Bill Haggling

If you’re looking to cut some expenses in your budget, never settle for “retail” or the first quoted price on certain monthly bills. It can be tough and sometimes take a long phone conversation or two, but haggling on some of your monthly service bills is a great way to save on your bills. If you haven’t already done this before, you ought to try calling one or more of your bill providers to ask for a better rate.

We have managed to get lower rates numerous times and kept almost all of our bills from increasing since Kat and I have been married. (For example, we only have Internet service and actually pay less now than when we originally signed up and they’ve quadrupled our download/upload speed since then.) Here are some ideas and tips to get you started:

Cable & Internet: Call your provider and simply ask for a better deal. Don’t be afraid to let them know you’re shopping around and have found better rates elsewhere, and even ask for the appropriate rep to cancel your service if you aren’t getting anywhere with the first person you speak with. Sometimes you just have to jump through a few hoops and prolong the phone call for them to just give in and magically find that lower rate.

Credit cards: Call your creditors and negotiate a lower interest rate using essentially the same principles as with your cable/internet service. Let them know you expect better rates/service or you will go elsewhere. (Credit card providers already make a killing on every single transaction because vendors have to pay small percentages on them, so they are just gouging you for additional revenue with high interest rates.)

Rent: This is not always possible, but it is definitely worth a shot every single time your rent lease is up. (We have managed to save thousands over the course of a year by haggling every year when the time came to renew our lease.)

Car insurance: Ask for a better rate or a discount (especially if you work from home), and inquire about all possible discounts available to you based on where you live, how much you drive, what type of car you own, etc. (We’ve never changed car insurance carriers because they have yet to be beaten when we actually have shopped around.)

Gym membership: Not an easy one and this is one of the most overpriced bills for most people, but if you go to a large chain gym like LA Fitness, Gold’s Gym, Lifetime, etc. then it’s always worth a shot to keep asking for a better deal. (We just use our local city gym in Allen, and there happens to be a free gym for me at my office, so we’ve managed to keep this cost way down.)

The Best Things You Can Do at Costco Without a Membership

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For those willing to pay the membership fee, Costco is a great place to buy in bulk and access a number of services. However, If you don’t want to pony up the cash ($55/year), there are still plenty of things you can take advantage of without a card.

1. Get your eyes checked: Costco stores have an optometrist on site and you can schedule an appointment whether you’re a member or not. The downside is that you need a membership to buy Costco’s offering of glasses, contact lenses, or other eye-wear.

2. Use a Costco Gift Card: As long as the gift card (which can go up to $1,000) is bought by someone with a membership, you can buy anything in the store. You can also use it to get into the store without a membership card.

3. Get medicine from the Pharmacy or Immunization Shots: You can get your prescription medicine at Costco too, but you still need a doctor’s note to fill it. Costco also offers immunizations without a membership.

4. Buy alcoholic beverages: Most states prohibit the forming of alcohol or tobacco “clubs”, so you can tell them at the door that you’re there to just buy alcohol and they should let you in.

5. Go window shopping: Tell the rep at the entrance looking for member cards that you would like to go to membership services and ask about joining. Once you’re at the service desk, get an application and ask to browse the store before making your decision.

6. Eat at the Food Court: Many Costcos have food courts outside the register area, so you can order whatever you like as long as you have cash (many of them now accept Amex/debit as well). If the food court is inside you can use an old gift card to get in or use the window shopping trick.

There are a lot of reasons to go to Costco, membership or not. It can be worth the time to find ways to save money, and if you want to take the plunge into a membership, there are a few items sold by Costco that can single-handedly pay for your Costco membership fee.

Stewardship Questions to Consider

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1. What is generosity?

Generosity is the natural, consistent, and occasionally spontaneous giving of our material possessions to God’s service and our communities because of and modeled after what Jesus Christ has done for us on the cross. As God “did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all” (Romans 8:32), so our posture toward God and others in response to His love should be one of cheerful sacrifice and generosity.

2. What is stewardship?

A steward is a person who has been entrusted with, and manages, another’s resources according to the owner’s vision and values. Each of us was created for stewardship by God. (Genesis 1:28). A steward is both a ruler, with authority to govern resources, and a slave, accountable to an owner of those resources. The New Testament calls Christians caretakers of God’s truths and gifts – even “God’s grace” (1st Corinthians 4:1, 1st Peter 4:10).

3. What is the basis for the tithe?

In the Old Testament, believers were required to give a tenth of their income to the support of the ministry and the needs of the poor. The New Testament teaches that we should give as we are “able and even beyond [our] ability” (2nd Corinthians 8:3). Therefore, the tithe (10%) is seen as a kind of minimum guideline for giving.

4. Do I give 10% of my gross or net income?

Scripture teaches that we are to give back to God our “firstfruits” (Exodus 23:16, 19). Proverbs 3:9 encourages us to “honor the LORD with [our] wealth, with the firstfruits of [our] crops,” meaning the primary and choicest of our possessions. God has modeled “firstfruits” giving in offering us His Son Jesus Christ. Our response to God should reflect our love of and devotion to Him.

5. What if I am unable to give 10% right now?

There are seasons to our economic life. There are financial responsibilities to our families, friends, communities and, in some cases, creditors. In any stage of life, good planning is necessary to increase our giving over time without neglecting our legal and personal financial obligations. Further, for some people, 10% is too low a starting point. For others, giving even 5% is a sacrifice. The goal is to increase one’s commitment up to and above 10%, so that it models Christ’s love to our communities.

6. Should I give all of my tithe/offering to my local Church?

The answer to this is a qualified “no.” Your gift is an act of personal worship to God in response to His grace in your life and the gift of His Son. The allocation of your money and time to God’s service should be a byproduct of prayer and consultation with other Christians to whom you are accountable. However, if you consider a particular church to be your “home church,” you should consider allocating a significant portion of your tithe and offering to the community where you invest most of your time, and where others are investing in you.

7. Isn’t there more to generosity and stewardship than money?

We certainly must be good stewards of all that God has given us: money, time, skills, influence, and position. Therefore, generosity and stewardship are about much more than money, but not less than our financial resources. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Our heart’s inclination is to worship anything other then God. In a culture like the Anerican one we live in today, money can become an idol. Therefore, giving it away generously to God’s service can liberate us from our idolatry and fix our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2).

God gives. No truth is more readily apparent in Scripture than the generosity, grace, and gifts of God. He delights in giving.

As those being conformed to the image of Christ, we should equally delight in giving. And it isn’t just giving in general that is expected; rather it is selfless and sacrificial giving that overflows from a heart responding to the generosity of the gospel.

If you can’t give cheerfully, give anyway (don’t compound your internal sin with external sin), but as you do, confess your struggle, seek clarity on the disconnect between your heart and the gospel, pray for joy, and walk in repentance.

The gospel of Jesus Christ compels us to give, confronting our fleshly tendencies toward greed, control, comfort, and convenience.

What if a raise or bonus at work provided an opportunity to further advance the gospel, give to the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and give comfort to the needy, rather than just drive a newer car or buy a bigger house?