By Michelle S. Lazurek, Crosswalk.com
Since COVID, the world became a very tumultuous place. Because everything was shut down during the pandemic, stores that have since re-opened are struggling to make back the profits they lost during those years. We have seen recession—and ultimately inflation—before. But I never felt the inflation as badly as I did these past few months. Gas, groceries, etc. have gone up exponentially, causing people to go into greater debt to make ends meet.
I learned as a child that money was not spent on frivolities but rather only on needs. As a middle-class family, we had enough to meet our needs, but we rarely went out to enjoy life. Finances are always a difficult topic for me as I learned how to use money wisely–but through a lens of fear. My mother was anxious when it came to money, and it's a trait that has been passed down to me. Although I know I need to trust God when it comes to money, trusting God when finances are scarce is scary to me. Although I struggle with fear of lack of money or resources, when I use my money wisely, I know I'm being a good steward of what God has given me. Although our financial future still appears tumultuous, there are ways we can slash our bills to make sure we achieve financial health and well-being.
Here are some ways I was able to slash my bills and make more money in my budget:
Put Away the Credit Cards
First, I stopped using credit cards. Although credit cards seem to be the easy solution for extra money, they can only cause my financial problems in the future. To pay off previous debt and ensure I didn't go back into debt anymore, I stopped using credit cards altogether. I only use them in the event I can pay off the bill in its entirety. Unsecured debt like credit cards can wreak financial havoc on a credit score if credit cards are used irresponsibly. I cannot use my credit card unless I have a plan to pay it off. This has helped with trimming my bills so that I have more money in my paycheck at the end of the month. The key to slashing credit card bills is to only use them in case of an emergency or a large purchase that you know you can pay off. By becoming more financially stable, it has allowed me to dream about future purchases that I can enjoy fully without having to worry about a credit card bill in the mailbox.
Cut Down the Grocery Bill
Second, I cut down my grocery bill. This is by far the biggest expense in my budget. The secret to slashing your grocery bills is to buy only what you need. This may not seem fun, but it will allow you to slash your bill and also eat healthily. Grocery stores are set up to where the outside parameter of the store are all things that you need. However, grocery stores currently have a model in that all the processed food lies in the middle aisles near the outside perimeter. Analyze your food bill and see how much of it is a need and how much of it is a want. By differentiating between the two, you can get what you need at the store and still enjoy financial freedom.
Third, I limited the use of my car. I just cut down on wear and tear and gas. As someone who works from home, this is easier for me to complete than it is for another family who must drive to work. However, try to limit the amount of gas you purchase each month. This may include limiting some fun activities you like to do so you can make more room to pay off unsecured debt at the end of the month.
Pay Down Debt
Fourth, I paid down large amounts of debt. As an author and speaker, I enjoy my job. However, the income that I receive from it is unpredictable. Because I do not have a consistent check coming in each month, I can only count my income as a supplement rather than a necessary part of our budget. Whenever I get extra money from a writing source, I use it to pay down debt. In so doing, I was able to pay down a very large credit card bill which has not only afforded me financial freedom but also eased my anxious mind. Now that that bill is gone, I can focus on giving to others, giving to my church, and saving up for a rainy day.
Fifth, I cut down the amount of subscription services we have. In addition to cable, we also subscribe to several apps, such as Netflix and Hulu. It may not seem like it, but those apps can add up. This is especially hard when I don't use them for a long period of time. It's literally like throwing money out the window! I took stock of what apps we used and which ones we didn't and unsubscribed. It may not seem like much at the time, but long-term, those small sacrifices can add up to big bonuses in my savings account.
Sixth, I trusted God. I tithed even when our bills were big and our paycheck was small. It was difficult, but I took a leap of faith. God provided for us in miraculous ways, and because of this, I tithe not only as an act of worship but also as a way for God to provide our daily bread and enough to help others. When I give to help the needy or pay to help missionaries spread the gospel in other countries, it gives me joy to know that I'm stretching my dollars to make a difference in my community and the world.
Seventh, I sell some of my unused items and hold yard sales. This is a great way for me to purge my stuff but also to make a few dollars in the end. I use the extra money to pay down bills or keep in my savings. I love seeing people use things that I no longer need, and it demonstrates to me that I can use that money responsibly and allow it to make a difference in the world.
Budgets are important because they help us allocate our money in a fair and balanced way. But money is also to be enjoyed. Life is too short to simply store it up for a rainy day. By spending less throughout the year, I can save money toward vacations or day trips just to explore the world and experience it like never before. You may be in a position where you simply can't make ends meet. Consider getting a part-time job somewhere temporarily so you can pay down extra debt and have more room in your paycheck. Budgeting is not always about adding more money but rather cutting down on expenses so you can stretch your primary paycheck as far as it will go.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes
Michelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife, and mother. She is a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her new children’s book Who God Wants Me to Be encourages girls to discover God’s plan for their careers. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and her crazy dog. For more info, please visit her website www.michellelazurek.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.
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