The Difference Between Good Stewardship and Gullibility
- Monday, March 07, 2005
I have the best job in the world. I get to spend my full time traveling to churches nationwide presenting the No Debt, No Sweat! Christian Money Management Seminar. (It's going to be great when I get to heaven because I'm going to know half of the people there!) But while Christians may be the sweetest, kindest folks on the planet -- sometimes it seem we've cornered the market on gullibility!
The old Latin phrase, "caveat emptor" ("let the buyer beware") is the place I like to begin when discussing the difference between being the Christian that Jesus wants me to be instead of the idiot that I tend to be.
My simple advice is: Never, never, never, never, never, never, never close your eyes when spending money. Always pay attention when someone presents you with a bill. Always read the small print. Always ask questions.
It's not that other people are dishonest. It's just that they aren't usually as concerned about your money as you should be. When Jesus warned His followers to "be as shrewd as serpents, and as innocent as doves," He was preparing them for spiritual ministry. But, the same advice applies here.
Sometimes we Christians are too trusting, too gullible. Because we treat other people fairly, we assume they will treat us fairly. It doesn't always work that way. Some of the unhappiest most disillusioned Christians I have ever met were ones who had blindly assumed they could trust other people to keep their word. As good stewards, it's our responsibility to manage (and, oversee) our money prudently.
Here are a few pointers that will save you a lot of money over a lifetime:
• Never allow yourself to be hurried into signing a contract. Always read it. If it is complicated or unclear, have your lawyer review it, too.
• Watch the prices at the grocery store checkout. Scanner prices can be wrong. Always watch the prices as they ring up to be sure they jibe with the prices marked on the shelves.
• Review your bills. Be a line-item reviewer. Check every charge on your credit card, long distance, cable, and other bills. If something is wrong, dispute it immediately.
• Before approving a project ask for an exact quote (not an estimate) whenever feasible. Remember, an estimate is just that -- an estimate. By definition, it means that your final price may vary. And, based on my experience, there's rarely been a case when that final price was less than the estimate. Usually, it's more than the original estimate -- sometimes a lot more.
Saving Big Bucks At the Grocery Store
One of the biggest recurring expenses for most families is groceries. It's important to know that grocers are skilled marketers. It is their job to separate you from as many of your dollars as they can. It's a jungle in there. So, it's critical to think before you buy. Here are some tips that will make the trip to the grocery store less costly:
• Bring a calculator. Add your purchases up as you put them in the cart.
• Consider buying store brands. Today's store brands are frequently at least as good as their major-brand counter parts. Also, some stores give double money back guarantees on their own brands if you are dissatisfied.
• Never go grocery shopping when you're hungry! The cheapest meal you'll ever eat is the one you eat just before going to the grocery.
• Look for true sales. Many grocery "sales" are more marketing oriented than bargain oriented. But, if you pay attention, you can find good deals -- especially on perishable products like produce and expiration-dated meats. One note on this: Don't be obsessive. Driving from one store to another to save 10 cents on a sale item doesn't make good financial sense.
• Find a bakery outlet in your area. Outlets that sell "day-old" bread products can save big money.
• Clip coupons like mad. One of the true remaining bargains in the world of marketing is the coupon. Manufacturers like them, retailers like them -- and, you should like them, too. Look for stores that give double value coupon deals.
• Go in with a list. Then, once inside, stick to your budget. If you don't start with a plan you plan to fail.
• Read labels carefully. Bigger isn't always cheaper. The per-ounce cost may be less on the smaller size. Check it out!
• Remember, that prepared foods usually cost more. After all, part of the reason you're doing all of this may be to help you stay home with the kids -- right? Why not use some of that time in the kitchen with the kids teaching them how to prepare meals from scratch?
• You might consider starting a buying co-op with some of your friends. Go to discount stores that sell large quantity units at reduced prices. Then divide between the co-op members and pocket the savings.
• Go easy at the deli and bakery counters. These are high profit centers in many grocery stores. Usually, pre-packed luncheon meats in the meat counter in the back of the store are cheaper.
• Don't assume that retail "warehouse" stores are always the best place to buy. Personally, I love the big warehouse stores. They have everything -- and, usually they have free samples, too! But beware! When you go into a big store you tend to buy more. Also, my experience has been that the big warehouse operations tend to feature name brands that often cost more than their generic counterparts. For instance, last week Bonnie and I went to a warehouse store to buy canned soft drinks for a party we were having at our home. We found cases of name brand soft drinks substantially less than they might have cost in a regular grocery store. But they were still $1.00-$1.50 more per case than the generic brand sodas available elsewhere.
• Watch every item as it goes through the checkout to be sure that it rings the correct price. Hint: Sometimes I mark the prices on the products as I pick them up at the shelves to help me remember.
Steve Diggs presents the No Debt No Sweat! Christian Money Management Seminar at churches and other venues nationwide. Visit Steve on the Web at www.stevediggs.com or call 615-834-3063. The author of several books, today Steve serves as a minister for the Antioch Church of Christ in Nashville. For 25 years he was President of the Franklin Group, Inc. Steve and Bonnie have four children whom they have home schooled. The family lives in Brentwood, Tennessee.
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