5 Changes To Instantly Save Money

Inflation has slowed to 7.1%. Still, Moody’s Analytics estimates that the average family spent $396 more per month this fall than they did in 2021 for the same goods and services. The Census Bureau calculated the median household income at the end of 2021 as $69,021. The average worker received a raise of 4.8% in 2022. For a family earning $69,021, the raise was $3,313 for the year, or $276 a month. That translates to a take-home increase of about $201. After paying $28 tithe on the extra salary, they have an extra $173 per month. That’s a nice sum, but it falls $223 short of the average increase in monthly costs.

If you are in this situation, now is the time to rework your budget and try to cut $223 from your normally re-occurring expenses. If you manage your money well and live below your means, you likely have some room in your budget. However, it is still important to examine your expenses and make cuts where you can.

Here is a plan to cut on spending without feeling deprived.

  1. Cut back on technology expenses. Most home today have an internet and cable television plan, in addition to a cell phone plan, and perhaps a landline telephone. The average household spends $116 on internet and cable and another $114 on cell phones, and many spend much more than that. This is a good time to research your options and see if you can find a more economical plan. Tom’s Guide offers an analysis of the best cell phone plans for 2023 to help you make a wise decision (https://www.tomsguide.com/best-picks/best-family-cell-phone-plan, and cabletv.com has analyzed the best home internet plans (https://www.cabletv.com/blog/best-cheap-internet-packages). Let’s assume for this example that you are able to reduce your technology expenses to $170 per month, saving $60.
  2. Reduce streaming services. Two-thirds of all American households subscribe to Netflix, sixty percent to Amazon Prime, and nearly half to Hulu and Disney+. The cost of these plans is about $42 per month, plus the costs of any movie rentals that are not covered by a plan. When you are researching cable television packages, try to find one that includes free movies that you enjoy. If you do so, you can cancel these subscriptions and save $42 per month. Even if you don’t find a plan with free movies, you can cancel two or three of these subscriptions and save up to $27 a month.
  3. Reduce food waste. RTS (Recycle Track System) estimates that the average household wastes $1,866 in food each year. That’s more than $155 per month. The biggest culprit is produce which goes bad. Meat and dairy products are also highly perishable. Reduce food waste by planning meals before you shop and making a point to use perishable food items in a timely manner. We will assume, that with some effort, you can reduce food waste by $80 per month.
  4. Unplug appliances and electronics when not in use. Estimates are that the average household could save $15 per month by unplugging the coffee pot and other kitchen appliances when not in use.
  5. Reduce money spent eating out. Fast food prices jumped about 15% in 2022. The average lunch out now cost more than $11 for one person, while a sit-down lunch will run closer to $20 with tip. If you cut out two fast-food lunches and one sit-down lunch per month, you will save $42 per month.

These five changes will save you enough money to make up for the loss of purchasing power from inflation. If you find that you need, or want, to reduce your spending more, coffee and beverages on the go are another source of potential savings. A large soda or a cup of regular coffee at a drive-up restaurant will cost you $2 or more, while a specialty beverage could cost you $4 – $6. If you buy one beverage each workday, you are spending between $44 and $132 per month. This amount could be significantly reduced by brewing coffee at home and buying other beverages at the grocery store.

God expects us to be faithful stewards of the financial resources He entrusts to us. Money allows us to meet the needs of our families and bless others. However, it can be a cause of great stress if it is not managed properly. Prayerfully ask God to help you budget and manage your money, and rely on Him to meet all your needs.

To learn more about how to honor God with your money and build treasure in Heaven, please click the Finances categories tab to find many blogs on money management, budgeting, and stewardship. My book Honoring God with Your Money is a great tool for financial money management. Click here to sign up for my quarterly newsletter on managing your money: newsletter signup

If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, you may not understand what it means to rely on God to meet your needs. Please click on Basics of Salvation in the tool bar above to learn how you can accept the wonderful free gift of salvation.

Speaking the Word of God

I read a very sad, yet hopeful, story today about a man had suffered great pain and how he was helped by Christian speaking Scripture to him. It was a reminder that Christians need to regularly read the Bible and spend time in prayer so that we are ready to share Christ with those God puts in our path. My mother referred to this as being “prayed up.”

