Winning The Financial Game

As always, how you define “winning” will determine not only how you can win the game of dealing with money and finances in our world, but even whether it is possible for you to win that game. If your definition of winning is to become unspeakably wealthy, while it may be possible, it is highly unlikely and probably not worth the long-term cost. If you define winning more realistically, it may be possible.

It is all about choices and ultimately, choices are determined by priorities.

So, start with one simple question, “What is your top priority in life?”

Once you have that question answered, many of the rest of the difficulties in life align themselves. Let me suggest an answer to that question. More accurately, let the Apostle Paul give you the answer.

1 Corinthians 15:3-5
3  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
4  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
5  and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.

If you settle on that answer, most other issues in life fall into place because God’s Word has given us many commands, instructions, and recommendations for the other decisions of life. After that one question and answer about your top priority is settled, the only remaining question is whether you will obey God.

So, let’s look at how our finances align themselves once we put God as our top priority.

1. We will see that we are not owners, only managers

This is both Biblical and logical in the eyes of the world. The standing joke is that there are no U-Hauls following hearses. That may be a joke but it is also true; you just can’t take it with you. When you die, you will leave everything to either your heirs, your charity of choice, or the IRS.

Rather than being an owner, you are a steward or a manager of the things God has given you. He is the owner. Psalm 24:1. As stewards we remain managers over His creation and His people. God put us in that role back in Genesis 1:26-28 when He declared that we were to be fruitful, multiply, and subdue the earth. Then, after the fall, Adam was told that he was destined to work the land. We have been working ever since.

Our stewardship comes both naturally from the fact that we are in a world created by and belonging to God and from the role described for us Biblically. 1 Corinthians 3:9 describes our relationship working alongside God. We are fellow workers, co-laborers, with God.

Paul used the Greek word for stewardship, oikonomos, in addressing his role in preaching the gospel. 1 Corinthians 9:17. Paul describes his calling as the discharging of a trust, which is stewardship. Elsewhere Paul also describes his role as the administration of the grace God had given to him. Ephesians 3:2. Paul is placing God in the role of the master who has delegated some management responsibilities to Paul. Paul holds the role of being the manager – the steward – of what God has given to him. Paul understood his role; do you?

You should understand your role because God has made it clear. Many passages and parables reaffirm that role; we are stewards of God’s grace toward us.

2. We will honor God with the first of our earnings

The common Old Testament phrase for honoring God with the first of our earnings is that we are to give Him our firstfruits. See, for example, Exodus 23:19 and Leviticus 2:12.

The practical truth is that someone will receive the firstfruits of your labor. It may be a creditor, a family member or even you, yourself. Instead, it should be an offering to the Lord for all He has given to you.

Even if you are convinced that you cannot give to the Lord, He has an answer for that thought. His answer is a challenge back to you.

Malachi 3:10
10  Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.

“Try it, you’ll like it.” God has dared us to test His promise. That is a fair offer. Try it with sincerity of heart and see if God doesn’t come through with blessings.

3. We will plan for and respect the future

After more than 60 years of life, I have learned some things. I have certainly fallen short many times in knowing what I needed, but one fact I have learned well is that the future is coming. It may seem a long way off, but it is still coming.

That means you need to start saving now. The harsh realities of compound mathematics also make it important for you to start saving as soon as possible, at the earliest possible age. See 8 Financial Moves to Make in Your 20’s for the incredible way compound interest can impact your savings. Start now and save a little. The minute you think you cannot save any more, read Ideas for Living Better Through Stewardship for a few new ideas that might help you save a little more.

One of the key ideas is for you to start budgeting. Without budgeting you will, at best, struggle to be prepared for expenses as they sneak up on you. The process of creating a fully accurate budget requires enough effort that you will rarely be surprised by bills (except for emergencies). The process of maintaining that budget will keep it on track and make you more able to see where your money is going and where you can reduce expenses.

Another key idea is for you to spend cash and not use your credit card, not even if you always pay the bill early each and every month. Why? Because people spend more money day after day with credit cards than with actual money. There is something about the act of handing over dollar bills that makes the purchase seem a bit harder, and that makes a large purchase a lot more difficult. See Do It The Easy Way And Pay.

The future is coming and the time to prepare is now. The old saying that the best time to plant a shade tree is 40 years ago and that the second best time is right now fits the idea of saving. Start now!

4. We will work diligently

If you are a manager or owner, you will treat employees well and work hard. If you are an employee, you will treat co-workers well and work hard. Not only does that type of work make you a more valuable employee, probably higher paid, and one with a better chance of holding onto your job during hard economic times, but it is Biblical. The Apostle Paul told us:

Colossians 3:23-24
23  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,
24  since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

“Whatever you do” includes your vocation and “all your heart” means just that. Be passionate about your work because ultimately it is the Lord you are serving. This point was expressed with excellence by Martin Luther King, Jr. when he said,

“If a man is called to be a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well.”

If you are unable to do that and think your job is beneath you, then you have two Godly alternatives; find a better job or a develop a better attitude. Staying miserable about a job where you spend many hours every week is hardly an option to consider.

5. We will work toward being debt-free and towards a state of being financially free

The saying that we should be neither a borrower nor a lender is not directly from the Bible but there is an element of Biblical truth to it. It actually comes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act 1, scene 3, line 75. Regardless of the source, it is good advice. The borrower is a slave to the lender, Proverbs 22:7, and certainly no one wants to be a slave. Likewise, no one should want to be a slave master either.

It is almost impossible to avoid all debt in our modern economy, especially in the purchase of a home, but your goal should always be to get out of debt as quickly as possible. See The Disaster of Debt, Getting Out of Debt, and 8 Moves to Make in Your 20’s (read it even if you are older than 20).

But is it enough to just be out of debt? No. You need savings to protect against falling back into debt in the event of an emergency or surprise large expense. Again, see 8 Moves to Make in Your 20’s and other resources on the website of The Idlewild Foundation. As already noted, the future is coming and you need to plan and prepare for retirement, college expenses for children, medical needs, etc. You are never too young to start those preparations. However, your goal is not financial independence.

