Many Americans may have been told the importance of saving money whether by parents, mentors or friends but how many actually have an ample amount in savings to last them through an emergency situation? According to survey results released by Bankrate more than 75 percent of Americans don’t have enough money saved to cover their bills for six months in the event of change in income.
To ensure service members don’t fall into these statistics, every year a campaign called Military Saves Week takes place to persuade, motivate and encourage military families to save money every month and to promote good saving habits.
“Saving money is important,” said Sandra Gray, 56th Force Support Squadron Airman & Family Readiness Center community readiness consultant. “Living paycheck to paycheck is no way to live. Learning to spend less than we earn gives us freedom. This freedom is not always easy, it requires discipline and motivation.”
The first step to start saving is to create long-term and short-term savings goals.
“Like a lot of things in life, if you don’t set a goal, it simply doesn’t happen,” Gray said. “Ask youself, ‘What is my goal six months from now?’ Is it to pay off a credit card, save up for the next iPhone? Make ‘something’ a goal, write it down and figure out how you’re going to get there, and do it.”
A good beginning point is to save at least $1,000 to place in an emergency account, Gray said.
Thereafter, make it a goal to save a minimum of three months’ worth of net pay. It’s essential.
“It’s important to have at least three months of pay saved up just in case you lose your job or have an emergency,” said Ronald Lewis, 56th FSS A&FRC community readiness consultant.
Depending on one’s savings goal, cutting down in certain areas of spending may be necessary.
“While enjoying life is important, I encourage folks to review their spending habits in their checking and credit card statements, and determine if their spending matches their own goals, since every dollar counts,” said Cory Carmichael, 56th FSS community readiness consultant.
Similarly, Gray advises looking for small items that are frequently purchased in one’s bank statements.
“Take a look at your last three or four bank statements,” Gray said. “What small items do you purchase over and over again? For some people it is the ‘quick stop’ items such as soda and chips when getting gas. For others, it may be the occasional eating out that is really more than occasional. Check statements, they will help guide you on where to cut back.”
Lewis recommends saving money by making small changes.
“Buy bottled water by the case for work instead of individual bottles each day,” he said. “Buy items when they are out of season for example, purchasing winter clothing after the holidays. You can also save by making coffee at home instead of buying a cup of coffee on the way to work. Each small step counts.”
A good way to save is by setting up an allotment through MyPay.
“I encourage allotments because it is ‘out of sight and out of mind,’” Gray said.
“Start out small in the beginning, try $50 a month then increase the allotment amount with every pay raise.”
For those with questions or concerns about finance-related issues the financial counselors at the A&FRC are here to help.
“At the A&FRC we will sit down with anyone at any time to discuss budgeting, saving, goals, thrift savings plans and more,” Gray said. “We also enjoy going out to units to encourage saving and educating Airmen on TSP and other financial subjects. Just call and ask, and we’ll come out to your unit.”
In conjunction with Military Saves Week, there is a free financial expo 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 1 at the Wigwam Resort in Litchfield Park. To register, go to the Fighter Country Partnership website at www.fightercountry.org. There will be free food and prizes.