You finally got your leave approved and you're dreaming of an above-water bungalow somewhere in the Pacific. Sounds nice, but a vacation like that can easily break the bank.

Retired Marine Corps Colonel and Manager at Navy Federal Credit Union, Clay Stackhouse shares his thoughts, "You've worked hard and earned yourself a vacation – that's great, but don't forget your discipline. Your vacation is the end goal and you've got some work to do to get there. Travel, lodging, meals and activities come with a price tag."

Planning for the costs will make your vacation more rewarding. Here are 5 hacks to get you there:

1. Pass on the plane

We know hopping on an airplane across the ocean sounds incredible, and especially if you have TSA PreCheckSM and any sort of airline status. But, plane tickets are a major expense when it comes to your vacation. If your entire vacay budget is $2000, tickets can easily eat up half of that.

Do some research and see what destination you can find within a one day's drive. Not up for a road trip? Amtrak® has excellent military discounts and train travel is always fun. Plus they have that snack car.

2. Find a house

There are multiple options for booking a rental home instead of a hotel. Finding a chateau in the mountains, a cottage on a lake or a condo on the beach has never been easier. These properties are generally extremely well-maintained and often significantly cheaper than a hotel.

Depending on where you're heading, parking at a hotel can cost almost as much as staying the night. Houses often have parking included, saving you even more up front.

3. BYOB

Bring your own breakfast! The real cost savings of having a house over a hotel will come when you take advantage of having a kitchen.

Stackhouse adds, "Hit the local grocery store or Commissary before you leave and stock up on breakfast and lunch items and any drinks you want for your getaway. If you're in a rush, then see if there's a local grocery store at your destination. You'll save a little extra doing this, and it will be convenient to have some food and drink on hand."

Eating 2/3 of your meals at "home" will give your budget more room for fun instead of just food. Your future self will thank you.

4. Ask the locals

Tourist traps are called tourist traps for a reason. Ask the locals for inexpensive but awesome restaurant recommendations, places you absolutely have to visit and free things you must do before you leave. Often, the best places of a city aren't found through a Google® search; they're found by asking around.

5. Look for the military discount

"Always ask for the military discount when booking your travel, accommodations and excursions. If you're a member of Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU), you're eligible for plenty of incredible discounts through member websites that will come in handy for your trip, like rental cars," says Stackhouse.

Booking a house through a website? Email the property owner directly and ask if they offer a military discount. Ask and yee shall (hopefully) receive.

Vacations are always more enjoyable when you aren't stressed about breaking the bank. Use our five hacks and the awesome resources from NFCU to have your best leave yet.

TSA PreCheck is a service mark of the United States Department of Homeland Security.

Amtrak is a trademark of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation

Google is a trademark of Google, LLC.

This post presented by Navy Federal Credit Union.

Long gone are the days of checking the mail to see if your paycheck arrived and then taking it down to your local bank to cash. Now it's direct deposit, mobile deposit1 and sending cash through social media platforms. Your whole life is digital; why shouldn't managing your finances be? Banking online has never been easier, thanks to banking apps like the one from Navy Federal Credit Union. (1)

Here are 5 ways to use your mobile banking app to make your life easier:

1. Check your balance

We know you already know this capability, but being able to check your balance while you're standing in line at the commissary is pretty magical. Regularly checking your balance helps you control your spending, and it's so much easier than keeping a running log on a spreadsheet or in the ledger of a checkbook. Seeing your transactions in a joint checking account is also incredibly helpful and can ensure you're not duplicating expenses.

2. Notifications

Sure, checking your balance was pretty obvious, but did you know you can set up all sorts of notifications in your app? Choose to have them texted, emailed or pushed to you through the app and stay on top of everything happening with your money.

Want to know when you get paid? How about when you exceed a certain spending threshold? Or, would you like to be notified if your card is used outside the United States? We opt for all of the above—and you can, too, through Navy Federal Credit Union's app.

3. Send and receive money

Quickly and securely send money to friends and family using Zelle® (2) through your app. Money appears in minutes, and Zelle is super intuitive to use. A few buttons and you can pay your babysitter, split a lunch tab or pay your buddy back for the ten spot you borrowed at the gee dunk.

4. Bill pay

Paying your bills on time is critically important to maintaining and improving your credit score. Now, it's never been easier with bill pay features that let you easily receive and pay selected e-Bills from leading merchants without having to buy a stamp.

Perhaps the best part about this feature is the ability to schedule payments up to one year in advance. Remembering to pay your bill on time is easy when your app is like a slow cooker: set it and forget it.