Once you give it some thought, you will see that it is far better to be financially free than to be financially independent. Those who are financially independent are believers in the almighty dollar. They seek control over their environment and their own future by safeguarding themselves. Instead, it should be your goal to be financially free, meaning you are free from the imprisoning influence of money. Make money a tool, not a goal. It is a means to an end, not the end itself. Anything more than that is dangerous because money is deceitful.

1 Timothy 6:6-10
6  But godliness with contentment is great gain.
7  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.
8  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
9  Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.
10  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

That is a lot. But there are many ways to receive assistance and guidance throughout the long process of growing financially. Take a Financial Peace University course at Idlewild Church. It includes guidance and help with budgeting, paying off debt and many of the issues raised in this article. Alternatively, try Crown Ministries. Crown’s Money Map can get you started toward becoming financially free. It is free. And Crown Money Map offers help with all aspects of growing financially free. Download yours today.

6. We will live that same life at home with our spouses, children, relatives, neighbors and friends

The way children learn is amazing. One of the funniest and most honest videos I have ever seen on YouTube is the video of two babies learning to sneeze – by copying their father! The father sneezed, then the babies started copying him, sneezing repeatedly, over and over and over, smiling because they had learned how to do something daddy does! It was on YouTube for years but has unfortunately been taken down.

And that is how most young children learn – by copying their parents. Unfortunately, many parents don’t realize that their little children are at times learning a few bad practices by observation. They are also seeing that what some parents say at church and in the public are different than how they really live. One of the damaging truths is that many young adults turn away from the church because they saw their parents at home and at church – and the difference was enough to cause them to label their parents and the church as hypocritical.

Your children are watching you give, they are watching everything. The old Danish proverb, “Better be a sinner than a hypocrite” is simply wrong. If you are a hypocrite you are a sinner.

Matthew 7:3-5
3  “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
4  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?
5  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Jesus made His lack of patience with hypocrites clear. Be who you say you are – always.

7. We will become generous with God and His creation

When you look closely at life and see all that God has done for you – think John 3:16 – and you realize that the eternity that lies ahead will be even greater, it is easy to realize just how blessed you are.

Do you love God? Really? That old saying “you can give without loving but you cannot love without giving” is true. He has given so much out of His love. We were all made in His image, and so we should be strongly inclined to be generous in response. See our Resources for Giving Generously, Joyfully and Wisely.

For many, finances will be a lifelong struggle. Just know that there are many people who would help if you asked. The Idlewild Foundation is here if you will call. (813) 264-8713.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972. 

The Greatest Gift of All

I think Easter puts Christmas to shame. At least I believe it does in terms of God displaying His generosity to us. Christmas giving is, at least in theory, based upon the gifts of the Magi to Jesus, Matthew 2:1-12. More realistically, it currently more closely represents the late year hope of retailers to salvage the year with a rush of great sales. But Easter represents a gift so much greater than any Christmas gift that there is no fair comparison. Easter represents God’s gifts to us of victory over death and hope over despair.

Christmas is a day chosen to replace a Roman pagan festival with a Christian celebration; however, the actual day of the birth of Jesus is lost in time. Therefore, Christmas is a day that likely has a 1/365 chance of being the right day.

Easter is another matter. Now, the day Easter is celebrated changes every year. Determining when Easter will be celebrated almost requires a degree in astronomy and math. Easter is on the first Sunday after the Full Moon date that falls on or after March 21. If the full moon is on a Sunday, Easter is celebrated on the following Sunday. That is a confusing system to use to find a date for Easter. 2019 was one of the years that demonstrates the confusion. In 2019 the March equinox in the western hemisphere happened on Wednesday, March 20, but the first full moon in spring was on Thursday, March 21, in many time zones. If the Church had used only the timing of these astronomical events, Easter would have been celebrated on March 24, the Sunday after the full moon on March 21.

However, the full moon date in March by the Church’s lunar calendar was March 20, 2019, one day before the ecclesiastical date of the March equinox, March 21. For that reason, the Easter date 2019 was based on the next ecclesiastical full moon, on April 18. This is why, for example, Easter Sunday in 2019 was April 21. For 2020, the full moon after March 21 is April 7. The first Sunday after that is April 12, Easter Sunday.

Regardless of the fact that the particular day on which Easter Sunday is celebrated changes, it represents the real day, the day Jesus rose from the dead. To fully appreciate Easter, you need to broaden your view from one day to at least a full week. The last week of Jesus’ life was a tumultuous week, one of traveling, noise, celebration, quiet dining, fellowship, love, prayer, weeping, fear, pain, death, and, finally, victory.

On the Sunday that started Easter week, Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey, and then slept in Bethany. Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, and John 12.

On Monday, Jesus cursed the fig tree, wept over Jerusalem, cleansed the temple again, and slept in Bethany again. Matthew 21, Mark 11, and Luke 19.

On Tuesday, Jesus left Bethany, preached on faith, entered Jerusalem, delivered the Olivet discourse, and again stayed in Bethany. Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 20, and John 12.

On Wednesday, there is no Biblical record of what was done.

On Thursday, preparations were made by Peter and John for the Passover meal, the last supper occurred in the upper room, Jesus was betrayed by Judas and captured in the garden of Gethsemane. Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, and John 14-17.

Friday was a day filled with activity, joy and pain. Jesus was tried multiple times by Anna, the Sanhedrin, Pilate, and Herod, ending with His crucifixion. Jesus died at about 3 pm and was buried before sundown. Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, and John 18.

Saturday was a day of despair. The small group of disciples and followers thought death had won and that their hopes were lost. The tomb was sealed and heavily guarded. Matthew 27.

Sunday was a day of victory as Jesus rose from His grave. Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20.

Victory over Death

Paul said it best in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, 54-57 when he wrote:

1 Corinthians 15:1-8
1  Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.
2  By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
3  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
4  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
5  and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.
6  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.
7  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles,
8  and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

1 Corinthians 15:54-57
54  When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55  “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
56  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
57  But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

We live in a time in which people are obsessed with living longer (not always better) and trying to avoid old age. Of course, the passage of time is inescapable, so we live in an age with an enormous amount of anger and frustration. Jesus removes the reason for that. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” speaks loudly and clearly that believers have a hope no one else can claim.

