Strategy # 1: Spend what we have differently
One thing we can do to increase our giving to our congregation’s ministry is to examine where we presently spend our monthly income. I am not suggesting a time consuming and detailed budgeting process here, although for those inclined, it might prove to be an enlightening exercise. What I am saying is that many of us, if we took a somewhat detailed look at where our money goes each month, we might consider re-prioritizing.* We might realize, for example, that we are spending a great deal of our monthly income on gas. In response, we may make a conscious decision to drive less (where possible). Maybe even walk more, which would improve our health as well! Or, by taking a quick look at our spending we might be surprised to learn how much money we regularly spend on take-out food, or coffees, or books and magazines. I am a lover or tea and coffee, and for a while there I would regularly buy a large coffee a day (at $2). If I went on the road for meetings or a workshop, the amount of take-out coffee I bought increased significantly. Then I began to take a coffee from home every morning, in a thermos cup. My coffee stays warm all morning, and I figure I am in about $8 a week. Imagine if I take that $8 each week and contribute it to my M&S commitment, or to my local church. In a year I would contribute an extra $416!! And, if I get a tax receipt for that … I get income tax back … and I am in money!! I like to read books. But what if I used the library more? I think you see my point. Making a couple of changes in how we spend our income can create savings, which can, in part or in whole, be used to support our Church’s ministry and mission.
Strategy # 2: Reduce Debt in the short term to increase available cash in the long term.
The single best thing to do to increase monthly savings for most families – pay off debt, starting with credit card debt! Most credit cards carry huge interest. My Visa card charges 19.99% interest per year on money not paid off at the end of the month. Then, to make matters worse, if my balance this month is $2,010 but I only pay $2000, interest is not charged on the $10 left, it is charged on the entire balance before payment - $2,010!!! Paying off debt is one of the best ways to free up extra cash. The key is to pay off cards and loans as quickly as you can … and then try hard not to incur new debt. With what you save, a portion could be contributed to the church?
Strategy # 3: Find a creative way to save extra money
My father worked with Light & Power for many years. As children we were taught the value of saving electricity. Turn off lights when you leave a room, turn down the heat during the night, and when we are not home during the day, install a programmable thermostat, … but the greatest savings Dad felt we could make was to reduce our use of the clothes dryer! Clothes lines are good … but so is this gadget (see picture above). I got it on sale this summer – a portable, electricity free, clothes dryer!! You can use it indoors and outdoors, it takes up very little space, and the best part, it costs less than $20! But can it really save us money? Let’s look at some math. (Don’t worry I promise I will not get too complex, I am an English major for goodness sakes!!)
According to a little quick research, an electric clothes dryer burns between 1,800 and 5,000 watts per hour. Let’s go with the average – 3,400 watts per hour. My Electricity bill tells me that I get charged 11.178 cents per kilowatt (1,000 watts). So the average dryer costs $3.80 per hour. That seems low to me, but that is only the average, so maybe mine costs more. If I use that dryer for 400 loads per year**, and average 45 minutes per load, it costs approximately me $1,140.00 before taxes (300 hours X 3.80 per hour). At this point some readers might be thinking, “Yes fine, but I don’t want to give up my dryer!” So, what if you just cut back your electric clothes drying by 1/3? You could save $380.00 per year. Doesn’t sound like a lot? $380 is a significant contribution in a lot of churches I know. *** This is not including the money you would save when you do your taxes and get a portion of this contribution back.
To conclude, my purpose here is not to make anyone’s life more difficult or complicated. Rather, I am attempting to show that even when we feel tapped out, but would like to offer more, there are concrete ways to do so. My second hope here is to free churches from the fear/discomfort of asking for money to fund their congregation’s ministries. The truth is, every day people are finding ways to be creative with their finances, to make their income stretch further. I would just hope that the Church gets considered in the mix.
*If you want a good “free” online tool to examine where you money goes each month check out Mint: https://www.mint.com You can use this to set up a monthly budget, plan savings, etc.
** Apparently 400 loads per year is the US National Average. (Christian Monitor)
*** In 2012 Financially Supporting households in NL gave an average of 568.79 (10.94 per week). If we looked at the Median gift (50% gave higher, 50% gave lower) the figure is significantly lower. (2013 UC Yearbook and Directory).