Walmart Guarantees Lowest Prices This Christmas

Here’s another money-saving tip for pastors: Save money and time this Christmas by shopping at Walmart.

This week Walmart launched its new Christmas Price Guarantee, valid on purchases Nov. 1-Dec. 25. With this guarantee, if you bought an item at Walmart anytime between Nov. 1 and Dec. 25, and then found that same item advertised for less at another local store, Walmart will give you a gift card for the difference through Dec. 25.Christmas Price

To get this gift card you will need to bring in your original Walmart cash register receipt and the local competitor’s current printed ad to Walmart’s Customer Service desk through Dec. 25. Once validated, a gift card for the difference will be issued. Items placed on layaway will also be eligible for the Christmas Price Guarantee.

“The greatest gift we can give our customers this holiday is great low prices on the things they want most,” Duncan Mac Naughton, Walmart’s chief merchandising officer, said in a release. “Walmart is easing shopping stress this Christmas by allowing customers to shop when and how they want, all while guaranteeing low prices through the entire holiday season.”

The fine print: Walmart’s Christmas Price Guarantee excludes Black Friday ads, internet pricing, limited time or quantity offers such as six-hour sales, grocery items, non-branded items such as plants, tobacco, firearms, gasoline, tires, prescription drugs, optical, and wireless products that require a service agreement.…

Watch Gift Card Expiration Dates

Did you know that $8 billion in gift cards go unredeemed each year?  That’s about 10% of the $86 billion in gift cards sold in 2010.  

Don’t let this happen to you!  Because it almost happened to us!

My wife and I went out to dinner last night to celebrate the 20th anniversary of our engagement.

For some reason, my friends are amazed that I remember exactly when we got engaged, but it’s really easy. Because I discovered that our planned wedding date (July 11, 1992) was exactly 18 months from our very first date (January 11, 1991).  So, being the math whiz that I am, I thought I’d just divide by 2, and ask my wife to marry me on the 9 month half-way point, which was October 11, 1991.

So, 9 months after our first date, we got engaged.  9 months after our engagement we got married.  And 9 months after we got married…well, nothing happened. (What were you thinking?)

Anyway, back to the gift card story.  Gift Card

We had been given a $150 gift card over a year ago to a very fancy and expensive restaurant.  We used $90 of it last year for our anniversary, and had $60 left on it.

We went to the restaurant last night and enjoyed a wonderful special meal which cost $77.00 for the two of us. Definitely way more than we’d typically spend, but with the gift card, it felt great to enjoy a fine dining experience for a fraction of the price.

When the bill came, my wife handed me the gift card, and I noticed there was an expiration date written on the back of the card:  ”Expires 12/31/2010.”

At first we felt sick that we were 10 months late in using this gift card which was worth $60!

But then we thought we should at least ask our server if there was any chance there was still some value on the card.  Gratefully, she was happy to check the balance, and she came back to report that our full $60 value was still there.

Whew, what a relief!  We thanked God that the value was still there and that we hadn’t wasted it.  What a poor stewardship example that would have been!

We realized we need to pay closer attention to expiration dates on gift cards, coupons, and other special offers we had received, to make sure we never lose out on the opportunity.

We’re starting to right the expiration dates on our calendars so we can be sure to use them before it’s too late.

While many restaurants and retailers are now offering gift cards without expiration dates so their customers don’t have to worry about wasting the value of an unredeemed gift card, and states have createdgift card and gift certificate statutes to provide greater protection consumers, it’s wise to keep track of gift cards you receive and use them before they expire.…

9 Ways to Save Money on Groceries

Free Money Finance recently shared 6 ways to save money on groceries.  I’ll share their 6 tips first, plus a few more I’ve thought of:Save money

  1. Store sale – Check the store’s sales flyer or website for their daily or weekly deals.
  2. Store coupon – You’ll usually find these in the sale flyers, on their website, or in-store.
  3. Manufacturer coupon – You’ll find these in your newspaper (especially on Sundays or right before holidays).  You can also search online for a coupon from a certain manufacturer (for example, search for Keebler cookie coupon.)
  4. Cash back rewards – Buy your groceries with a credit card that pays you back.
  5. Store rewards – More and more stores offer discounts on gas or groceries when you buy certain items, or spend a certain amount.
  6. Rebates – Rebates are cash back rewards for buying a certain item. Sometimes you can receive an instant rebate on an item (which means it is basically a coupon) but other times you have to request the rebate by mail or online in order to receive it.  These are a hassle if you forget and don’t submit your rebate request.  Ask me how I know that! ; )
  7. Shop discount stores – Stores like Aldi, Save-a-Lot, and dollar stores offer low prices every day, but may have a limited selection.
  8. Warehouse Clubs – At Costco, Sam’s Club or BJ’s, you can often get great deals on groceries but you typically have to buy in bulk.  But, selection varies, certain products rotate in and out, and you have to be a member to shop there.
  9. Buy direct from the farmer – We buy honey, eggs, and some meat and produce direct from farmers in our area.

Is Now a Good Time for a Pastor to Buy a Home?

