A common complaint that is often bemoaned among Airmen is that they don’t have enough money. There are many pitfalls into which bad money decisions can lead us. Some are common to many who find themselves making the same mistakes repeatedly.
One of the biggest money sinkholes for Airmen can be their vehicles. Between payments, gas, upkeep, and insurance, this is probably the biggest hit to the wallet from one source. As I write this article gas is $2.97 a gallon and diesel $3.74 a gallon. Mustangs, Genesis, Chargers and other high-performing cars are nice toys, but their true costs won’t be known until you chart exactly how much money is spent on gas for them.
One undeniable truth for Airmen (enlisted and officers), ages 18-24, is the need for insurance. We’re the highest risk group among drivers and thus pay for it in insurance. This is a huge consideration when purchasing a car taking into account the higher premiums for high-performance cars. The only way to lower this cost is to grow out of it or avoid tickets and accidents.
Eating fast food is another money drain. I am a huge fan of a Five Guys bacon-cheeseburger, Cajun fries and a Mr. Pibb. After eating one of those delicious sacks of bacon and grease makes me feel fat and sassy. But all that sass costs me around $12. On the healthier side there is Chipotle, but that will still cost about $9 per meal. Twice a week for a month adds up to $72. The dining facility is inexpensive (free if on a meal plan). Also, check out Aaron Anderson’s class over at the health and wellness center. He does a great two-part class about how to shop smart at the commissary and make delicious grub with what you purchased.
The use of credit cards is a good way to build a solid credit history, but can be very dangerous. If you got one after you joined the military, pay it off fast. Interest rates can be brutal. If you had a credit card before joining the military, look in to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. Among other things, it caps the military member’s interest rate at 6 percent for cards obtained prior to joining.
I’ll end with the minor incidentals. The bag of chips and a Monster here, the candy bar there and that mid-afternoon grande latte from Starbucks all quickly add up. It is a nasty sink of our hard-earned money that often escapes our attention.
The easiest way to snag all these little expenses is to keep a daily tally. Open an Excel spreadsheet and record the item in the first column, what it’s for (food, bill, etc.) in the next column and the amount goes in the last column. Add a SUM function that adds up the expenses for the month and you may be surprised to see where and how much of your money is flying out of your bank account.
*Hopefully, when you’re chewing on life’s gristle, you won’t grumble and give a whistle. For this article may help things turn out for the best.
*Recast from the song “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” sung in Monty Python’s “Life of Brian.”