ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. — During the month of February, plans to have a little fun on a warm Sunday afternoon came to a screeching halt when the front left wheel of my husband’s truck started to come loose.
Had we continued driving that day, our trip may have ended in disaster. By the time we got it to the repair shop three days later, the wheel had nearly fallen off.
That incident was the first in a long line of events over a short period that showed me how quickly life can catch up with your paycheck, the importance of financial planning and the many options available to Air Force members in need.
The day after we took my husband’s truck to the shop, my vehicle’s starter lever went out. Having two vehicles in the repair shop, even if the second was only there for a few hours, was extremely stressful, especially when our budget did not leave room for repair expenses plus daily living costs.
Later, we found out the wheel we needed for his truck would be on back-order for a month, which turned into ordering four new wheels, making our bill more than $1,000.
Not everyone has that kind of money just lying around. I know I don’t – but this hiccup forced me to take budgeting seriously, and to set aside money for emergencies like this. In addition, it opened my eyes to the resources available to military members.
The Air Force has programs we as Airmen and our families can utilize in times of financial crisis. One of these is the Air Force Aid Society, which offers loans and grants to help pay for a variety of expenses such as utilities, car repairs, and emergency travel.
The Airman and Family Readiness Center made the process of repairing our vehicles as simple as possible after we contacted them seeking assistance. The center directed us to the AFAS, and with its help my husband and I were able to fix both vehicles without a huge impact to our finances.
This instance taught me the importance of leaning on the support the Air Force provides when necessary, but it also helped me understand the value of planning ahead for emergencies.
Did you know you should try to take 10 percent off the top of what you get paid monthly and put it into savings? I only recently understood what this meant. For example, a household monthly income could be $3,000, resulting in $300 a month to be deposited into savings for emergencies, vacation or retirement.
Take budgeting seriously. Even if you only have the funds to put $50 into savings each month, at least you are saving for those times where you need that cushion to fall back on. And when life throws a curveball that even the thriftiest can’t prepare for, know that there are programs in place, funded by our fellow Airmen, that you can look to for help.