Money money money! Money can be quite a hot topic. When it comes to our finances, we want our money to work for us but sometimes that is a difficult thing to do. As a military family, you may be feeling pressure from a PCS that cost you a little too much, or the loss of a job or other source of income you were depending on.
Although there is a 5.2% pay raise coming in 2024 for members of the military, having and sticking to a budget is super important. It is the best way to know where your money is going, and how much you actually have to spend.
Here are 21 budgeting tips for military families for a better financial life:
1. The #1 budgeting tip would be to of course have a budget. You need to know exactly how much money you and your spouse are bringing in and exactly what you will be spending your money on, including how much you will put in savings. This will give you a clear picture of your finances.
2. Keep a detailed record of all of your spending. Those little trips to Target can add up. Keeping track of what you are spending your money on is a must.
3. Set some financial goals. Talk with your spouse about what you want to do in the future. Do you want to save for a house? A new car? Pay off debt? Talk about what your focus will be.
4. Compare the cost of housing. While you might want to live off post, would living on post save you more money in the future? Is that savings worth it? Would living on your military instillation allow you to save for your house that much sooner?
5. Remember your budget when shopping for groceries. The food budget can get quickly out of hand without proper planning. What are your options for grocery shopping? Can the Commissary save you money? What about clipping coupons?
6. Watch the eating out. While eating out can be a lot of fun, it’s also really expensive. Even fast food can cost a family $50 a trip. Yikes!
7. Use military discounts. Yes, you can save between 10-30% at places that offer military discounts. Check out my Big List of Military Discounts for ideas.
8. Shop thrift stores and consignment shops. You can find all sorts of things from clothing to books to toys at thrift stores and consignment shops. You can also take your old items to consignment shops to make a little extra money. Check and see what is available in your own city and plan a shopping trip.
9. Look for low-cost and free things to do at your duty station. Most duty stations have events going on throughout the year. They can be a lot of fun and you can find some free things to do with your kids.
10. Is your spouse deployed? Are they bringing home extra money? Make sure you make a plan of what you will do with it. Ideally, you can save and pay off debt. However, you may need to budget for extra expenses such as having a baby or getting ready for a PCS. Talk things over so you are on the same page.
11. Coupon. Use coupons at the grocery store, when you go out to eat, and at different stores you need to go to. Most people get coupons in the mail. See which ones work for you and your family and trade with friends.
12. Learn new skills. When it comes to keeping up your home, see what you can do yourself. Use Youtube to get ideas on affordable projects.
13. Review your subscription services. Did you sign up for one when it was only $5.99 a month and now it’s double that? Are you paying $15 a month for a streaming service your family doesn’t really watch anymore? Do an audit of your all your subscriptions to see if you can cut any and to make sure you are only paying for the ones you really want.
14. Save a bit from each paycheck for birthdays, Christmas, and other holidays you may need extra money for. When the time comes you will have money to spend and won’t have to stress as much.
15. Check into side gigs. Can you Door Dash? Drive for Uber? Mow lawns? There are lots of little side jobs you can add if you are able to in order to make some extra money.
16. Look into Financial Readiness classes at your duty station. For example, the Army’s Financial Readiness Program (FRP) is available at every Army post. It provides classes and counseling on saving money, investing, getting out of debt, and more.
17. Look into The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. Because of the act you may reduce some of your debt’s interest rates to 6%, postpone a foreclosure, defer your taxes, get protection against eviction, and more.
18. Work to get out of debt. Pay more than the minimum and avoid using credit cards when you can.
19. Use banking tools for extra savings. If you bank with USAA, they have a fun savings tool where they take a random amount from your checking account between $1-$9 a few times a week and put it in your savings account. This adds up and before you know it you will have $100 saved. They also send your text messages with updates, and little fun facts and jokes.
20. Use your library. Libraries have so much to offer the community. From books, to movies, to free events. Don’t sleep on what your local library has to offer.
21. Have an emergency savings fund. $1,000 is a good amount to shoot for. You want to have something you can use in case a car breaks down, something needs to be fixed in your house, or any other extra expense comes up.
As military families, we are used to the unknown. But, we should know where our money is going and how we are spending it. That way we can work to achieve our goals and live the life we want to live.
What are your favorite budgeting tips?