More Bang for My Buck
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The National Bureau of Economic Research has declared the recession to be over. According to their data, it ended in June, 2009. But don’t be surprised if fourteen million unemployed people disagree.

Still, even for those who have found jobs and are part of the economic recovery, life has changed. Surveys indicate that a new austerity governs spending habits as people struggle to decrease debt, increase savings, and protect themselves against the next downturn. Sales in discount stores such as Dollar Stores are growing as people seek greater value for their limited resources. They want more bang for their buck.

Obtaining more value is not limited to finances. As this new year speeds along, I’ve been thinking about other areas where my “spending” could result in a greater yield.  Some of these areas include:

Use of my time
I often complain about not having enough time, but I know time wasters often consume my days. I’m easily distracted, so even though I may have something I should be doing, I’ll look at Facebook, Twitter, or my email. I’ll check the snail-mailbox to see if something other than another bill was delivered. I’ll stop to play with the dog, or check the television listings to ensure I’m not missing something good.

It’s not that these things are bad, it’s just that I need to focus more on the task in front of me instead of flitting all over the place. A little more focus will definitely give me more bang for my buck in my use of time.

Physical health

The older I get, the more I am aware that my body “ain’t what it used to be.” It doesn’t help that I eat more of what I shouldn’t and exercise less than I should. Oh, I have great excuses: I don’t have much time to exercise, I have some lower back issues, and my metabolism has two speeds: slow and reverse. But that’s all they are—excuses.

If I want more bang for my health buck, then I need to make choices, not excuses.

Emotional investments
Cultivating relationships is hard work. Successful relationships require a commitment to invest in others, regardless of convenience. However, I know from past experience that a little investment now will yield high returns in the form of deep, abiding friendships.

While these relationships need investments of my time and behavior, they also require that I avoid investing in other ways. Rather than invest in emotional pity-parties or resentment at perceived slights, I need to redirect myself to extend forgiveness. If I don’t, how can I expect anyone to extend forgiveness to me? By doing so – even before I am asked – I am releasing myself from a prison of my own making. That’s more bang for the emotional buck!

Spiritual development
I’m a Bible teacher and an author for the Christian market. So, of course, I spend a great deal of time in the Bible, in prayer, and in writing that encourages others in their Christian walk. But it’s easy to depersonalize these activities – to go through the motions for the purpose of a lesson plan or research for a book, rather than for application to my own life.

But God is not interested in my ministry if it comes at the expense of my relationship with Him. If successful ministry activities crowd out intimate relationship, then everything I teach and write is a testament to hypocrisy, a stench rather than sweet-smelling incense that reaches God’s throne. More bang for my buck in my spiritual life comes not from more ministry, but from a more intimate walk with my Savior.

The economy has caused many to change their shopping habits. But the way I spend my money is just one of many areas where I would like to see more bang for my buck. How about you?

In what areas of your life do you want more bang for your buck this year?

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