Hope in Place of Despair

Again, Paul put it as clearly as it can be written in 1 Corinthians 15:17-19.

1 Corinthians 15:17-19
17  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.
18  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.
19  If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

If darkness and nothingness were all that lay ahead, we would indeed be a pitiful bunch of deluded, self-important protoplasm. We would be no better or more important than a Mayfly, alive for a day and then gone.

But we are better and more important and we have so much more. The real hope we have is one that puts the trials and struggles of life in proper perspective, and that should align or hearts and minds with the heart and mind of God. He gave an amazing gift to us at Easter, His own Son. Christmas represents the start of Jesus’ life, but Easter represents and actually is the start of our lives. God’s gift to us of victory over death and hope in place of despair is worthy of a response by us.

Our Response

This is the real question – “what is your response to God’s amazing generosity to us?” Here are a few ideas:

Give thanks

When someone gives to me, I say “thank you.” But there are times when just the words “thank you” seems painfully inadequate. It is one thing to be given a new shirt or a cap, it is another thing altogether to be given eternal life.

The Apostle John told us:

1 John 3:16-18
16  This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
17  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?
18  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

Saying thanks without more when the gift is special and more than was expected or deserved just seems inadequate. We need to do more than just words; we need to say thanks “with actions and in truth.”

How? Read on.

Give your heart

God did all of this for a reason. Our sin has separated us from Him. It has been His heart to restore the relationship broken by the original sin. Isaiah 59:2. Our sins, and those of the original sin separate us from God. There is no “good” in us that could ever allow us to approach our holy God. Romans 7. “But God” are among my favorite words, especially in Romans 5:8.

Romans 5:8
8  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

All He wants is all of you and me … all! That includes my devotion on Monday, Tuesday, and the rest of the week, not just on Sunday. It means my L.I.F.E.; my Labor through service, my Influence through my friends, neighbors, family, co-workers, and more, my Financial resources through financial generosity, giving to the church and to God’s kingdom, and my Expertise, through whatever life skills and talents God has given to me. Can they each be managed for the glory of God? Yes! There is the giving of your talents through the giving of your service, expertise and influence. Since every skill and ability you have came from God, Deuteronomy 8:18, 1 Chronicles 29:11-12, and 1 Corinthians 4:7, giving some back to Him seems appropriate. There is the giving of your treasures through the donation of financial resources, all of which came to you from God. Deuteronomy 8:18 and Matthew 6:19-21. Often your most effective and passionate service to the Lord will happen when you freely give your L.I.F.E. to the One who gave so much for you.

He gave His life for you, you should give your L.I.F.E. back to Him.

Give to support His mission

Okay, you have life and hope instead of death and despair. You have an endless supply of love from the unlimited Creator of all. Here is the next, question, “Do you keep it to yourself?” Years ago I read a comment that fits this situation perfectly. We are hungry beggars who have been given an endless supply of food. Do we hoard it and jealously guard it, keeping it from others, or do we invite others to join this amazing feast? We still have an endless supply of God’s love; it is never diminished by new followers joining. It would be selfish beyond belief to exclude others from His unlimited love.

There are many ways to give some of what He has given to you. There is the giving of time through the giving of labor. He gave you your first breath this morning and every one since then. He has given you every minute of time you have. Acts 17:24-25.

Oscar Hammerstein wrote a song, “You are sixteen” years ago that sums up my feeling about giving back out of my love for Jesus,

A bell is no bell ’til you ring it,
A song is no song ’til you sing it,
And love in your heart
Wasn’t put there to stay –
Love isn’t love
‘Til you give it away.

God has given us life and love. Let us celebrate His generosity this Easter and also give back to Him freely. If you are not sure how or where to start, give us a call at The Idlewild Foundation.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

Checking on Your Financial Freedom

Your financial goal should never be either financial security or financial independence. Instead, your goal should be financial freedom! Before we go further, let’s see why I write that since so much of the world sets financial security financial or independence as its goal.

Financial Security

Simply put, short of becoming a billionaire, hoarding your wealth and taking no risks, you can’t even come close to real financial security. You might not even make it even then. We live in a very uncertain world and, as the recession of 2008 should have taught us, financial security is largely an illusion.

Financial Independence

To examine financial independence, you really need to ask yourself, “Independent from what?” If it is independence from work with no savings and a hope social security will be enough, you may gain “financial independence” but have a very uncertain future. On the other hand, if it is independence from worry, you are back to the same problem as with financial security, short of investments and saving in the billions with the same conservative or risk free investment approach. Financial independence is either a word game or is illusory.

There is a realistic alternative – financial freedom.

Financial Freedom

Financial freedom means you are free from the imprisoning grip of money and greed. It also means that you are sufficiently prepared with wise financial decisions that you can face most major life events with minimal financial stress.

No, you will never “be in control” and the chances that there will never be any financial risk or shock in your life is exceedingly small. However, knowing that you have made wise choices for saving, spending and planning can remove much of the pressure and most of the stress of the inevitable hard times.

Here are the logical and Biblical steps you can take toward financial freedom.

1. Put God first

He owns it all, Psalm 24:1, so you should acknowledge His priority. If someone loaned you his car for a day and you needed it a second day, what would you do? Of course, you would ask the owner. If you have any uncertainty about a financial decision, a purchase, whether and how much you should give, then ask the Owner, God.

God has made it clear that what we have is for His glory, not for our hoarding. 2 Corinthians 9:10-11. God has told us He expects us to give. 2 Corinthians 9:8-13. We should excel in the grace of giving. 2 Corinthians 8:7. In fact, He has dared us to give and told us we would be blessed if we did. Malachi 3:10.

How much should you give? See What About Giving and Tithing While Paying Down Debt? and make your own decision, but I suggest that tithing on gross income should be your minimum giving. I have heard 10% referred to as the training wheels of generosity and I believe that is an accurate label.

You need to also consider what you may be giving up by not giving – blessings. That is the reality of the law of reaping and sowing. See Galatians 6:7 and 2 Corinthians 9:6.