Scott Smith do not have a personal relationship with God when his daughter was raped in a high school bathroom. The attack filled the family with pain and anger. As Smith sought justice for his daughter, he met a Christian man named Jon Tigges. Tigges befriended him and invited him to travel across the country with him. Tigges was going to share with other conservatives ways to defend their constitutional rights. Smith decided to accompany Tigges, as he felt it would give him an opportunity to share his story.

Smith found that most people already knew his story, and over and over, the Christians he met prayed the same prayer for him. The prayer was Ephesians 6:10 – 13, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

Man and women sitting on a couch while reading the Bible. Each person has an open Bible, and the man is pointing to a Scripture in the woman's Bible.
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com

Smith found peace through the words and Scriptures shared with him by the Christians he encountered on this trip. He came to the conclusion that the purpose of the trip had been for these Christian people to share God’s message with him. He learned to put his trust in God, and God replaced his anger with peace. Smith is now walking with the Lord, because Christians spoke God’s word to him.

Speaking the word of God is the most powerful tool we have. It can help to overcome despair, bitterness, loneliness, anger, and a host of other negative emotions. People across this land are hurting, and they need to hear the word of God. The word of God is light and life. It offers hope to a dark world.

Ask God today to provide opportunities for you to share His word with those you encounter. Read your Bible, prayer, and be ready to share the word of God.

hands folded in prayer atop an open Bibel
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Time Management, Creativity, and REM Sleep

I have a good friend, Johnnie, who has expertise in many subjects, including time management. Time management is essential for Johnnie, as she balances family time, church service, and volunteering with SCORE with the four businesses she currently owns and manages. She also manages to include exercise, prayer, and devotional time into each day.

Earlier this week, I asked Johnnie how she plans her days and if she devoted some time each day to each business or if she focused on different businesses on different days of the week. This lead to Johnnie sharing some her time management tools. In the course of the conversation, she mentioned the importance of being quiet and still for a few minutes upon waking to continue in the creative sphere of REM sleep. I had never before considered that sleep had an impact on creativity, although I read studies that demonstrated that long period of quiet are a boost to creativity.

Coffee, note pad, and flowers
Photo by Lum3n on Pexels.com

Despite this being a new concept to me, I immediately recognized the truth of Johnnie’s statement from my own experiences and those of my husband, Steve.

Steve is a civil engineer. He deals with complex issues in designing sites for buildings and subdivisions and coming up with a good solution is often challenging. He is prone to wake up in the early hours of the morning with a solution having come to his mind. It is not uncommon for him to rise at 4 or 5 am to work on a plan. I believe that these solutions arise from the creative state the brain enters during REM sleep.

Personally, I have found that I if I can stay in bed and be still for a few minutes after waking that I will have a creative spurt. Suddenly, I am inspired with ideas for the next scene for a novel I am working on or a blog post to write.

If you want to increase your creativity, I encourage you to spend some time in the morning being quiet. Let your creative mind continue to work after sleeping, and listen for the still, small voice of the Lord speaking into your life.

Some of Johnnie’s other time management tips included (1) start the day with worship–she exercises to praise music, (2) schedule a time of prayer at the beginning of each day, (3) set aside one or two days a week to be less busy and more focused on projects that require concentration and/or creativity, (4) turn off your phone and ignore email for blocks of time each day, and (5) schedule most meetings on one or two days a week.

Woman with journal and a cup of coffee
Photo by Alina Vilchenko on Pexels.com

Johnnie is the author of Legacy Moments–Transformation that goes Beyond Change. You can learn more about Johnnie and her coaching services at JohnnieLloyd.com

To learn more about how to be a faithful steward of your financial resources, please click the Finances categories tab to find many blogs on money management, budgeting, and stewardship. My book Honoring God with Your Money is a great tool for financial money management.

The Peace that Passes Understanding

My mother used to love to tell the story of how I came home from Sunday school when I was five talking about “the peas is pass is.”  She was quite puzzled and was unable to decipher what I was trying to say.  The next Sunday she asked the teacher, who explained that I was trying to say, “the peace that passes.” We had sung the song “I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy” in class.

One of the lines of the song goes link this: “I’ve got the peace that passes understanding, Down in my heart, Down in my heart to stay.”

As a five-year old, I had no clue what “the peace that passes understanding” was. It is a fun catchy song that has stuck with me through the years. Over a lifetime, I have experienced many instances of this amazing peace.

