Almost every day, someone uses the phrase “I can’t afford…” to me. I try to smile politely and express my sympathy, but the truth is I’m burning up inside. The feeling of hopelessness that comes when many people look at their budget induces anxiety, keeps them from saving money and worst of all prevents people from living on mission.
If you don’t have any money for your mission yet. Or you’d like to get more. This article is (almost) guaranteed to find you $100/mo.
I’ll explore ways to save money without changing much of what you’re already doing
How to perform a spending audit
I know the word ‘audit’ strikes fear in the heart of a lot of people.
I grew up in a tax professional’s house, where audits were more like the Superbowl than like getting a tooth drilled.
It was an opportunity to back up all that hard work put into book keeping. While I don’t expect you to have that kind of excitement regarding an ‘audit’. Perhaps you can get excited about the Kingdom implications.
As a Christ follower, you were created with a mission in mind. The Bible tells us that you were “created before the foundations of the world” Ephesians 1:4 with “Good works prepared in advance for you to do.” Ephesians 2:10.
We also believe that God is our provider (Matthew 6). Which means, that God has given us everything we need in order to do the work He has called us to. We just might not be using it for the mission.
The purpose of a ‘spending audit’ is to plug up ‘spending leaks’ that are taking away precious resources from our calling and going towards things that are temporary. We are literally looking at our treasure to see what we need to transfer from bank accounts of those represented on our bank statements to our personal account in heaven.
Here’s how a spending audit works:
- Pick a dollar amount expressed as a monthly number as a goal ( I like $100, it’s both meaningful and easily attainable.)
- Decide where this extra money is going to go- be prepared to immediately deploy it. Are you trying to start giving to your church or a local non-profit? Fill out a pledge card. Trying to get out of debt? Increase your next debt payment by that number. Trying to start saving? Set up an automatic transfer for that amount to your savings account.
- List your individual expenses from the last three months. Individually (I export my bank transactions onto Excel)
- Find expenses you can reduce
- Find expenses you can eliminate
- Find expenses you can leverage for Kingdom purposes.
- Repeat until you have saved $100/mo
That’s it. We’re scrutinizing habits, to make sure our money and our heart are aligned.
Now, let’s save money and get on mission!
The easiest place to save money for your mission, is to simply lower the expenses of things you have to pay for but you don’t really get any value out of. Here’s a few ideas:
- Home and auto Insurance- If you own a home, it probably makes sense for you to Insure it even if you don’t have a mortgage. The law in most states requires you to have vehicle insurance. But all insurance companies are not created equal. You can use a website like Policy Genius in order to save money on your insurance.
If you use a broker, ask them to find you a cheaper insurer (they typically do not do this on their own).
The only time you will need your insurer is when you have a claim. Don’t necessarily go with the cheapest option. Find a company you believe will handle the claim well, while still saving money.
Also review your coverages and make sure you are not paying for things you don’t need.
I recently changed insurers and cut my bill nearly in half!
- Cell Phone- Cell phones are almost a necessity at this point in society, but that doesn’t mean they have to cost you an arm and a leg.
- Check your habits- How much data are you using? Do you need to be watching cat videos on Youtube as you drive down the interstate? Do you need to use streaming as a source of music in the car? Do your kids play games on the phone without connecting to wifi? Often I will turn my data off and simply turn it on when I need it. Between wifi at home, the office and other random networks my phone remembers. I can normally wait to check Twitter till I reach one of these places. An added bonus is a layer of pause before I check social, which keeps me more productive.
- Plans and coverage- Are you paying for more data or service than you need? Carriers are tricky about changing up available packages. Check to see if you can simply move to a different package and save money.
- Carriers- cell coverage is becoming democratized. The big companies like Verizon and AT&T have spent billions setting up antenna networks across the country. Now industry disrupters are using those signals to help you save money on your phone bill.
I recently signed up for Ting mobile (referral link) and now only pay $30/mo for two cell phones. (I will admit the transition was bumpy, mostly my fault).
Other carriers like Mint Mobile, Hello Mobile, and Tello mobile have similar low prices. Most of them have a trial sim card you can order and try out coverage before you make a permanent switch.
I saved over $100/mo just performing these two steps above. But in case you want to save more money…
- Utilities- Over the last decade or so ‘energy choice’ has become prolific. You can actually negotiate your gas and electric prices by deciding what power company the actual energy you use comes from. You barely notice any change but can still save money.
Warning- When people come to your home asking you to sign up for energy choice there are often fine print, fees, contracts and other details that do not put you in a better position. If like me you live in Ohio you can go to the Apples to Apples Comparison website and find the best rate.
Not sure if your state has energy choice? Check here.
Look for a fixed rate for 12/mo + at a kilowatt hour (Kwh) price or price per cubic feet (ccf) Lower than what is on your bill.
How much money did I save?– Take the difference between the rate on your bill and the rate you signed up for and multiply that by your average usage per month. That’s your ball park savings.
- Other money saving ideas- Look through your expenses and find trends or habits. How many times do you eat out? Get coffee? Rent a movie? What is the average cost per outing? How much could you save by changing your habits? Instead of lunch out every day limit it to two times a week. Instead of coffee every morning, what would you save just getting it on Fridays? Remember we’re making choices. Your life’s mission > a latte.
A lot of financial experts will tell you, that you don’t get rich by avoiding your morning coffee. This may be true, but right now, we are simply looking for the $100 to put on mission. If you don’t need anymore money to live on mission, latte away.
Not getting enough traction reducing? Well then let’s look at things we can eliminate to save money.