2. Put your immediate future second

Save for that proverbial rainy day by creating an emergency savings fund. This is not money invested in stocks or bonds, it is held loosely and is ready for the inevitable broken appliance, roof leak, car breakdown or accident, etc. Most Americans live without adequate emergency funds. Many live paycheck to paycheck and risk loss of their home or eviction if there is a serious illness, loss of a job or other surprise in life. We have been told that we will face trials and troubles, so we certainly should be prepared. John 16:33. This is one way you can prepare. Just think about how differently people would have reacted to the Covid-19 shutdowns  if they had had a full six months of living expenses saved and accessible!

The emergency fund should cover up to six months of your take home pay. It may take a while to build that fund up, but the freedom you feel when you know you have that fund to fall back on is great.

Look at your career and ask honestly if it is here you want to spend thousands of hours, literally years of your life, for the next 30 to 40 years. Is it going to allow you to reach your financial goals? If not, seek wise counsel about a job or career change.

Another step on this topic is for you to spend less. Most Americans spend all but a very small percentage of their disposable personal income. The national savings rate is currently at approximately 6.2%, well below the long-term average of 8.82%. Even the long term average is too low. See Save More – 10% Isn’t Enough.

Next, get rid of debt. Once you have an emergency fund and slow down your spending, you should have money left over. Apply it to paying down debt faster than the “minimum payment” of the credit card you may have. That minimum payment is designed more to enrich the credit card company than help you. See Getting Out of Debt, The Disaster of Debt, and Americans in Debt for insights into the debt problem in America.

Eliminate multiple credit cards, start living by paying cash and set your finances on a course to give, save, and live within your means. See Do It the Easy Way And Pay. One strong recommendation is for you to consider setting a “finish line.” Actually, there are two finish lines you should consider. The first is a limit on the income you need to live reasonably. Spend that and either save or give away the rest. Once you set that goal, stick to it regardless of the changes in your income. An amazing example of this lies in the life of Alan and Katherine Barnhart. Watch a short video telling part of their amazing life story to see how this type of finish line can bless you and your family.

Notice that Alan Barnhart studied the Bible and tried to learn everything that God had said about money and possessions. That as and still is a wise course of action. You can have it easier than Alan Barnhart did. Read God and Money by Gregory Baumer and John Cortines.

A second finish line that can be set by you is in the answer to the question, “How much is enough?” No, the answer is not, “Just a little bit more.” This second finish line applies to income, assets, lifestyle and every material aspect of life.

I strongly recommend that either or both of these finish lines be set early and be set with your witness as a believer in mind. It would also be very helpful to involve others in setting your finish lines and in holding you accountable to avoid the temptations of wealth. 1 Timothy 6:9-10.

The final step is what helps you do each of the earlier steps here as well as give to God. Create a budget. Learn how through taking a Financial Peace University course at Idlewild Church or through Crown Ministries and their Money Map.

3. Start looking a bit farther ahead and start preparing

Life doesn’t stop once you have some savings or even once you have a full six months set aside for emergencies. During the time you were saving for that emergency fund, your car got older, and so did all of your clothes, appliances, and home. Even you got older!

Contribute to a 401(k) if available, create one or contribute to an IRA if no 401(k), 403(b) or other tax-advantaged savings program is available. Contribute as much as you can, especially if your employer matches part of your contributions – it is “free money.” Actually, it isn’t free, but people who do not contribute and get a match are literally giving up money that is or could be theirs.

Start a 529 college savings plan if you plan on having children. This is a complex topic, far beyond the scope of this article, but what you need to know is that money can grow tax free to help you put your children through college using a 529 plan. Call The Idlewild Foundation at (813) 264-8713 for further information.

4. Look far enough ahead to see what might happen at age 60

By age 60 you should be well on the road towards retirement if you have not already reached that milestone. See Your Financial Future by the Decade.

Start looking at life after you retire. Will you have enough money for the lifestyle and activities you want? This is a hard calculation since you cannot possibly know what inflation rates will be in the future, hat investment income might or might not happen, what unexpected events like accidents, medical emergencies, job losses, family problems, etc. might happen. Do your best and plan ahead knowing that there will be some speed bumps in your road of life.

Consider medical insurance and when you will start Social Security? Currently, Medicare starts at age 65. There is a calculator available that tells you exactly when you become eligible to enroll. But Social Security is a moving and variable target. In 2018 the full benefit retirement age was moved to 66 years and 4 months. The full retirement age will continue to increase in two-month increments each year until it hits 67 for everyone born in 1960 or later. Make sure your plans take into account medical expenses and insurance costs because those can be disastrously high.

Another tough topic comes up here; long term care insurance. No one is guaranteed a physically active, healthy life right up to his or her final day. Physical weakness, illness and accidents do happen and many are unprepared for the high cost of care at home or the high cost of assisted living. As a result, many people risk becoming a financial burden on their children. See Long Term Care Considerations and More on Long Term Care.

What are you going to do with your time? Sitting at home watching TV, pulling weeds, trimming plants and reading may be okay for a week or two, but you will need more than that for your retirement years to be meaningful. Consider that God has told us that all of our time is also His. Whatever you plan on doing, plan with Him in mind. Luke 12:13-21.

Consider a second less-stressful career (if necessary, either financially or because you want to work) or a volunteer position (if financially possible) so you can serve God and continue to make a meaningful contribution to our world. If your second career is expected to be taking care of grandchildren, plan on having enough money to be active with them and help them experience some of God’s amazing creation.

5. Keep looking farther out

The old saying that old age isn’t for sissies has been proved true. Declining physical and at times, mental, abilities, rising prices and a rapidly changing world make it hard to prepare. It is hard, but there are a few things that can be done to take some of the sting out of a hostile world.

There are many things you can do to prepare your home for your senior years. Many of those preparations can be addressed with minimal expense. See Making Your Home Senior-Friendly and Aging in Place.

If you have not already done it – and you should have – have an estate plan prepared, one that includes a will or trust, consideration of your beneficiary designations on investments and accounts, a durable Power of Attorney, a healthcare surrogate designation and possibly even a living will. See Documents (and Protection) Everyone At Every Age Should Have.

