There are a lot of financial lessons out there. And unfortunately, one of the most important ones is often learned the hard way: You need to have money in the bank. Savings is an important component of being financially ready, no matter whether you are officer or enlisted, service member or veteran, young or old.
Yet a military lifestyle can make it particularly difficult to ensure that you always have those extra dollars available when you need them. Here are five reasons to prioritize putting some money in the bank.
Be prepared for emergencies.
It never fails. You’re driving through base on the way to work when you suddenly get a flat tire. Your hot water heater decides to take an early retirement. The family pet gets sick. Expect that the unexpected can be expensive.
Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing when unexpected life events will ruin your day, but you can be prepared for them. An emergency fund is money saved that is only to be used for unexpected expenses. Since you never know how much you’ll need, it’s ideal to set aside an amount equal to three to six months of your committed monthly expenses. Just getting started? Start with at least $1,000 and build from there.
Anticipate potential PCS costs.
Frequent moves are a normal part of military life. And even though you’re not responsible for the majority of the moving costs, you’re still likely to spend some of your own money with each move, even if it’s just to make your new place feel like home. Start saving even before you get your orders, so you won’t have to run up debt every time your address changes.
It’s also important to plan for a potential temporary or permanent loss in income if you’re married and your spouse has to find a new job after you move. While every situation is different, it’s typically a good goal to stash somewhere between $1,000 and $3,000 for a PCS fund.
Don’t be a scrooge at holidays and special occasions.
We’ve all been there. That moment when you realize that you have to buy holiday presents for Mom, Dad, significant others, neighbors, siblings, or friends, and there’s just not enough money to cover them all.
Saving now is a far better option than racking up credit card debt you’ll still be paying months after the festivities are over. Planning ahead for birthdays, holidays, and even friends’ weddings will help you stay out of debt and still have the ability to shower your military family with gifts.
Make sure you can afford to have fun.
Spontaneous, and sometimes expensive, fun happens, and that’s not a bad thing. But it can easily become a bad thing if you end up going into debt to pay for it. A better approach is make sure you have some extra money set aside to be spent at your whim, so that today’s spur-of-the-moment fun doesn’t become next month’s regret.
Avoid unnecessary stress.
Perhaps the most important reason you need money in the bank is to reduce or avoid stress. It’s no secret that financial readiness is a key element of military readiness for both individuals and units. And whether you’re in the civilian world or the military world, it’s hard to focus on work and family with debt constantly on your mind.
By making sure that you have money set aside for expected and unexpected expenses, you’ll also be decreasing your chances of going into debt and experiencing the stress that comes with it. Trying to figure out how you’re going to make it through until your next paycheck arrives is a situation you should try to avoid at all costs.
If you want to take it a step further, try building a spending plan for your cash so that you can intentionally save on a regular basis, you can know how where to cut back if an unexpected expense pops up, and you can spend without the stress.