5. Secure your stash of cash

The most important thing when it comes to your money is making sure it's safe. With two-factor account authentication and the ability to easily freeze and unfreeze your accounts, protecting yourself from fraud is at your fingertips.

Navy Federal Credit Union is also constantly improving functionality without compromising their well-known aesthetic and the super intuitive feel. In their latest release (v. 6.6.2), Navy Federal Credit Union took a deep dive into the app, making improvements to exceed member expectations.

Managing money can be hard, but it doesn't have to be. Use mobile banking to get your spending and saving on track. Your financial future has never looked so bright.

This post was presented by Navy Federal Credit Union.

1Message and data rates may apply. Terms and Conditions are available. 2Zelle is available to bank account holders in the U.S. only. To receive money in minutes, the recipient's email address or U.S. mobile number must already be enrolled with Zelle. Zelle and the Zelle-related marks are wholly owned by Early Warning Services, LLC and are used herein under license.

You hit that magic number of 20 years in the military. Congratulations! That's 7,300 days of service—we're guessing somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,300 MREs and approximately 520 haircuts. Here's another number you might not be tracking: what you need in the bank to actually retire.

Here are 9 things to consider when calculating the nest egg you need for retirement, courtesy of Navy Federal Credit Union's Retirement Nest Egg Calculator:

1. Age at retirement

Age at which you plan to retire. This calculator assumes that the year you retire, you don't make any contributions to your retirement savings. So if you retire at age 65, your last contribution occurs when you are actually age 64. This calculator also assumes that you make your entire contribution at the end of each year. If you're hoping to really retire after military life, you'll need to adjust this number accordingly.

2. Household income

Consider your total household income—if you're married, this should include your spouse's income. Side hustles count, too.

3. Current retirement savings

Identify the total amount that you currently have saved toward your retirement. Include all sources of retirement savings such as 401(k)s, IRAs and Annuities.

4. Rate of return before retirement

Determine the annual rate of return you expect from your retirement savings and investments. Consider the after-tax rate of return if the majority of your retirement savings isn't in a tax-deferred account such as a 403(b), 401(k), 457(b), annuity or IRA. Know that the actual rate of return is largely dependent on the types of investments you select and can vary widely over time, especially for long-term investments.

5. Rate of return during retirement

Consider the annual rate of return you expect from your investments during retirement. Calculations here should also be after-taxes if the majority of your retirement savings isn't in a tax-deferred account such as a 403(b), 401(k), 457(b), annuity or IRA. Be mindful that this rate is often lower than the return earned before retirement due to more conservative investment choices to help insure a steady flow of income.

6. Expected income increase

Include the annual percent increase you expect in your household income.

7. Years of retirement income

Factor in the total number of years you expect to use your retirement income.

Pre-retirement income desired in retirement

Identify the percentage of your pre-retirement household income you think you'll need in retirement based on the household income earned during the year immediately before your retirement. You can change this amount to be as low as 40% and as high as 160%. The percentage should reflect an after-tax amount if the majority of your retirement savings isn't in a tax-deferred savings account such as a 401(k) or IRA.

9. Expected rate of inflation

As you may know, military retirement is adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) – a common measure of inflation in the U.S. – to preserve the purchasing power of your retirement income. From 1925 through 2018, the CPI has a long-term average of 2.9% annually. Over the last 40 years, the highest CPI recorded was 13.5% in 1980. For 2018, the last full year available, the CPI was 2.2% annually as reported by the Minneapolis Federal Reserve.

So many factors go into determining how much of a nest egg you really need to retire. Are you dreaming of a tiny house somewhere in Montana or planning a luxurious life in southern Florida? No matter when you're able to retire or where, it's important to plan for the future.

Use resources like the Navy Federal Credit Union retirement nest egg calculator to get a leg up on retirement. Just like you learned in those 20 years of service, never skip leg day.

This post was presented by Navy Federal Credit Union.

1 This information is intended to provide general information and should not be considered tax advice. Please consult a tax professional for more information.

4 ways to Crossfit your finances

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Although CrossFit ® was formed in 1996, its cult-like following didn't develop until a decade later. Now, there are more than 13,000 boxes worldwide, and some of the most reverent followers are servicemembers, military families and veterans.

We know you're obsessed with CrossFit. (Spoiler alert: we are, too). But what if you approached your financial health like your physical health?

