It's January, again! Many of us are doing a double-take as we stare at our bank accounts and credit card statements (what were we thinking?!). As we look forward to this new year we're taking stock, re-jigging our budgets, and making resolutions.
But change is not always as simple as a resolution. The impulse to cut back after a season of extravagance is often just that - an impulse. It's not a measured plan that takes into account our habits, our obligations, or our values. And most importantly, it doesn't take into account another very strong impulse - that of being generous. No one wants to live a miserly life...but we don't want to live in debt, either.
So here are ten ways you can save money in 2018 while still being generous to friends and family, to neighbours and those in need.
1. Decide what's important.
Before you slash and burn your budget, sit down and make a list what you think are the top five values that guide your life. How you spend (or don't spend) your money should follow your values...not the other way around.
2. Meal plan around weekly flyers.
Check what's on sale before you decide what's for dinner. Plan meals around vegetables and fruits that are in season. You'll quickly see your grocery bill trimmed down and you'll enjoy more nutritious food.
3. Turn the heat down when you're not home (and the faucet off while you're brushing your teeth!).
4. Re-imagine entertainment.
Going to an escape room, bowling, seeing a movie, and playing mini-golf are all fun things to do, but they also add up. Consider a raucous card night with friends, a home-theatre movie night (with stove-top popcorn, of course), a house-concert, or a scenic hike. Entertainment is whatever you make it.
5. Carpool (or take transit).
While we all love the independence of having our own car, paying vehicle insurance and gas money adds up quickly. Think through your daily and weekly routines - do you really need two vehicles? Perhaps you can carpool once a week, or even take the bus? Combine errands and shopping wherever possible so you're not making multiple trips in your car.
6. Get creative about saying "I love you".
I hesitate to mention yet another holiday, but Valentine's Day decor is already plastering some store-front windows. Without going into a diatribe about that particular day, may I still suggest getting creative about how to say "I love you"? There are many ways to express your appreciation and affection for spouses, children, and friends without pulling out your wallet. Do the dishes, go for a walk, play a game, write a sincere card, vacuum the car-seat, make a cup of coffee - the sky's the limit!
7. Thrift, Swap, and Hand-Me-Downs.
Clothing and shoes are expensive! Check out your local thrifts stores, swap clothes with friends of a similar size, and don't be too proud to accept a "hand-me-down". This method of shopping opens up a whole new world of creativity and turns getting a deal into a really fun game.
8. Make time for cooking at home.
Choosing to cook at home instead of eating out not only saves big bucks, but also provides an opportunity for family bonding and exploring your creative side. As a side bonus, you'll end up eating a lot less salt, fat, and sugar by controlling the ingredients from the safety of your own kitchen.
9. Say farewell to impulse buying.
A coffee here, a download there - it's only a few dollars at a time, but by the end of the month it's easy to have bought all sorts of things you never planned on.
10. Be generous!
Lastly, but most significantly, be generous! It's not intuitive, but by being generous with your time, your possessions, and yes, your money, you can create around you a culture of sharing, a community where people help each other. You see, when we believe the lie of scarcity - that there isn't enough to go around - we will never be content with what we have. But when we believe God's truth of abundance - that he has blessed his good creation and there is enough to go around (and have some left over, too!), we find our hearts swelling with gratitude. When we live by our values instead of our bank statements, it's easy to be generous and save money at the same time.