A reader asks: “Is now a good time for a pastor to buy a home?”buy home

From a number of perspectives, I believe the answer is YES!  Now is a great time for a pastor to buy a home instead of living in a parsonage or renting.  Here’s why:

  1. Mortgage rates are at the lowest level ever.  The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage fell to an all-time low of 3.94 percent this week.
  2. Housing prices are at 10 to 15-year lows in many communities.  In other words, you can get a lot of house today for a whole lot less than it used to cost.
  3. While no one knows what the future holds, many economists believe we’re at the bottom of the “bottoming out” of the housing market, meaning that if you buy “low” now, you’ll gain equity quicker as the housing markets rebound in the coming months and years.

However, while mortgage rates have never been better, qualifying for a mortgage loan is getting more difficult.  Here’s why:

  1. Many mortgage lenders now require a 20 percent downpayment which is a real struggle for pastors who don’t have a lot of cash on hand.
  2. Mortgage lenders are requiring higher credit scores.

As with anything, it’s good to shop around and check rates and qualifications at several lending institutions.

I’d suggest that you start with the financial institution(s) you already have a relationship with.  Be sure to check at least one credit union in your community.  And don’t forget to check with online mortgage lenders too.…

Pastors Save Money by Refinancing Your Home

refinance

Now is a great time for pastors, missionaries, or other Christian workers to save money by refinancing your home.

Mortgage rates have dropped to their lowest level EVER!  Yes, I did say EVER!

The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage fell to an all-time low of 3.94 percent this week, and the average rate on a 15-year fixed loan, which is a popular mortgage product for home refinancing, dipped to 3.26 percent.

So, if you’ve been wanting to save money by refinancing but you didn’t know if now was a good time or not, or if you’ve wanted to get some cash out of your home in order to do some remodeling or home improvements, now is a great time, and it may even be the best time, to refinance your home.

As with anything, it’s good to shop around and check mortgage rates and qualifications at several lending institutions.…

The Financial 10 Commandments

Financial

I recently came across this list of “The Financial Ten Commandments.”

They were taken from a message by Bill Hybels at Willow Creek Community Church (located in the Chicago area) in January of 1999.

The Financial Ten Commandments

  1. Thou shalt work hard.
  2. Thou shalt establish a plan.
  3. Thou shalt avoid debt like the plague.
  4. Thou shalt distinguish between needs and wants.
  5. Thou shalt determine when enough is enough.
  6. Thou shalt not seek after get-rich-quick schemes.
  7. Thou shalt not compete with the Jones.
  8. Thou shalt not make major decisions without wise counsel.
  9. Thou shalt not corrupt your children with money.
  10. Thou shalt not orient your life around money.

I can’t say that I disagree with any of these.  But I haven’t always lived by them, either.

There’s a lot of wisdom here about maintaining balance in life, achieving financial freedom, living on-purpose, and the use of money as a tool instead of an end-goal.

Looking back on my life, I’ve definitely experienced a lot of financial frustration (and debt) when I haven’t followed commandment #2 and lived according to an established financial plan.

And really, now that I think about it, failing at any one of these Financial 10 Commandments can lead to an increasing burden of debt.

What’s your take on The Financial 10 Commandments?  Which ones are easy, or difficult, for you to keep?…

Six Ways to Save Money on Haircuts

I’m always amazed at how expensive it is to get your hair cut or styled.  At least, it seems expensive to me.

Gratefully, I’ve discovered a few simple ways to save money at the hair stylist – and even get free haircuts!Hair cut

When I was young, I thought pastors (male ones, anyway) were required to have bad hair styles.  Then again, it was the 80′s…so maybe everyone had bad hair back then. :)

Today, many male pastors (especially those under 40), are “stylin” with the latest cool cuts.

But whether we’re talking men or women, boys or girls, the price for haircuts for a pastor’s family can add up fast!

Where I live, the average price for a male haircut is $16.00 – $20.00 and for women it is $20.00 – $24.00.  Of course, if you add a shampoo or other services, the cost increases.

The good news is that the amount of savings can add up fast too, if you follow these six ways to save money on haircuts.

Six Easy Ways to Save Money on Haircuts

1.  Cut your hair a little shorter each time you get it cut, so you don’t have to come back so soon.  I do this especially in the summertime.

2.  In addition to cutting your hair shorter, you could let it grow a little longer before you come back to have it cut again.

3.  Buy gift certificates that offer a bonus.  For example, during Mothers Day, Fathers Day, Graduation and the Christmas seasons, many hair salons offer a special deal like “Get a $25 gift certificate for only $20.00.”  There’s no reason you can’t buy these for yourself to use.  You just have to remember that you’re paying money today in order to save money a month or two down the road.

4.  Sign up for the “frequent customer” club or birthday clubs where available.  Many hair stylists offer one free or discounted haircut after you’ve paid for five or six.  And some salons offer a free haircut or a discount for your birthday.

5.  Ask if your stylist offers a discount or bonus if you make a referral (invite someone else to use your same hair stylist).

6.  Check to see if there are any beauty colleges or salon training centers in your area that offer free or discounted haircuts.  In our community, there are probably six or seven beauty colleges and at least one salon training center (that we know of) where their professional stylists come once or twice a year for continued training.

