The savings rate in 2005 was a shocking negative percentage. Before 2005, this had happened only during the years of 1932 and 1933. But wait -- that was the Great Depression, a time of enormous business failures and job losses. Aren’t we talking about 2005? You know, when we bought bigger and better SUVs. So, what does a negative savings rate indicate? It means that Americans were spending all of their disposable income, borrowing and then getting money out of their savings -- if they had any. Not a good sign.

Most families that look for ways to save money try everything from refinancing home mortgages, home equity loans, and low-interest charge cards, to no-down payment investment property and borrowing against retirement funds. But, in evaluating money saving options, 10 suggestions seem to float to the top: (1) give to God; (2) start small; (3) put money into a retirement account; (4) monitor ATM withdrawals; (5) pay off charges and loans; (6) pay extra on the home mortgage; (7) pay off car loans; (8) open an IRA; (9) evaluate life insurance; and (10) be accountable for your money.

Give to God.

When you recognize that God owns everything and all blessings come from Him, your role as manager, or steward is clear. Part of being a good steward means that you give back to God a portion of what He has entrusted to you. It is not that God needs your money. But, giving serves as an external, material testimony that God owns both the material and spiritual things of your life and He is the source of all your supply.

Although the tithe may indicate your obedience to God, He is looking for the right attitude in your giving. If there is no willingness to give back to the Lord a portion of what He has entrusted to you, then giving tithes upon tithes would be of little use. So, since the tithe’s purpose is to be a testimony of God’s ownership, each believer should give bountifully and cheerfully.

Start small.

Most financial experts say we need to save at least 5 percent, and preferably 10 percent, of our income and place it into an interest-bearing, liquid savings account. However, don’t give up if you’re unable to save that much. Establish a saving habit and save consistently. Even as little as $5 per pay period eventually adds up. And once saving becomes a habit, set as your savings goal a maintained savings account of at least three to six months’ income.

Put money into a retirement account.

If it’s available, sign up with a workplace 401(k), 403(b), or similar retirement plan in which your company contributes matching funds to the plan in your name. The most common match is 50 cents on the dollar. If your employer does this, you’re getting an immediate 50 percent return on your money.

Monitor ATM withdrawals.

Decide how much money you will take out each week and discipline yourself to make it last. Stick to your decision. Try to decrease the amount withdrawn every month. When you discover that you have money left over, deposit it into your savings account -- that’s right, and don’t follow the "negative savings" leaders.

Pay off charges and loans.

With desire, discipline and time, you can pay off loans and stay out of debt. The four basic steps to eliminate charge and loan debt are: (1) Transfer ownership of every possession to God; (2) allow no more debt; (3) develop a realistic balanced budget that allows each creditor to receive as much as possible; and (4) start retiring the debt.

Pay extra on your home mortgage.

If you pay extra each month on your home mortgage, you add immediate equity to your home, reduce the interest paid over the term of the loan, and reduce the length of the loan. Do this consistently and you’ll save thousands of dollars in interest and shave years off the original loan. Even if you can’t commit to a large monthly amount, just round your payment up to the nearest hundred.

Pay off your car loan.

Interest on your car loan isn’t tax deductible and rates are generally higher than on your home mortgage. So pay it off as soon as possible by rounding up your monthly payment to the nearest hundred and then add $50, or whatever you can, to that amount.

Open an IRA.

If your funds are limited, open an IRA only after you have maxed out with your company’s retirement plan. If you have no company retirement plan, open an IRA immediately.

Evaluate life insurance.

If you’ve had the same term-life insurance policy for five years or more, you may be able to cut your premiums by changing policies. If you apply for a new policy and get a new medical exam, the insurer may feel you are a better risk than fixed insurance health assumptions indicate, and that means you should qualify for a lower premium rate.

Be accountable for your money.

Know where your money is going by establishing a budget and sticking to it. If an expense is not budgeted, don’t spend the money.

You might think it’s an out-of-date concept, but the biblical principle of debt-free living is still God’s plan for His people today. The blessings of being debt free go far beyond finances. They extend to the spiritual and marital realms as well. And the effects of financial bondage on marriage relationships are reflected in the statistics of failed marriages.

So come on, God’s people -- make saving money and debt freedom top priorities in the life of your family. No matter if others continue with negative savings, now would be a great time for you to turn your savings into making a positive impact for your future.


Howard Dayton is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries. Dayton and the late Larry Burkett joined forces in 2000 when Crown Ministries, led by Dayton, merged with Christian Financial Concepts, led by Burkett. The new organization became Crown Financial Ministries, on the web at www.crown.org.

© 2006 Baptist Press.