A 12-month lease will typically cost less per month compared to a month-to-month lease.
- Prepare to buy a home by saving up at least 20% of the list price for a down payment. This will reduce your monthly mortgage payment compared to a smaller down payment, as well as protect you from paying additional mortgage insurance.
- Wait until the housing market cools down so you don’t over-spend on a house.
Saving on Transportation
- Join a gas rewards or cash back program to shave a few cents off per gallon at the pump.
- Use an app like GasBuddy to find the cheapest fuel prices near you.
- Use alternative transportation like carpooling, biking, or even walking!
If you’re looking for more ways to save money, budget better, or plan for the future, we’ve pulled together some resources to help you steward your money well:
Financial Coaching Ministry
Financial Peace University
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Personal Finance Resources & Tools
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