You love working with students and despise working with money. That’s why you’re a youth minister and not an investment banker. But you also know the fastest way to lose your job is to mismanage your church’s money. You’re doing the best job you can with the funds you’ve been given, but it’s easy to mess up without even thinking about it. These are the four most common money mistakes I see when I help youth workers manage their budgets:

1. Paying sales tax sometimes or all of the time. Depending on your state, as much as 7% of your budget could go to sales taxes if you’re not careful. It takes just a little bit of work on the front end to figure out tax-exempt systems, but after that, it’s a no-brainer to make sure you don’t pay what you don’t have to pay.

2. Being too optimistic when paying deposits or buying tickets. I know, it would be awesome if 80 students showed up for the Switchfoot concert, but if that’s never happened before, you can’t count on it. Don’t get stuck with forty extra tickets – that’s like setting $1,200 on fire.

3. Failing to negotiate totally negotiable prices. Imagine you ran a retreat center that was running far below capacity during the off-season. Would you rather rent your space at discounted price or not rent it at all? Can you imagine how many fundraisers you could cut if you asked for and received a 20% discount on your next big rental?

4. Focusing on saving pennies instead of making a few big wins. I know a guy who would call his volunteers to ask them to cut pizza coupons from the Sunday paper. It saved him a few dollars, but he would have saved hundreds of dollars and hours of time if he’d just called the pizza place and asked for a church, non-profit, or large group discount.

Now it’s your chance to be the teacher. What is one of the money mistakes you’ve made? How did you fix it?

Aaron Helman is on a mission to help end the epidemic of youth worker burnout. He writes Smarter Youth Ministry to help youth workers with their biggest frustrations – things like managing money. He is also the youth minister at Firehouse Youth Ministries in South Bend, Indiana.

I’ve yet to meet a youth minister who gets excited about managing budgets or planning fundraisers, but those are things we all have to do. At Smarter Youth Ministry, I’ve shared the kinds of money saving ideas that make it easier to manage your finances so that you can pay more attention to your students. Last month, I heard from a youth worker who’d been able to eliminate to car washes and replace them  with fun outreach events. Here’s how he did it.

Cut a ton of money from your budget by negotiating pizza prices.

Most chain stores are run by independent franchisers which means that they’ve got the latitude to cut you a deal, and except the one you’re currently using, every place in town would love to cut you a deal. Here’s how to give them that opportunity.

1. Create a one-page proposal that you can share with every pizza place in the area. Tell them how many pizzas you anticipate ordering this year. Tell them the kind of deal you’re getting right now. Tell them you want a better one. Give them a window of time to get back with you (48 hours seems right). Throw out phrases like “official pizza provider” and give franchisers the option to place posters or coupons at your serving area.

2. Fax, email, or hand-deliver your proposal to every decent pizza place in town.

3. Once you receive responses, send another proposal to each of the places that responded. Share the best deal you received and give each one more chance to beat it.

4. Decide on a deal and lock it in. Negotiate delivery fees (these are always negotiable). Make sure the organization knows that you’re tax exempt!

5. Do this every year. Pizza franchises are notorious for changing ownership on a regular basis, and a new owner might be more willing to cut a deal.

When I started in youth ministry in 2004, I was paying $9.50 for a large pizza at Donato’s. Today, we get large pizzas from Cici’s for $4.50, there’s no delivery charge, and the owner insists that we do not tip the driver. In a larger youth ministry, it’s feasible that this could save you $1,000 or more.

If someone showed up to donate a few hundred dollars to your program, you wouldn’t hesitate to take it. What would stop you from saving just as much money and giving a couple of local establishments an honest chance to win your business?

Aaron Helman is a youth minister in South Bend, Indiana and the creator of Smarter Youth Ministry. He wants to reduce your frustration so that you can do ministry forever. Join his free email list to receive the actual copies of the letters he’s used to negotiate pizza prices.