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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.…

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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.…

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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.…

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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.…

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What’s the Best Method for Determining a Pastor’s Salary?

How much should a pastor be paid?  It’s a question that many churches and pastors struggle to answer.

When I became a pastor in 1998, working in a large church with 10 pastors, my church based a new pastor’s starting salary at the same level as the starting salary of public school teachers.

At the time, I thought it was a bit low, and I complained that this wasn’t fair, because teachers only had to work 9 months and got summers off.

I got no sympathy, however, from friends who asked me, “What are you complaining about, since pastors only have to work one day a week?”

Ha! If only that were true! ;)  Anyway, all kidding aside…

A few of us did question whether a teacher’s salary is the best benchmark for salaries for pastors at our church.  

Our church business administrator (who handled all finance and HR responsibilities), decided to contact other churches of similar size in our community to ask them how they determined their pastors’ salaries.

Apparently they had some really great discussions, because these local church finance leaders decided to meet quarterly to discuss common issues, share best practices, etc.

In addition, they decided to conduct an annual pastor compensation survey to identify the range of salaries for senior pastors, youth pastors, worship pastors, executive pastors, care pastors, missions pastors, children’s pastors and other ministry staff positions.

Now, for the first time, our church and other churches of similar size in our community had a benchmark for pastor salaries.  Our church used this information to create a salary range for the various pastor positions.

The results from the first survey showed that some of our pastors were paid several thousand dollars less per year than pastors in similar positions with other churches.  We were able to make adjustments over the next year to get our pastors within the “ballpark” range.

No matter what size church or community you serve in, I’d recommend connecting with other pastors and churches of similar size to share information on pastor salaries.  

The important thing to remember is to be sure you’re comparing apples to apples:  work with churches of similar size, and compare positions with similar roles and levels of responsibility.

Have you or your church conducted a salary survey with other area churches?  If so please share your experience.

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