You might think it would make more sense to start by eliminating expenses because an eliminated expense would save you more in one shot. However, this is where things get real. We are choosing to forego things we are used to in order to place that money in the Kingdom.
The Bible tells us “Where (our) Treasure is there (our) heart will be also”.
Where your treasure is there your heart will be alsoMatthew 6:21
It literally says that our heart FOLLOWS our money. When we eliminate expenses. We realign money away from what we don’t want our heart following and towards what we do. Namely, the love and truth of Jesus Christ.
Here’s some ideas as you look for expenses to eliminate
- Habits- Do you have a habit that you know you should quit? What’s the financial impact? Do you use tobacco? Consume too much soda or sugar? Can you make your life healthier and put more money ‘on mission’, simply by eliminating a bad habit?
- Cable- Why in the world do you still have cable? I did the math. It is cheaper for me to go to a sports bar 13 times a year to watch a football game, than to keep cable. (why you would need cable for anything but college football, I can’t fathom). Is cable worth missing your mission?
- Streaming subscriptions- Now it’s getting serious. Netflix, Hulu, AND Amazon Prime? Do you really need it all? Does the entertainment on these sites advance your God given mission? Do they edify you and bring you towards Jesus?
My kids recently chose to cancel their Disney+ subscription (which I kinda got on accident), in order to donate to World Vision. It was a cool lesson in ‘sacrifice’ and giving. And they haven’t missed anything.
- Other recurring- If you are like me and not a detail-oriented person, it’s really tempting to just pay your credit card in full each month and not flip through the transactions. What kind of recurring transactions are coming through that you forgot about or possibly never authorized?
- Insurance- Do you pay for cell phone insurance? A sofa warranty? Often these forms of insurance are a straight rip-off. If you pay $20/mo to insure a $1000 phone you are paying 25% of the value of the phone to protect it PER YEAR! If your phone does get damaged you can replace it with a used restored phone for $150 or less (less than the cost to insure it.) Almost always these arrangements are not in your financial best interest.
- Debt payments- If you carry any form of debt, paying off a balance automatically frees up cashflow. If you have the cash to pay off the debt. That’s an automatic raise!
If not, Debt consolidation through a local bank or a company like Sofi could help. Remember to analyze all the factors- term of loan, total interest paid, monthly cash flow and any fees.
Some people suggest not consolidating debt in order to have smaller chunks to pay off. Every time you pay off a smaller loan, a small payment falls out of your budget.
Your best decision really depends on your situation. Check out the three methods to pay off debt to find out which works best for you.
- Payroll withholdings- When I was in corporate America, my company made a deal with a nationwide non-profit whose values did not align with mine. They set up an automatic donation out of our paycheck that we had to OPT OUT of. I found that opt out button right quick!
Do you know what is coming out of your paycheck? Are the school district and locality taxes being withheld for the correct amount?
Do you get a large tax refund every year?
You can fill out a new w-4 and tell your employer to withhold less. This isn’t necessarily saving you money, but it’s adding money back into your monthly budget that you can allocate to supporting a cause, reducing debt, or saving money, instead of ‘splurging’ when you get your tax refund. Just be careful to not under withhold and create a surprise tax bill at year’s end.
There are hundreds of Mission opportunities all around you. You just might be missing them. Are there things that you are already doing that could either be a part of your God given mission, or add another savings/ earning element to your life?
Places I…- Everywhere we spend money is a potential mission field. I think of three different areas when I’m spending money and ask if it is a place I am:
Meeting People- What are the activities you have the opportunity to meet new people who may be mission partners or need an introduction to Jesus. Gym membership, class, or a kids activity?
Inviting People- What is the cost of gathering people together? Being hospitable? Having people over for dinner. There is a real monetary cost to this, but it’s on mission.
How are you gathering people and inviting them into your community already? Could you be more intentional about making this a mission opportunity?
Caring for people- Picking up groceries for a friend while out shopping. Watching your friend’s kids while you are at home already. Driving a co-worker to a conference so you have time for some real conversation. Taking care of people around you doesn’t have to have a financial cost outside of what you would spend anyways. Are you using the money you are already spending to care for people?
Travel Hacking- By using credit cards wisely (without overspending or carrying a balance) I save approx.: $6k-$10k/ year on travel. There is a little bit of organization involved, but the use of credit card points to fund my family travel has been almost as simple as spending the money I was already going to spend. You could follow my friend Bryce at 10xTravel or Ryan at Profits and Points to get more information on travel hacking.
Or simply contact me, and I’ll help you figure out if it’s right for you.
Amazon Smile– Do you shop on Amazon? Is that a dumb question? Did you know that you can support a local ministry simply by shopping through smile.amazon.com? Simply pick your organization and Amazon will donate a portion of what you spend. Remember you have to shop through this portal for them to get the benefit. A few extra clicks can support a cause.
In an hour or two, you should be able to comb through your expenses and come up with at least $100/mo that you can put ‘on mission’. I do this once a year in order to just fight what I call ‘spending creep’. When I left my high paying corporate job to live ‘on mission’ I went through this exercise at least once a month and have slashed $1,000/mo out of my budget.
Many in the F.I.R.E community are finding the benefits of living on less.
If people of the world can find the contentment in simplicity, how much more the people of God (who are sojourners in the world) should be able to!
When you find an opportunity that you are excited about; giving to a cause, going on a mission trip or participating in a training class. Instead of saying “I can’t afford it” why not sharpen your pencil and find the ‘Mission Money’ you need?
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Great article. Thanks for sharing these tips. I love the balance of practicality and mission.
Thanks Brad! Feel free to drop your email in the box above for a list of all the money saving links right to your inbox.