Learning to balance your budget is a necessary life skill. While it sounds like a chore, once you develop some sound budgeting strategies, you can enjoy the security it provides and build wealth. Plus, keeping sound finances is important for your security clearance.
Be sure you are taking advantage of all of the benefits the Army, Navy, Marines or Air Force offers you. Take advantage of Military OneSource’s free financial counselors and financial management programs — those services can cost thousands of dollars in the private world. Look for the Personal Financial Management Program on your installation. Contact Military OneSource for an in-person, phone or video financial consultation at 800-342-9647.
Steps to organize your budget plan
Take the following steps to get your finances in order and establish a realistic budget.
- Track your expenses. You may be surprised at how seemingly small daily costs can add up. To get help on tracking, there are multiple apps you can download for free or for a price. There also are more comprehensive software programs on the market.
- Live within your means. As you track your expenses, decide how much you can allocate to each part of your life. While some of these expenses may be covered by the military, plan out how much you can put toward housing and utilities, transportation, food, lifestyle, insurance and taxes, family education and recreation programs, donations, savings and retirement, and debt reduction.
- Be vigilant about saving money. Make sure you allocate a certain percentage of each pay check towards a savings or retirement account. Read “25 Money-Saving Tips for Military Families” on ways to save money.
- Pay down your debt as fast as possible. This is key to your budget process. You want your money going toward your needs and not to paying those interest rates. Sit down and write down each credit card’s debt and the interest being charged. Pay off the highest ones first while maintaining minimum payments for the others. Consider taking the “Consumer Credit” course to learn how to use credit cards wisely.
Tips for staying on budget
Staying on budget is hard, but try your best and follow these tips.
- Avoid impulse purchases. Be aware of what triggers you to make impulse purchases. Unfortunately, impulse purchases have become easier with the Internet and its “one-click purchases.” Try to stick with your list when shopping and not buy other items. Postpone unexpected purchases by a week to see if you still want the item or if you are able to find a better price for the item.
- Don’t let deployment throw you off your budget track. Deployment often involves unusual expenses or special payments and entitlements, both during and after the deployment. Track your leave and earnings statements via MyPay. Before you leave: set up automatic payments or schedule bills that must be paid. Go to your legal assistance office to give your spouse power of attorney to make needed purchases for you, and be careful not to overspend on electronics or equipment you may not need.
- Watch out for the holidays. Holidays can be a stressful time for you and your budget. Your feelings may range from the holiday blues to feeling overly generous. Both can lead to purchases that wreak havoc on your budget. Plan ahead for holiday gifts, decorations and parties. Watch those impulse buys and book your travel plans early. Creating and maintaining a budget will take an investment of time, but you will reap the rewards for years to come. Contact a Military OneSource financial consultant and take control of your money and financial future.
Creating and maintaining a budget will take an investment of time, but you will reap the rewards for years to come. Contact a Military OneSource financial consultant at 800-342-9647 and take control of your money and financial future. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options.