The song comes from Philippians 4: 6, 7, “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (King James Version)

White dove. The dove represents the Holy Spirit, who brings peace into uor hearts.
Photo by M Sidharda on Pexels.com

The New King James Version begins “Be anxious for nothing.”  This exhortation was needed in the days of the early church as followers of Christ faced intense persecution.  They had much to fear, yet Paul admonished them to not live in fear, but to come to the throne of God with their needs and to trust God to meet those needs.

This directive is still pertinent today. We face threats and stress from many sides.  Some threats are applicable to every person who lives: financial stress, health challenges, political unrest, and economic pressures. Other threats are directed specifically at the Church. As Christians, we are under intense pressure to compromise our beliefs and our values in the name of being politically correct. Christianity has not been outlawed as it was in Paul’s day, but Christians are under attack daily.

And God is still the answer. When we bring our trials, challenges, and tribulations to the throne of God, the Holy Spirit fills us with God’s peace.  A peace that does not make any sense—that surpasses our understanding.  In those moments, we know that our lives are in God’s hands. He is walking beside us through each and every trial.

Whatever you are walking through today, do not be filled with anxiety.  Rather, bring your needs to God, with thanksgiving.  God will hear you, and He will walk this path with you.  Then you will experience the peace that the world cannot offer.

Bring your problems, your worries, and your cares to God.  “Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you.”  I Peter 5: 6, 7

Being God’s Arms Extended

In our church, we often use the phrase “God’s arms extended.” We use this when speaking about reaching out into our community and sharing God’s love through service, ministry, and prayer.

To my knowledge, the phrase “God’s arms extended” does not appear in the Bible. However, Jesus expressed the importance of doing this in Matthew 25: 31- 46. He was teaching His disciples about things that will happen when He returns to rule over the earth.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.” Matthew 25: 31 – 34

Jesus explains that those who offered food and drink to the hungry and thirsty, extended hospitality to the stranger, clothed those in need, cared for the sick, and visited the imprisoned are the sheep. Those who failed to extend assistance and compassion are the goats. Those who cared for others will receive eternal life, and those who did not will receive eternal damnation.

We had a missionary, Mark, speak in our church on Sunday. He shared that early in his ministry in Africa, he had not learned enough of the language to preach and teach. For a time, Mark was limited to embracing children and engaging them in sports. He began to get discouraged that he could not do more. As he prayed, Mark said something along the lines of, “All I can do is hug the children.” In his spirit, Mark clearly heard the Lord say, “Thank you.”

Mark realized that when we, as God’s people, show love to others, we allow God to show love through us. As Mark hugged the children, he was allowing God to wrap His arms around these precious little ones. Mark was literally being God’s arms extended.

What a beautiful picture! God wants to provide for the hungry, thirsty, needy, sick, and imprisoned. And, He does provide through us.

The next time you see someone in need, afraid, or discouraged, I pray that this illustration will come to mind and that you will take the opportunity to be God’s arms extended.

Please feel free to share an instance in which you knew that God was using you to be His hands extended.

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Grocery Shopping Amid Empty Shelves and Rising Inflation

The government announced last week that the inflation rate for December 2021 was 7%.  This is the highest rate of inflation since 1982.  Two of the hardest hit sectors were energy and food.  MarketWatch reports that prices for eggs have increased more than 20%, beef and chicken prices are up 13 – 15%, and coffee is up 10%. 

To make matters worse, grocery prices are expected to rise another 5% in 2022.  The biggest increases are expected to be for steak, chicken, mayonnaise, eggs, cereal, and vegetables.

Additionally, grocery shelves are emptier than we are used to seeing them.  Inflation and shortage combine to make feeding your family more challenging than we are used to dealing with in America.  And it is wreaking havoc on family budgets.

To keep your budget in balance, you must (1) find ways to keep your grocery spending within your means or (2) cut expenses in other areas and allocate more money for groceries.

Photo by Kevin Malik on Pexels.com

So, I am offering these ideas to help you eat well and stay within your budget.

