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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.…

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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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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.
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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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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?…

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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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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.
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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.…

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How to Save on Eating Out

Save money eat out

If you’ve been a pastor for any length of time, you know that the easiest way to save on eating out is to get a member of your congregation to take your family out to dinner!

But if that’s not happening as often as you’d like (no matter how much you hint at it from the pulpit), there are other great ways to eat out and have fun for less.

1.  The Entertainment book – This is just about the best coupon book around. There are over 160 local Entertainment editions, covering every major city throughout North America. You pay a nominal charge to buy the Entertainment book, then have access to hundreds of discounts on hotels, restaurants, local attractions, travel, groceries and more!

2. The Good Ole Phone Book – Many phone books have a coupon section where local restaurants and businesses provide special offers.  Also, check the Yellow Pages section where the restaurants might offer a special deal right in their ad.

3. Online Coupons and Offers – A lot of restaurants offer coupons and discounts on their website.  Some may make you register for the deals, which they will send you by email.  Others just offer the discounts on their webpage for you to print and use whenever you want.

4.  Groupon – Groupon features a daily online deal on the best stuff to do, see, eat, and buy in a variety of cities across the United States (and now Groupon is in Canada).  Here’s how it works:

  • Each day they feature something cool to do at an unbeatable price.
  • You only get it if enough people join that day… so invite your friends!
  • Check back the next day for another awesome Groupon!

5. Restaurant VIP cards/clubs – Many restaurants offer special deals and rewards to their customers based on how often you go or how much you spend.  Sign up for the VIP club at your favorite restaurants, and start earning your discounts and deals.

6. Gift Card Kickbacks – During Christmas, Mothers Day, and Fathers Day, many restaurants and businesses offer kickback deals on gift certificates or gift cards that you buy to give as a gift.  For example, at some restaurants, if you buy a $25 gift card, they’ll give you a $5 or $10 certificate for to use on yourself.

7.  Restaurant.com – Restaurant.com offers a national directory of more than 15,000 restaurants and a number of exclusive online merchants. You can search by state, city, neighborhood, zip code and cuisine type to find the perfect restaurant and gift certificates for savings. $25 restaurant gift certificates are offered at a purchase price of only $10!

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Free Books for Pastors at Paperback Swap

PaperbackSwap.com is an excellent source of free books for pastors who are looking to add to their personal learning and their library.

Every pastor I know is an avid reader and book collector.  But books can be expensive and out of reach for many small church and bi-vocational pastors. And even if you do have an expense account to pay for book purchases, you want to stretch that money as far as possible, right?

PaperbackSwap.com is a free website that allows you to trade books you have, but don’t need or want anymore, for books that you do want.

Don’t let the name fool you – Paperback Swap isn’t just for paperbacks – but that’s how it got started years ago.  At Paperback Swap, you can trade paperbacks, hard covers, and books on tape.

How Paperback Swap Works

Paperback Swap is a book trading website that operates on the biblical principle of giving and receiving.

All of us have books we no longer want or need, and sometimes we don’t know what to do with them.  The great thing about Paperback Swap is that it allows you to trade the books you don’t want in exchange for books you do want.

The trading is free.  You just pay the postage to send your book to the person who requests it.  And whomever has a book that you want pays the postage to send it to you.  The average postage cost is around $2.00 via the US Postal Service.

When you give a book to someone else, you earn a credit on your account, which then allows you to receive a book from someone else.

Currently, nearly 5,000,000 (yes, that’s five million!!!) books are available for free at Paperback Swap. Chances are good that you will find plenty of good books that you want – on topics like church history, leadership, theology, ministry, popular titles, and more.

Here’s how to get free books from Paperback Swap:

  1. Create your free account at PaperbackSwap.com.  When you use that link, I’ll receive a free credit for referring you, thank you very much!
  2. Find at least ten books on your shelves that you no longer want, and list them on the Paperback Swap site.  When you list your fist ten books, Paperback Swap will then give you two free credits, which will allow you to receive two books.
  3. Listing your books is easy – you just enter the ISBN number of the books you don’t need, and the Paperback Swap site automatically looks up and finds the information about those books.  The books you list must have front and back covers, all the pages, no liquid damage, no writing or highlighting, and be in generally good condition.
  4. Once you’ve listed books that you want to trade, you create your wish list of books you want to receive. And you can add more books you want to trade, and more books you want to receive, at any time.
  5. When you have a book that someone else wants, Paperback Swap sends you a message with instructions on where to send the book.  We recommend using bubble envelopes or catalog envelopes when mailing your books. When your book is received, the recipient logs into Paperback Swap and confirms that they received the book as advertised.  Then you get a credit in your account which will allow you to receive a book from someone else.
  6. When someone has a book that is on your wish list, you are notified that a match has been made, and the sender confirms that they will send the book to you.  And when you receive it, you log into Paperback Swap to confirm that you’ve received it.  Then a credit is deducted from your account, and added to the sender’s account.

My wife and I have been members at Paperback Swap for several years.  It’s fun to get rid of books we no longer want, and receive new books in the mail.  We ship and receive 3-5 books a week on average.

We’ve had some books waiting on our shelves for months before someone wanted them.  Others fly off the shelf the moment we post them, because someone was already waiting for it.

Paperback Swap Tips

If you use Paperback Swap long enough like we have, the bad news is that you will eventually run out of your own books to trade.

The good news is that we’ve discovered some great free or low-cost ways to get more books to list on Paperback Swap, including:

  • Garage sales, yard sales, estate sales – People often sell books for as little as 5 or 10 cents each.  And if you find some that you want that are priced higher, offer to buy several or a bag-full for a lower price.
  • Libraries – Some libraries has
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