6. Look toward eternity

Jesus gave up enormous wealth, in fact He gave up infinite wealth and took on great suffering, to have you. In return, He asks for your faith in Him. And He asks that you recognize Him as your Lord and Savior. Once you have understood that, the unlimited scope of eternity compared to the brevity of life becomes apparent and you learn that while you cannot take it with you, you can send it on ahead as Randy Alcorn puts it.

Matthew 6:19-21
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Make sure that your estate plan does not give too much to you children and remove their work ethic or give too little to God. See Giving to Your Grandchildren, Are You Giving Your Kids Money to Burn? and Coming Soon to a Millennial Near You.

If you have questions about any of these very involved topics, please feel free to call The Idlewild Foundation at (813) 264-8713. The Foundation exists to motivate, educate and facilitate generous giving and Godly stewardship. It would be our blessing to serve you.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

Start Smart Investing – How to Get Into the Market

The stock market is hard to figure out. The best advice I have ever heard is “buy low and sell high.” The lack of practical and useful details in the saying makes it hard to apply. My actual personal experience has all too often been closer to “Buy high and sell low.” If you put the view of the stock market into the lens of the Millennials, the markets is even more intimidating. Since 1990, the market has been up, down, up and down and back up again, with many fluctuations in even the calmer periods of time. From their perspective, the stock market has cost many of their parents’ significant percentages of their savings or even their home and may have added years to their need to work. Someone who is 30 years old today has a lot of negative investment history to overcome.

The sad truth is that for someone to make headway against inflation, investments better than money market accounts, bank accounts, Treasury bills and even certificates of deposits are necessary. Only 45% of American households hold mutual funds while the number of households investing in the stock market is only a little higher at 52%.

On the other hand, according to CreditDonkey.com, approximately 26% of Americans have no savings set aside for the inevitable emergencies and over 35% have saved nothing towards their own retirement. 38 million households live paycheck to paycheck! Those figures show that most Americans are nowhere close to adequately saving for retirement. See Save More – 10% Isn’t Enough for details.

It is time for people, especially Christians, to take a responsible view of their financial futures and be better stewards of what they have. It is time to start, even if slowly.

There is much wisdom in the book of Proverbs. Even though written over 2,500 years ago, Proverbs is full of wisdom for life, work and even for investing. We see in Proverbs 21:5 teaches us that, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” In other words, start slow and work at a reasonable pace towards reachable goals. That is the beginning of a good plan.

How do I start?

In It’s Time to Start Saving we have laid out a plan for starting, one that is time-tested and true. While it may seem counter-intuitive and it definitely is counter-cultural, start saving with a giving plan by paying God first. Then begin with a budget and save, first for an emergency fund, next for retirement, then debt elimination and finally save even more for retirement using tax-favorable vehicles such as 401(k)s and IRAs. It’s Time to Start Saving and Ideas for Living Better Through Stewardship have other ideas that can help along the way.

Learn about what you are doing

Yes, you are to trust in the Lord, but that does not mean take no responsible steps to prepare for the future. There are free seminars you can attend. Look for and read the financial sections of newspapers to improve your general money knowledge. There is a lot available at low or even no cost to help you learn to improve your finances, including the many resources of your nearest public library.

The amazing opportunities for learning in the digital age are not to be ignored either, although they must be used with caution. You do have to be careful because there are many unreliable, dishonest, and even crack pot investment schemes, especially on the Internet.

Consider hiring a good financial adviser to help you invest and to learn about investment and financial management. The Idlewild Foundation can give you ideas on good sources of information.

A good starting point is Stewardship Partners which has a video on Biblical investing and other helpful information. The Idlewild Foundation has worked with the National Christian Foundation, (NCF). NCF helps investors with charitable giving and is an amazing resource as you move forward with your financial progress.

Have a purpose and a plan

Saving is not merely for the sake of saving. There should be a purpose, a goal, and a plan to reach that goal. Preparation for emergencies is certainly a Biblically and rationally solid purpose for savings. Setting aside money for your family is also good. Retirement savings are also a solid purpose, but the question “How much is enough?” should be asked early on and the answer God leads you to should factor into those plans.

In answering the question, “How much is enough?” consider Paul’s wisdom:

2 Corinthians 9:11
11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

We are blessed, enriched, financially not for our personal pleasure or benefit but for God’s glory through our generosity. Considering God to be a part of your plans is a solid way to make greed less likely to win you over during times that are financially prosperous.

Another aid against greed is an accountability partner or partners who are Christ-focused and will be willing to hold you to your commitments. An excellent example is in the video of John Baumer and his friends who formed a Board of Directors for Life.

Regardless of where and how you start, perhaps the best way to start is slowly, recognizing that you are in it for the long-run. There are some general ideas that are useful:

Watch out for fees and commissions. This concern includes internal and more hidden fees. Always compare costs and expenses. Especially if you are investing in individual stocks, transaction fees can eat up your gains rapidly. Be patient.

Don’t get scared and don’t over-react. There will be downs as well as ups. If you are young enough, some of your investments should be in growth stocks. Certainly, some should be conservative but if you have enough years to make up for some losses, don’t be overly conservative. Stay away from speculation.

Diversify but still keep it manageable. There is a need for you to have investments across multiple markets and asset classes. Despite that, there is also a need for you to be able to track what is happening and, if something unexpected happens, reach without undue expense or difficulty.

Do not try market timing. Studies have shown that market timing, buying at the early stage of a rising market and getting out when it falls, is harder than it sounds. Without foresight into market moves, it is impossible to know what the market is going to do next. You don’t know it is the early stage of a rising market or how long and how far a market fall will go on is never certain, to say the least.

Look at but don’t live by historical performance. Every stock or mutual fund portfolio you will ever see will warn you that historical performance is no guarantee of future performance – and that is true. On the other hand, historical performance may be a way to show good investment research by a mutual fund manager, so it may not be something to totally ignore. Other considerations include researching historical performance during rising and falling markets to see how risky a particular stock or fund may be.

