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Thursday, March 31, 2011

It All Adds Up

Everyone who really knows me knows how tight I am with money. I hold onto it and send it out to get more of its brothers and sisters. Here are some examples.

Many people believe that the few flights they take a year will never amount to enough miles for any benefit. I thought the same thing for years until I finally signed up for each airline's frequent flier program. Now, I get at least one free ticket each from two major airlines each year. With one airline I have enough frequent flier miles to go around the world. I have flown two of my children to South Africa on mission trips using frequent flier miles. I have taken trips for funerals for my wife's family with frequent flier miles. This is with no additional expense to me.

Last year Discover offered its card holders the opportunity to get an extra $500 back if they would use the card for $2000 per month for five months. That became my exclusive card for those months. I put gas, groceries, utilities and any bill I had on the Discover card. I didn't make any irregular purchases. I just put everything I had on the Discover card. They gave me my regular 1% back too so I got $600 for using the card for five months.

Instead of taking the money from the Discover card, I got gift cards. Discover often offers gift cards for restaurants at a discount if you get them instead of money back. Now, my wife and I go out to eat often at no expense to us. (By the way, I pay the total balance on every credit card each month so that I pay no interest each year.)

My wife and I have been using a Flexible Spending account for the past few years. A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) allows you to set aside pre-taxed medical expenses which come out of your pocket. This means that my co-pays, prescriptions, dental, glasses, physical therapy and lab work which would come out of my pocket will not be taxed by Social Security, the state or the IRS. I just got the reimbursement check from it this past week. (My wife and I fill it out once a year. You can do it all along but we like to see the big check.) We saved over $500 in taxes.

Of course, I drive used cars, cut out coupons and shop the sales too. I am a member of two wholesale clubs and make sure that I can't get a better deal on the internet or anywhere else before I buy. I actually do not know how much money I am saving each year. I would estimate it to be somewhere near $5000 (more if you consider how long I own a car!).

None of these things are huge. They just add up. They take a little more of my time. I must keep up with some records and I must be diligent if I want to reap the maximum benefit.

Now think of this with so many other things in life. Did you know that by gaining one pound a month that you will have gained sixty pounds in five years. That's less than two ounces per day! Did you know that by overspending $100 per month that you will be $6000 in debt in five years. That's overspending less than four dollars a day! (Makes going out for lunch seem like a bad idea. Huh?)

What about the non-quantifiable things? How about not telling your spouse of your love? How about not speaking to your children? How about not having a time alone with the Lord? These things all add up too.

Now, think about your life. You got where you are by taking a huge number of small steps. These small steps have either led you to a full meaningful life or they have led you to something less than you would like to have. I have found that the biggest step is turning around when you are going the wrong direction. Then, it is a bunch of small steps to get where you would like to be.

Believe me, it all adds up.

Proverbs 6:10-11 (NIV)
10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest-- 11  and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.

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