I used to think that military personnel were immune to most of the ups and downs of the economy. After all, we have a guaranteed paycheck, right? Well, as Congress has shown in the past, that is not necessarily true. True, the military will get paid, eventually, if Congress didn’t pass a budget right away. However, the loan holder of your car note might not be willing to wait. The military is also not immune to draw-downs, early separation from service, or accidents that render our Service Members unable to serve. Then what will we do if there is no safety net? We must save.
All over Pinterest are million ideas on saving money – the savings challenge, how to save, best ways to save… Whether you are saving for Christmas, a vacation, car, or down payment for a new home, a detailed plan can help you get there. Below are a few different methods. Tell me which one works for you.
Regular Installments and a Visual Tracker
Making a visual goal sheet helps keep savers motivated and everyone on target.
Have a dinner table discussion or two to decide what your goal will be. Parents can choose two or three options they agree on and then get some family feedback. Or open the topic up; you might be surprised what your children pick.
- Pick your goal – this should be a target date and an amount that you have a specific plan for – $10,000 emergency fund, $3,500 for vacation, $500, etc. Let’s use $3,500 for a vacation.
- Pick a reasonable time frame for you and your family. 1 year, 6 months. Try not to choose something too far out. Three years or less is about all the motivation most people can muster. In our example, we’ll say we have 15 months to save for our trip.
- Divide your savings goal by regular time intervals. Again whatever works for weeks, months, number of pay periods until your goal time. I will use pay periods, so 30 pay periods to save – 3,500/30 = $117. This is going to be tough.
- Create a visual chart to fill in as you progress toward your goal. Kids can have fun with this. You’ve seen these – a thermometer, a pie chart, whatever works for you.
Save Every Five Dollar Bill
This one is simple in theory, but will require actual cash and awareness. Simply put every five dollar bill that comes into your possession up for a rainy day. See how much you can save over the year. Use a jar, a drawer, or a box to collect your Lincolns.
For your dinner table conversation, have your kids count by fives. Have them figure out how many five dollar bills you will need to reach a particular goal. Periodically, have them help you count fives to see how close you are to your goal or estimate how much you have by the end of the year.
52 Week Money Saving Challenge
This starts the same as the regular installment savings plan, but instead of making regular payments, the amounts are juggled around and broken up by weeks. Let’s say we want to save $1,000. The regular installment plan would have us save about $19.25 a week to get to a $1,000 at the end of one year. Instead, we can save various amounts each week, depending on how we anticipate our cash flow. I know for my family, most of the automatic payments come out around the first of the month, so I have less cash flow then. I will save only $10 the first week of the month and $25 the other weeks of the month. I can even skip two weeks of $25 and still make my goal! You can also scale the amounts up or down to suit your budget.
Make it Automatic
A great way to save is to put it on autopilot. Set up an allotment from military pay or your paycheck. Have it deposited every month in a savings account. It works even better if it is in account for which you don’t have quick access. The automatic savings only hurts the first few pay periods and then you won’t even notice it is gone. Even as little as $10 a week can add up quickly, especially if you don’t dip into it.
Paying yourself first can be a difficult habit to start, but once you begin you will never regret it. You can do it, even if you start with emptying your pocket change into a jar each night.
Don’t forget Military Saves Week starts on February 27th.