  1. Eliminate waste. Americans waste on average one pound of food per person per day.  To reduce your food waste:
    • Plan meals and shop using a list.
    • Check the vegetable bins in your refrigerator daily to assess what needs to be eaten and plan meals accordingly.
    • Keep a food log, so you know when you cooked each dish.  Check log to see what needs to be eaten first.
  2. Make the most of leftovers—turn leftovers into soups, casseroles, and sandwich fillings.
  3. Buy cheaper cuts of meat and cook in a crockpot or instapot to tenderize.
  4. Buy store brands. You may have to try multiple stores to find the brands you like best.
  5. Shop at multiple stores to get the best buys and find items that were out of stock at your usual store.  Plan trips, though, to save gas and time.
  6. PLAN, PLAN, PLAN—but be prepared with backup plans, as shortages are expected to continue.
  7. Plant a garden and grow some of your own produce.
  8. When you find a good price for produce, stock up and freeze or can the excess.
  9. Shop at Discount stores, such as Wal-Mart, Costco, and Dollar General.
  10. Buy less than perfect or ugly produce.  Prepare immediately or process to eat later.
  11. Purchase meat that is nearing its sell-by date and has been marked down. Cook immediately or freeze.
  12. Invest in food storage dishes to keep leftovers.
  13. Invest in a vacuum sealer to freeze uncooked meats and leftovers to be eaten later.
  14. Search Pinterest and other internet sites for new recipes using ingredients that you have on hand.
  15. Challenge yourself to come up with new recipes using items you have in your pantry.
  16. Ask God for wisdom to help you make wise shopping decisions.  “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5

I hope that you will find some of these tips to be helpful as you navigate empty grocery shelves and higher food prices.

What grocery saving tips can you add to this list?

You will find additional information on creating budgets and managing your finances in many of my other blog posts by clicking on the Finances tab on the right. If you have money questions you would like me to answer, you may email me at susan.ball5@aol.com or write your question in the Comment section.  

Those who email me will be signed up to receive my free quarterly newsletter with money management tips, encouraging stories, and Scripture inspirations.  For those desiring a better understanding of Biblical principles of money management, I have written a book Honoring God with Your Money. It is available on Amazon and from Barnes and Noble.

New Year’s Resolution or My One Word

We are seven days into 2022, and, if you made a New Year’s resolution, you may have already broken it or you likely will soon. Studies show that most people throw in the towel by the end of January, and 68% don’t last a full month.

My One Word is an alternative to making New Year’s Resolutions. The concept was conceived Mike Ashcraft, senior pastor of Port City Community Church in Wilmington, NC, in 2010.  Mike realized that resolutions are often focused on overcoming past failures–I resolve to lose weight gained or to get out of debt that I have accumulated. He recognized that a better approach is to focus on what God wants to do in your life.

Mike challenged his congregation and blog readers to pray about where God wants to lead them in the coming year.  What is God speaking into your life?  What does God want you to become?  How does God want to use you? What does He want you to learn?

MyOneWord.org
myoneword.org


As you pray and focus on God’s will for you, you will feel God impressing a word into your spirit. This is your One Word for the coming year.  Your Word will be unique to you and where God is leading you. 

I chose my first One Word in 2011; it was Delight.  I also chose a theme Scripture for the year that went along with my word, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4  At that time, my husband had been unemployed for two years, with no end in sight. Yet, the Lord promised that if we delighted in Him, He would bless us. I meditated on Psalm 37:4, and God lifted my spirits and increased my faith. And, despite my husband’s continued lack of employment income, God provided for us to celebrate our 30th anniversary that spring with a cruise to Alaska. And, by the end of the year, my husband was back at work with the company that had laid him off nearly three years earlier. Praise the Lord!

Some of my other One Words have been Commitment, Intentional, Rest, and Stewardship.  My year of focusing on stewardship lead me to write a book and start a newsletter. The book and newsletter are designed to help others become responsible stewards of the financial resources God has entrusted to them.

My One Word for 2022 is Praise. I look forward to focusing my energy on praising the Lord throughout each day.  Rather than a single verse, I have selected Psalm 150 as my theme Scripture passage. I am considering choosing a new Psalm of praise for each month, or maybe every week.

I encourage you to pray about God’s desire for your focus in 2022 and to select a word that represents your focus.  To learn more about the My One Word experiment, go to myoneworld.org.

If you have questions about faithful stewardship of your financial resources, please feel free to email me at susan.ball5@aol.com or write your question in the Comment section.  Those who email me will be signed up to receive my free quarterly newsletter with money management tips, encouraging stories, and Scripture inspirations. You may also sign up for the newsletter on the Contact page of this site.