Watch. Being patient and knowing that you are in the market for the long haul does not necessarily mean ignoring your investments. Certainly, you should not panic at the first downturn, but you may want to adjust your plan and your goals depending upon developments in your income, the business or industry in which you work or the economy as a whole.

Keep adding to your investments. Continuing to add to your investment savings is by far the most important idea.

There are no certainties except that if you never start, you certainly will never have an opportunity to have investment success.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

The Death Grip of Stuff

We are going to start with a few definitions. According to Dictionary.com, materialism can be defined two ways:

1. preoccupation with or emphasis on material objects, comforts, and considerations, with a disinterest in or rejection of spiritual, intellectual, or cultural values.
2. the philosophical theory that regards matter and its motions as constituting the universe, and all phenomena, including those of mind, as due to material agencies.

The definition of greed is more specific:

1. excessive or rapacious desire, especially for wealth or possessions.

Finally, there are two definitions of covetousness:

1. inordinately or wrongly desirous of wealth or possessions; greedy.
2. eagerly desirous.

I start this way because it is important for us to know our enemies and be able to recognize them. But materialism, greed and covetousness are sneaky and conceal themselves well. That isn’t just my opinion, it is the opinion of the Apostle Paul and of Jesus as well. How can I say that? It’s easy.

Look at it this way. If you were concerned that someone might do something wrong that was easy to see and obviously wrong, one simple warning would probably be enough. Only if it were something that was deceptively easy to fall into, or something exceptionally dangerous (or both) would you give multiple warnings. Jesus and Paul both warned against materialism, greed and covetousness many times, more than any other sin. Examples include Mark 7:22, Luke 12:15, Romans 1:29, 1 Corinthians 5:11 just to list a few. Add to those the many warnings against materialism, greed and covetousness in the Old Testament and you have a sin that was a common topic. Why? I believe it is because these are sins that are difficult to spot at times, can easily creep into your life, and whose grip is extraordinarily hard to overcome once they have set into a person’s life.

One problem I have wrestled with is my natural reaction – “Hey, I worked hard and I have earned this as a reward for all of my effort, skills and sacrifice.” That is a very natural, very common and very sinful reaction. It is also nothing new. Solomon was right when he said that there is nothing new under the sun. Ecclesiastes 1:9.

Deuteronomy 8:17-18
17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.”
18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

I have no excuse and no escape. All I have came from God and all I have belongs to Him, and that includes my skills, education, training and talents.

So now let’s get back to the fact that Jesus and Paul warned against materialism, greed and covetousness so many times. Why so many warnings against them? Because materialism, greed and covetousness are hard to recognize, especially in oneself, and it is an unusually dangerous sin once it is entrenched in a person’s life. The warnings were necessary to catch our attention. Think about it. How many times did Jesus and Paul warn against the sin of murder? How many times did they warn against stealing? Far less than against materialism, greed and covetousness.

One of the sad evidences of the sneakiness of materialism, greed and covetousness is the prevalence of greed in the church and the church’s response. If a church member bragged about being a murderer, the response from the church would be immediate and direct, and you could be sure it would not be ignored. But if someone makes enormous income and flaunts it, the expensive new home in the gated community, several new cars, flashy clothes and jewelry and more, probably nothing would be said openly except, “I hope you are giving based on your income.” In fact, if the new wealth caused the person to divorce his spouse and go after younger women, probably more would be said about that than about materialism, greed and covetousness.

It is a sin that needs to be addressed.


A practical view

Part of the deceptiveness of materialism, greed and covetousness is that they can be hidden so well. No one greeting at the door of the church asks for a copy of members’ tax returns or a financial balance sheet. I am a greeter so I know that for sure. No greeter even checks to see if people entering give, much less tithe. Someone on the church staff certainly knows if someone gives, but probably they have no idea if the giving is more or less than 10% of net or gross income.

Someone could be wealthy and have millions locked up in investment accounts, real estate and other assets but if that person lived frugally, you would never know. Even so, that person with great wealth is probably under the grip of materialism, greed and covetousness. Why else would they keep it and keep it hidden?

Or they might even display some of that wealth and live well. There is no prohibition against wealth or living well. After all, it is still His and He could take it back in a heartbeat (literally), if He wanted.

There is no requirement that we live frugally or immediately give it all away. Instead of that, we are supposed to avoid becoming entangled by our wealth because that wealth can cause us to lose sight of God. That is financial freedom. See Checking on Your Financial Freedom which we will post next month.

Unfortunately, what stuff we have as a result of where we were fortunate enough to be born, creates a great many temptations and traps which can hold us to our wealth. We Americans are blessed with wealth and resources far beyond anything anyone in the past has had. We have air conditioning for our homes, businesses and even our cars. Imagine what Solomon would have paid for an air-conditioned chariot much less an air-conditioned bedroom. We have cars, trains and planes that allow us to travel anywhere in the world in less than two days. Even in the 1800’s, overseas journeys took weeks or months, not hours. Imagine what the Roman Empire would have paid to get a hold of an M-1 Abrams battle tank or even a few assault rifles with a lifetime supply of ammunition.

However, mixed in with that blessing is a curse: the curse of too much. In fact, we have so much that many get the impression we do not need God or a Savior. Their

Psalm 20 reads:

Psalm 20:7
7 Some trust in laws and some in authority,
but we trust in the name of our lord, wealth.

Instead of the original (in the NIV):

Psalm 20:7
7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

Many are not only deceived by their stuff, they become trapped by it. It is easy to become comfortable, to enjoy the material blessings, to become dependent upon them and finally, to be a slave to our stuff. That expensive new smart phone demands your attention either with a special ring tone or vibration despite the fact that you don’t know what half of the features really allow you to do. That beautiful jewelry is expensive but it is so expensive that wearing it seems dangerous. But you spent all that money on it, so you can’t keep it locked up all the time. The new car has to be carefully parked because it might get dinged by someone parking next to it. Your stuff begins to demand your attention and ultimately ends up demanding your life.

