Memorial Day is a time to honor military veterans and their families who have made sacrifices for our country. It’s also a time to reflect on ways we can support military families year-round.
We know military families have a lot of unique financial challenges. Juggling multiple paychecks and allowances, moving frequently, and dealing with unpredictable deployment schedules can make it difficult to stay on top of your finances. But with a little bit of organization and planning, you can manage your money effectively even in the most challenging situations. Here are ten tips that can help military families stay financially healthy.
Plan for PCS Moves
If you’ve been in the military for any period of time, you know that PCS moves are part of your life. While there’s not much you can do to avoid them, you can prepare ahead of time to minimize their financial impact. When you’re in the process of planning a PCS move, try your best to avoid any type of debt. Credit card debt and other types of debt can become burdensome when you’re moving. Plan to pay off your debt as quickly as possible so you don’t end up paying interest on debt that you could have otherwise avoided.
If you have federal student loans, defer them as long as possible to avoid paying interest on them during your PCS move. If you have a car loan, try to pay it off before moving as well. If you have a car payment, remember that you may have to change your car insurance coverage during a move. Find out from your insurance company if you need to make any changes.
Set Financial Goals
If you don’t have financial goals, it’s very easy to get lost in a cycle of spending and forget what you’re working toward. Setting financial goals can help you prioritize your spending and make sure that you’re using your money wisely. It can also help you create a financial plan for your future. There are tons of free goal-setting worksheets online that you can print out and use to set your financial goals. Be sure to revisit your financial goals every six months or so to keep them up-to-date and current.
If you’re having trouble coming up with financial goals, you can start by looking at your short-term and long-term financial needs. For example, you might want to come up with a plan for saving for a car, paying off credit card debt, or saving for retirement. You can also use the SMART goal-setting method to make sure you have realistic and achievable goals.
Know your benefits
Military members are entitled to various benefits. Some of the most common benefits include:
- Health and Life insurance through the Department of Defense (DoD)
- VA health care
- Creditable service
- Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
- Commissary and Exchange benefits
Make sure you understand all of the benefits that you and your family members are entitled to. Most of these benefits are self-explanatory and you can find information about them online or by talking with your military or financial advisor. However, you may have to be proactive in claiming some benefits. For example, you may have to claim your DIC benefits in order to receive them. Make sure you have a plan for claiming all of your benefits.
Keep Track of Your Cash Flow
You can’t manage what you can’t measure. Many military spouses don’t have a clear understanding of where their money goes each month. This can make it difficult to manage money and stay within a budget. Fortunately, there are ways to make sure you understand where your money is going each month. You can use free online tools such as Mint or You Need a Budget to track your spending and see where your money is going. You should also keep a record of all your income and outflow. You can do this using a physical notebook or an online spreadsheet.
Tracking your spending is the best way to figure out how to meet your financial goals while sticking to your budget. If you’re looking to reduce your spending, tracking where your money goes is the best way to figure out where to cut back.
Build Good Habits
Your financial habits are the way you manage your money on a daily basis. While you might have a sound financial plan in place, it won’t do you any good if you don’t have good financial habits.
Habits can be difficult to break once they’ve become ingrained in your daily routine, but it can be done. If you have a bad habit like constantly overspending on shopping, you can change it by making a new habit out of putting all of your extra money towards your savings.
Making sure you have good financial habits can help you save money on a day-to-day basis. It can also help you avoid getting into debt, which can make it easier to meet your financial goals. If you struggle with bad financial habits, there are lots of books and online resources to help you change your financial habits.
Establish An Emergency Fund
Being part of the military means you will encounter unexpected events. It’s essential to have an emergency fund to help you through these periods. No matter how much you plan and budget, there will be times when you need to dip into your savings.
This could be due to a car breakdown, medical bills, or any other number of issues. Having an emergency fund will help you avoid turning to credit cards in these situations. Your emergency fund should be enough to cover six months of expenses, including groceries and basic utilities. This will help you get through periods when you don’t have enough money to go around.
The easiest way to start an emergency fund is to put money away each month. Make it a priority to put a certain amount of money away each month. Ideally, this money should be going into a separate savings account so that you don’t have easy access to it. This will help you avoid dipping into your emergency fund when money is tight.
Learn The Lingo
Learning the lingo associated with financial terms can greatly assist you in your financial planning. You might feel like a bit of a fraud at first, but it’s essential to know what you’re talking about.
For example, you might be surprised to learn that having equity in your home doesn’t mean you own a chunk of the land. You’ll also want to know the difference between a fixed-rate mortgage and an adjustable-rate mortgage. This can help you better understand the terms and conditions of mortgages and other loans.
Knowing the lingo can also help you avoid getting ripped off by scammers and financial predators. If someone is trying to sell you a product or service and they are using terminology that you don’t understand, it’s probably a scam.
Utilize Your Service’s Financial Counseling Program
Many military services offer financial counseling services. These services can assist you in managing your money and planning for the future. They can help you create a budget, set financial goals, and develop a long-term financial plan. They can also help you understand your benefits and what financial resources are available to you. While these services are typically available to active-duty military members, they may also be accessible to spouses of service members. Contact your service’s financial counselors to learn more about their financial counseling programs and how you can take advantage of their services.
Utilize Military benefits and Rewards
If you have dependents, you may be able to apply for TRICARE health insurance for your family. This allows you to have health insurance for your family members, which may be less expensive than the coverage you have as a single individual. You can also save money on car insurance by being part of a military car insurance program. Many car insurance companies offer reduced rates for military members. Additionally, many credit cards offer military rewards for members of the Armed Forces. These rewards can range from cash back to travel miles.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help
If you are a military spouse struggling to make ends meet, don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are a number of resources available, including financial counseling, budgeting assistance, and scholarships. In addition, there is a strong community of military spouses who are eager to support one another.
So if you are feeling overwhelmed, reach out for help. You don’t have to go it alone. And if you need some extra financial assistance, book a free consultation with DH Financial https://calendly.com/dhfinancial/complimentary-consultation today. We would be happy to help you get your finances in order and start living the life you deserve.
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