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Do more with less

By Kregg Hood

When money is tight, choose to do more with less. As you know, the marketing “geniuses” in our culture constantly tempt us to spend more than we should. So, if you need a few ideas about reducing your expenses, here’s a “Top 10” list:

1.“Just say no” to new debt, especially on the big-ticket items. Not even zero-percent interest rates justify a new commitment.

2. Make and follow your spending plan. Don’t wait to figure out what you can and can’t spend. Be tough on yourself at first, then relax and reward yourself later when you’ve truly followed the plan.

3. Watch out for your handy ATM card. First, remember that many ATM accounts charge a fee to use their service. Remember that it’s far too easy to get money out of your account. Decide how much cash you can afford to spend each month and use your ATM only according to your plan.

4. Take a “shopping sabbatical.” Sometimes we go shopping because it relaxes us or because we’re bored. Watch out for any trip that takes you where you might be tempted to buy something you don’t really need.

5. Avoid impulse purchases. Save up for all your purchases and wait until you’re sure you need them. Use what you have a bit longer; fix things or wear them out.

6. Use your cash to pay down any outstanding credit card balance. Every dollar you pay on the balance reduces debt and the interest you’re paying on it. You’ll be surprised at the difference small, consistent steps can make.

7. Stay home and cook. You can often buy groceries for three to five home-cooked meals for the same price of one meal eaten out.

8. Take your lunch to work. This is a quick way to save $25 to $30 per week. That may not sound like much, but it’s over $100 per month!

9. Discontinue nonessential monthly subscriptions and memberships. Is cable TV or Internet really more important than inner peace? Do you really need a daily newspaper? Can you exercise at home instead of at a health club? One expense by itself may not seem like much, but together they all add up at the end of the month.

10. Use the envelope system for spending. When you get paid, tithe, pay the rest of your regular bills next, then write yourself a check for the remaining money and cash it. This cash goes into a series of envelopes for each spending category where you decide, in advance, how much you can afford to spend until your next paycheck. When the cash is gone, stop spending. This is the single most powerful step you can take if you really want to get your spending under control.

Follow these ideas and you will feel as if you’ve received a raise. Financial wisdom empowers you to find more money to give and save, even at your current level of income. Plus, as you trust more deeply in God and increase your commitment to be a wise steward of your finances, you will grow in your contentment, too. Once you learn this secret, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start earlier.

KREGG HOOD is a senior vice president with AG Financial Solutions.

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