As a work-a-holic, I know the strength of the draw of the world and the greed that wealth generates. I worked for money, but worked so hard I had little time to enjoy it. That didn’t matter, I just worked harder. Work became something I worshiped and loved, not merely a way to earn a living. It became my love and my life, my god.
The power and availability of toys and stuff becomes so addictive that it is relatively easy to miss sight of what and who is really important. So, how do you either avoid or escape the grasp of your stuff?

How to avoid materialism, greed and covetousness

There is a short but very practical start to overcome greed. It is found in Acts 20.

Acts 20:28-34
28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.
29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.
30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.
31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.
32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing.
34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions.

Just as Moses in Deuteronomy 18 had to deal with the same issues and excuses I have tried recently, Paul and the people of his church in Corinth struggled with many of the same issues we call contemporary. They were strong with Paul present, but Paul was concerned that they would backslide hen confronted with lies and false teaching (Acts 20:28-30). He then described to them how he taught them and how he resisted covetousness and greed. (Acts 20:33-34). His strength and his teaching was to commit them to God and to the word of His grace. (Acts 20:32). That word of God’s grace is, in fact, the gospel. The gospel is the good news which is that that we are saved through faith and not by our own efforts or works. Ephesians 2:8-9.

We need to know and fully understand that nothing of this world can compare to the riches He offers us. No earthy treasure will last, and no heavenly treasure can ever fade.

Matthew 6:19-21
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

When we fully grasp that and the future we will have for eternity with God, we can’t turn back and the lure of stuff fades. There is an old joke about a wealthy man who insisted in bringing his gold with him to heaven. He pleaded with St. Peter and begged with him only to be met with a final denial in the form of one simple question, “Why would you want to bring paving stones into heaven?” Revelation 21:21.

That is what comes to us with the new life we have in Christ. Romans 6:4.

A new life

If a practical step about that new life and the power to resist the temptation of stuff is what is needed, here it is, generosity. That may sound odd. “You mean giving my stuff to someone else so they can enjoy my stuff will help me not love my stuff?” Yes, that is true, so long as the giving takes place in the context of God’s love and His priority in the lives of believers.

In fact, if you go back to that passage in Acts 20, you can see that what Paul is really saying is that to the extent you “get” the gospel, to the extent you fully grasp His love and sacrifice for you, you will be radically generous because “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35. Or, as Pastor Tim Keller in a wonderful video has so well stated it, the inverse is also true, “If you are not radically generous, you can say all you want that you believe the gospel but you actually don’t.”

Giving, especially giving radically, is our expression of our trust in Christ! He has instructed us that we have nothing to worry about because God cares for us and will provide. Matthew 6:25-34. And you have to keep the perspective that you are not giving away your stuff, you are giving away His! It is always easier to give away someone else’s money.

His promises for us should overcome all concerns. Luke 6:38 and 2 Corinthians 9:6.

But keep sight of the fact that generosity is far, far more than writing a check, even writing a big check. Stewardship is a whole life activity. See The Stewardship of Time, Part 1 and Part 2. Give your time, your talents as well as of your treasures. Give your L.I.F.E., Labor, Influence, Financial resources and Expertise. It all belongs to Him anyway.

In giving, make it meaningful, make it from your firstfruits, and make it from the heart. See a posting coming March 15, Winning the Financial Game, for further details. Give God your best L.I.F.E., not your leftovers.

Yes, you did work long and hard for the stuff you have. Yes, it is good stuff. But ask yourself, “Do you own your stuff, or does it on you?”

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

A Great Start to 2021

New Year’s Resolutions to Kick-Off the Year

What are your New Year Resolutions for 2021?  Lose weight – check, exercise more – check, and get in better shape – long overdue! Those three resolutions are there for me almost every year. But then life happens! Sometimes I keep such a resolution for a few weeks or maybe even a few months with strong encouragement. After that, the busy days of spring begin to take over.

Instead, join me and make one of your resolutions for 2021 to review family financial and estate plans. Significant life changes (and even significant market or legal changes such as increasing income tax rates) are something that should trigger in our minds the question, “Do I need to change my will or trust?” or “Should I change any of my beneficiary designations?” If you need an easy way to keep track of your bequests and beneficiary designations on bank accounts, IRAs and financial or investment accounts, make a list. It is best done on a computer file so you do not have to re-do the entire document each time there is a significant change, but then print it and keep it with your estate and financial documents just in case your computer files are somehow lost. For a few additional thoughts on this topic, see A Few Estate Planning Pitfalls (especially #3) and A Few More Estate Planning Pitfalls.

Also, think about adding a few fresh ideas in which your entire family can become involved! Here are some things we are trying that I can offer as suggestions to prayerfully consider.

  1. Serve: Serve together as a family, a small group or just as a group of friends.  Find a ministry that touches your heart and about which you can be passionate. Schedule yourself to serve regularly in this ministry with your family, a group of friends, or involve your small group. On a simpler note, you can visit a friend you haven’t seen in a while, perhaps someone out with an illness or injury. Always remember that stewardship is a L.I.F.E activity that is not limited to dollars and cents. It involves your Labor, your Influence, your Financial resources, and your Expertise, your entire L.I.F.E. Stop by the MVNT booth in the Gatheria at Idlewild. Learn how you can discover God’s gifting to you and put your gift(s) into joyful service. You can give an hour a week – yes, you really can.

2. Broaden your view: Look for new opportunities to broaden your stewardship. Never neglect giving your tithe to your home church. Check out Does the New Testament Teach Tithing?, More on the Tithe – Tithes and Offerings 1, and More on the Tithe – Tithes and Offerings 2. Know that God has also called us to give over and above the tithe. Read and reflect upon Deuteronomy 15, Matthew 23:23, and Luke 12:33-34.

3. Give generously and wisely: When you find a ministry that touches your heart, consider giving as well as serving. You can give in different ways. Instead of just monetary giving, consider giving an appreciated asset, stock, or a piece of property. This type of giving may be better for both you and the charity than if you sold and donated the net proceeds. This strategy may reduce your tax burden if done correctly (and wisely) and increases the amount the charity receives – and what that charity can do. Not sure how to do this? The Idlewild Foundation can show you how. Just give us a call at (813) 264-8713. And never forget God in your giving.