My wife and our five children have received free haircuts for nearly a year at this training center.  The only reason I haven’t done it yet is that you have to book your appointments in advance before the limited spaces fill up, and my schedule is so unpredictable due to frequent travel.

By taking advantage of these free haircuts, we’ll save about $1,200 over the course of the year!  That’s a pretty significant amount of savings for us.  How about you?…

365 Ways to Live Cheap!

If you’re looking for easy ways to save money and make ends meet, you’ll enjoy reading 365 Ways to Live Cheap! In it, author Trent Hamm of The Simple Dollarshares great tips on ways to cut costs on just about anything you “need,” without sacrificing your lifestyle.

True to it’s title, 365 Ways to Live Cheap! offers 365 ways to save money on:live cheap

  • Appliances
  • Automobiles
  • Banking and Investing
  • Children and Families
  • Clothing
  • Clutter
  • Credit Cards and Debt
  • Electronics
  • Energy Use
  • Fun and Hobbies
  • Groceries and Supplies
  • Health
  • Housing
  • Insurance
  • Love and Marriage
  • Socializing
  • Shopping
  • Utilities and Bills
  • Vacations

The book is an easy read, and not one that you have to read all at once, though it might be good to do so the first time.

I think it’s a great reference book that you can turn back to anytime you’re looking to save money on any of the aforementioned topics, or when you need a refresher in how to live more frugally.

It’s something you can quickly pick up, read a couple of tips, and move on.  It’ll help you spend less money, and enjoy more of your life.

In my next post, I’ll share Hamm’s 10 Biggest Tips for Living Cheap. If you haven’t done so yet, please subscribe to our RSS feed so you won’t miss future articles.…

Are Museum Memberships Worth the Cost?

Museum MembershipHere at Pastor Personal Finance, we offer money help for pastors, missionaries, and other ministry leaders, to help you s-t-r-e-t-c-h your money as far as possible.

Spring Break is coming soon, and a lot of families I know are planning to take their kids to the zoo, museum, botanical garden, aquarium, or other similar attraction.  Whenever our family goes to one of those places, we’re faced with a decision:

Should we pay the one-day admission price, or is it better to buy an annual membership?

Six things to consider before buying a museum membership

Regardless of your family size, here are some things to consider before buying an annual membership to your local zoo, museum, botanical garden, or other cultural attraction.

  1. Is it tax-deductible? I was surprised to discover that some museums or other such institutions consider all, or a portion, of your annual membership dues to be a tax-deductible gift.  So just looking at it from a tax perspective, buying a membership that is deductible, instead of buying tickets for one-day admission which are not deductible, may be a smart money move.
  2. What’s the difference in price between the one-day cost and the annual membership? An easy way to decide if a museum membership is worth the cost is to calculate how many times would you need to visit before the membership actually saves you money. For example, we learned it would cost $41 to buy one-day admission for our family of seven at our local art museum, and $65 for an annual family membership – a difference of $24.  So just looking at it from this angle, we’d only have to visit twice (or actually, 1.5 times) in order to save money with the annual membership.
  3. What if you buy the annual membership but don’t go enough times to save money – isn’t that a waste? Maybe.  But you can also just chalk it up as a donation to a “good cause” in your community, whether it actually was a deductible donation or not.
  4. What kind of special offers or discounts would you receive as a member? Most museums or other cultural attractions provide a nice list of benefits that you would receive as a member.  Most give members at least a 10% discount at the gift shop.  Some offer free or discounted parking, free admission to special members-only events, free or discounted admission to special exhibits that everyone else pays extra for, discounts on camps for your kids, and free kids activities and events throughout the year.  Some even offer their members discounted admission to other local cultural attractions.
  5. Are there reciprocal benefits? Your membership at your local museum, zoo, science center, botanical garden, aquarium or other cultural institution may also give you free admission to other similar institutions across the country and even the world.  Most will advertise if they offer reciprocal benefits, but if you don’t see it listed, just ask.
  6. What is the entertainment or educational value? It’s nice to visit any museum or other cultural attraction at least once.  Some, you might feel, aren’t worth a second trip.  But others might have a higher educational or entertainment value which would cause you to want to go more frequently.  Our family has an annual membership at our local art museum, botanical gardens, air and space museum, and history museum.  We feel those memberships are well worth it just to have a place to go on a rainy or snowy or sunny day (depending on the mood or situation), when the kids are bored, when you don’t know what to do, when you want to do something special with one or all of your kids, etc.  Each attraction offers special events or activities that give us something fun and educational to do.  One of the biggest values for us right now is the free kids art classes that the art museum offers every Saturday – we go there at least once a month just for that.

Get a $25 Restaurant Gift Card for Only $2.00

CouponHere’s a great deal for pastors or anyone looking to save money on eating out…and it’s just in time for Valentine’s Day!

Restaurant.com is offering 80% off a $25 restaurant gift card.  To get the discount, you need to use the promo code “MEAL” at the checkout.

Restaurant.com offers discounted gift cards that are good at 15,000 restaurants across the United States.  To get yours, click the ad below, or go to www.restaurant.com.…