For those desiring a better understanding of Biblical principles of money management, I have written a book Honoring God with Your Money. It is available on Amazon and from Barnes and Noble.

Thankful for Blessings

“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise.”  Psalm 100:4

As our nation celebrates Thanksgiving, I encourage each of you to pause for a few moments today to reflect on the many blessings God has bestowed upon you in the past year. Certainly, 2021 has more than its share of challenges. It would be easy to focus on the interruptions in our lives caused by covid and rising prices for food and gas. However, we all still have much for which to be thankful.

Grateful Thankful Blesses

The Bible is replete with the command to thank God for His goodness, as we read in Psalm 95: 1- 7:

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
For the Lord is the great God,
And the great King above all gods.
In His hand are the deep places of the earth;
The heights of the hills are His also.
The sea is His, for He made it;
And His hands formed the dry land.

God is our creator.  He made us, and He is worth of our praise and our outpourings of thanksgiving.  “Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” Psalm 100:3

Today and every day, we need to express our gratitude to God for giving us life, for providing a beautiful home for us to reside in this life, and for sending His Son to redeem us and make provision for us to live eternally with God in heaven.

May your heart overflow with gratitude for our wonderful Lord.

Cornucopia and Happy Thanksgiving

Thanking Those Who Provide Service


My life was made much easier during the past year and a half by those who did not have the option of working from home and social distancing.  Grocery clerks, postal workers, delivery people, truck drivers, and many other were out in the public every day so that the rest of us had access to the things we needed.  Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to thank those who sacrificed for the rest of us. 

Here’s some ideas to show appreciation:
1) Hand-written note.  Do you know that is takes only about 3 minutes to write a thoughtful, sincere thank you note?  Set aside time each week between now and Thanksgiving to write a couple of thank you notes to those who have most impacted your life during covid. If you will mail your cards, allow extra time as postal deliveries are taking longer than in the past.

2) Gift cards.  Consider purchasing gift cards for those who provide services to you regularly. Gift cards can be included with thank you notes, or you can write a quick “thank you for your service” message on the card. Of course, budget for the gift cards and stick to your budget. A sincere thank you is more important than the amount of the card.

3) Holiday tipping. Many of us tip those who provide service to us more at Christmas than at other times. This year, consider giving tips at Thanksgiving instead of, or in addition to, your Christmas tip. 

Thank you note and flowers
Photo by Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com

As you take time this Thanksgiving to meditate on God’s blessings, ask Him to bring to your mind those who have made your covid-experience more comfortable. He will guide you to remember those who will be truly blessed by your heartfelt and sincere message that you have been blessed by their hard work and sacrifice.

Pepperonis as Quarters

Pepperoni Pizzas
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

In a different phase of life, my husband and I bought a pizza franchise and opened a restaurant in the little town of Orange, VA.  Our good friend, and pizza mentor, Jerry told us that we should look at “pepperonis as quarters.”  An individual pepperoni probably costs a penny or less–I never did the math, but I got the point.  Wasting food costs me money, and small wastes add up quickly and take money out of my pocket.  Little things matter whether you are trying to make money in your business or trying to live within your means on a tight budget.

In my current job, I am a consultant in a small business development center.  I meet with people each week who would like to start businesses.  Many of these dreams will be derailed or postponed due to poor credit and/or lack of financial resources to get a business started.  Often these people have plenty of income, yet they have failed to live within their means.  Some of them have made big financial mistakes, such as buying a house that they cannot afford, but many are in trouble because they have failed to control small expenses.  They forget that lunches out and $4 cups of coffee can make a big dent in their budgets.

As a Christian, I am a steward of all that God has entrusted to me.  When someone mentions stewardship, money management is probably the first thought that comes to mind.  Stewardship, however, encompasses all phases of your life, including how you use your time and how you use your talents.  We can relate the “pepperonis as quarters”  adage to time and talents, as well as to money.  Saving a few moments here and there throughout your day can add up and allow you more time to play a game with your child, read a book for pleasure, relax with your spouse, or start a new project.  Honing your talents little by little can help you gain speed and proficiency.

I Corinthians 4:2 tells us, “Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.”  I hope that this word will encourage you to look for small ways to be a better steward of your time, talent, and money.

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