4. Learn about Giving Funds: Explore the possibilities of a Donor Advised Fund that will allow you a deduction now, but choose who you want to support and how much you will give at a future date. This kind of fund can be an efficient means of setting up recurring donations and makes record keeping for taxes easy. Learn more at Ways to Give, or just give us a call. Now, with the new administration in Washington and with there being a great likelihood of either direct or indirect tax increases, more than ever you need to examine tax-wise giving. We can help!

5. Share your experience with others: If you have a life example of how God has blessed you and how you have given back to Him, share your story. Tell your small group, your friends, and your family about how you’ve been blessed and how you’ve been able to bless others.

6. Accelerate your life: In 2021 as Idlewild completes its debt elimination program, Accelerate, and increases its kingdom investments, join Pastor Ken in that goal. Be a part of Accelerate! Give over and above the tithe to accelerate payment of the last of the debt and allow Idlewild to enter a new phase of even more service to the kingdom.

Here’s another idea! Why not spend some time reviewing your spending for 2020? By looking at your bank and charge card statements you’ll get a pretty good picture of where your money was spent and what your priorities have been. Did you find ways to glorify God through any of your spending? Did your spending in 2020 give more glory to yourself than to God? Could you do better? Give God the credit He is due. He made your income and your abilities possible.


Deuteronomy 8:18
18     But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth …


Give God the credit He is due. He made your income and your abilities possible.

Take some time to sit down with your family and discuss ways to manage your money more effectively. Consider speaking with someone from the Stewardship Ministry of Idlewild Baptist Church or with us at The Idlewild Foundation. We can give you tips and ideas in managing your money. And don’t worry. You won’t be bludgeoned until you agree to give money to the Foundation! On the other hand, you will learn ways that you can further God’s kingdom by sharing His blessings with others – with open hands!

You can contact us at The Idlewild Foundation, (813) 264-8713 or email me at jcampbell@idlewild.org. Make 2021 a year to celebrate!

 

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40 year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus.  He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016.  He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

Save $ in 2021

Saving money is a challenge. The money seems to (and does) build up slowly and the temptations to cheat and spend rather than save are like dieting temptations, easy to find and hard to resist. Here are a few practical ideas to keep your savings increasing and to help you hold the line on spending. When you save on one of the ideas here, save the money toward an emergency savings account, your retirement or a special trip and vacation.

Try these ideas and save:

1. Your car insurance rises every year even though your car is older and is worth less. You would think at least the collision coverage would decrease. It will, if you decide to shop around at least every three years. You may not want to decide based upon premium cost alone, because there is a lot to be said about receiving good service; but if money is tight, shop around. 

2. If you have emergency savings, go with high deductible collision coverage. You can save a lot that way. I will admit it may cost you if you have an at fault accident, but if you go several years without an accident, your savings will far exceed the amount of your deductible. If you don’t have an emergency savings fund, start one now.

3. Shop your homeowners coverage as well. Those premiums tend to rise more than the value of your home. Home insurers, like car insurers, count on your not wanting the hassle of changing carriers.

4. Drop your magazine subscriptions. Check and you may find the very same magazine is available at your nearest public library. Or, alternatively, spend a quiet evening at a local bookstore, reading your favorite magazines for free.

5. Hold a garage sale. Go through your closet and find clothes you have not worn in a year. The chances are you will never wear it if you haven’t worn it in a year. Pull the junk out of your closets you never use and out of the attic that you stuffed up there and see if there is someone else who wants your junk. You won’t make a lot, but you will make more than doing nothing will make for you. Alternatively, try eBay or sell online. A second alternative is for you to donate what you have to a Christian thrift store and take the deduction on your tax return if you are able.

6. Check your Internet, cable and phone plans. You can almost always improve your plan and save money if you check once a year. Ask yourself if you really need that landline. We dropped ours over a year ago and discovered we received fewer junk calls during dinner.

7. Get a free energy audit from your power company and see where your electric use can be trimmed. Consider adding attic insulation if your house is old, many types of older insulation settle and lose R-value, costing you money every month. Alternatively, you could do something really radical and turn off the lights when you leave a room.

8. Drop your gym membership and take up walking. It is easier on the knees and hips than jogging, can be done well into your 70’s, and is free!

9. Keep your tires properly inflated, put the right gas in your car and maintain it based upon the manufacturer’s recommendations.

10. If you use AAA for emergency roadside service, go to an AAA location and check out their available gift cards. You get a 3 to 5% credit in AAA dollars towards your next year AAA bill. If it is a card for a restaurant you are going to eat at anyway, a store you will shop at anyway (or even Amazon Smile), or a gift card you would give as a gift anyway, you will save an annual AAA fee in a fairly short time, certainly less than a year.

11. While I am on the topic of gift cards, buy them at a discount from a discounter like giftcardgranny.com. You can at times find meaningful discounts on hundreds of gift cards including Walmart, Target, and many large retailers.

12. Buy used, not new. A used car, if checked out carefully, is a great savings over a new car. New cars lose thousands of dollars almost the same moment you drive the car off the lot. If the car isn’t too old, you may still have some warranty left – always check. If buying a used car, always check the obvious things such as the tires. Many dealers will put new tires on a car if you spot a worn or repaired tire.

13. Used books are readily available at thrift stores, or, even better free books, magazines and videos are available at the public library.

14. Buy an Entertainment Book and eat out for 50% at many restaurants. Try Entertainment Books and see what restaurants and services are covered in your area. In the Tampa Bay area there are over 150 restaurants and services offering substantial discounts. You quickly save the cost of the book, try new places and then save a lot more.

15. Save without the hassle of coupons. There is a rather remarkable website worth checking – Savingstar. You can go to their free website, check the products you want to buy from a store and get cash back after you shop. You can link your store loyalty card or upload the receipt and save. The stores available can be seen from the site and include Publix, WalMart, Target, CVS, Walgreens and literally hundreds of other retailers.

Saving just requires that you try. The problem is that we tend to get so busy, that time is a commodity that is hard to find. But if you can find the time to try a few of these ideas here, you can save a lot. If you have additional ideas, call or email us and we will pass them on.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.