First Command Financial Advisor Katy Stevick shares some tips on how to take control of your family finances. Katy and her family live in Fayetteville, North Carolina. You can connect with Katy on Facebook.
According to the First Command Financial Services Financial Behaviors Index, a whopping 90% of military spouses report that it is primarily their role to manage family finances. As a military spouse and full-time Financial Advisor, I’d like to report that this feels true 100% of the time!
We're often the ones responsible for taking care of activities like creating and sticking to a regular budget, saving for special events and purchases, and planning for long-term goals like retirement. Unfortunately, we're also the ones who have to say no a lot, something that can make sticking to financial goals all the more difficult. So, how do we find balance between being fiscally responsible and feeling like the wallet police?
These are some of my best tips – developed in my own home and while working as a financial coach for military families – for spending less, while still managing a happy home.
Three Ways to Spend Less Money
The first thing you want to do when taking control of your finances is to get a thorough understanding of where your money goes every month. Once you've figured out what costs are essential (rent/mortgage, utilities, childcare, etc.) and which ones are non-essential, you can start to trim expenses with purpose.
- Reduce Consumable Expenses
Consumable expenses include things like alcohol and tobacco products, regular stops at the coffee shop, and trips to the convenience store for sodas and snacks. Reduce the number of trips to these places or find inexpensive alternatives, like bringing coffee from home rather than stopping at a coffee shop or keeping tasty snacks on hand in the pantry. The important thing to ask is, “does this add value to my life?” If it does, budget it in and enjoy that grande macchiato! If it doesn't add value and it's a purchase of habit or convenience, consider redirecting that money to something that does bring you joy.
- Take Advantage of Military Discounts
A huge number of online and brick-and-mortar companies, from clothing retailers to restaurants to hotels and vacation destinations, offer significant discounts to military families. Not sure whether a given store offers such a discount? Just ask. There's no shame in the discount game!
- Use Cash on the Weekends
It's easy to lose track of how much you're spending when you're having fun, and even more so when you're using a debit or credit card. Before you go out on the weekend, pull out the amount of cash you plan on spending. This will help you stay on budget and have a clear idea of what you're spending, while still allowing you to go out and have a good time.
With just a little bit of effort, it's easy to find small ways to spend less money each month, without cramping your family’s style. Next month, I'll share some productive ways to save all that freed up cash.