Here are 4 ways to CrossFit your finances:

1. AMRAP your debt

Approaching your debt like an AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) workout of the day (WOD) will help you pay down your debt faster, saving you money that you'd otherwise lose on hefty interest fees.

Pay down credit cards as often as you can and in increments of as large as possible. Some financial literature suggests approaching it as a "debt-snowball": paying off the smallest balances first until you've paid off all your cards or debts. However you do it, paying debt off as quickly as you can will save you in the long run.

2. Invest in your savings "for time"

Unlike AMRAP, "for time" sets a workload/goal and it's up to you to finish it, no matter how long it takes you. Invest in a Roth IRA or another savings mechanism "for time." Set your goal and contribute to your long-term financial health, for time.

Planning for retirement is playing the long-game. Start now and stay ahead of schedule.

3. EMOM your paycheck into savings

We're taking a little liberty on the idea of every minute on the minute (EMOM) and opting for the idea of saving every month on the month. Have a portion of your paycheck automatically diverted to a savings or investment fund that you can't touch. If you don't see it, you are far less likely to spend it.

Some months, you'll have a few weeks to rest before you have to stress about money, and other months, you'll barely have time to catch your breath before you're counting down the days to pay day. Having that nest egg building will make even your burpees feel less daunting.

4. Use the band-assist

There's no shame in asking for help. Sometimes we need a band-assist on a pull up, especially toward the end of a particularly grueling WOD. The same goes for our finances: sometimes we need a leg up. Navy Federal Credit Union offers free financial counseling for their members. Reach out to better understand how you can get into your best financial shape. (Paleo not required.)

Being in your best physical shape is good for your heart, mind and overall well-being. So is being in your best financial shape. Let Navy Federal Credit Union help you.

CrossFit is a registered trademark of CrossFit, Inc.

This post was presented by Navy Federal Credit Union.

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Why is there always so much month left at the end of the money? We know you look forward to the 1st and 15th like it's a fantasy draft and you've got first pick. But wondering whether or not you're going to be able to buy groceries by the end of the month is one game we're not here for. Here are 5 easy ways to save, military edition:

1. Take advantage of discounts

We know your work is supposed to speak for itself and that humility is one of the key attributes of service.

We also know there are a lot of organizations and companies out there that want to support the military and aren't sure how to do it other than offering a discount. Ask with every transaction you make if there's a discount. Turns out that 10% off a few times a week adds up pretty quickly.

Also, call your service providers (cell phone, internet, tv, even your credit card companies) and ask if you can get a military rate. Navy Federal Credit Union has a great list of discounts available that come with being a member. Do your homework to see what companies offer military discounts. If yours doesn't, see if they'll match a competitor's program.

We know it's hard to shout your service from the rooftops, but if these companies want to help you by honoring your military experience with a rewards program or money off each month, it's okay to let them.

2. Don't outsource

We love outsourcing as much as the next guy. But take a hard look at everything you're spending money on for someone else to do and see if you could DIY at a cost savings. Take the guard off your clippers and cut your own hair and enjoy cutting your costs by several hundred dollars a year. Mow your own lawn, change your own oil and utilize the base hobby shop to fix that broken alternator.

Have an expensive repair looming at your house and really can't swing the cost? Watch a YouTube video on how to fix it. Whether it's repairing a phone screen, a dishwasher or a leaking pipe, the wonderful experts of the internet can often save you lots and lots of cash.

3. Shop at the commissary 

On average, commissary shoppers can save around 30% on items than if they were shopping for those same needs in town. The commissary private labels (Freedom's Choice, HomeBase, Top Care, Tippy-Toes and Full Circle Market) are an even larger savings. And, you don't have to pay sales tax!

4. Pack your lunch

According to HowStuffWorks, taking the extra five minutes to pack a lunch (especially with your Commissary-sourced food!) can save you upwards of $1500 a year.

That's several months of a car payment, an emergency or vacation fund or just some extra cash. And leftovers really are better the second day - promise.

5. Check your subscriptions

It's easy to sign up for apps with recurring costs or streaming services that appear to be a bargain, but those easily add up over time.

Try annualizing your spending. It's easy to justify $10/week for an app, but can you really justify $520 a year on it when you could feasibly get the same functionality for free?

"Subscription expenses can start to pile up if you don't keep track of them," said Clay Stackhouse, member acquisition manager at Navy Federal Credit Union. "It's important to have a budget where you can keep track of your monthly expenses so you know exactly how much you're spending and on what."

We know budgeting is tough, especially when there never feels like there's enough to go around. Take the pressure off yourself, utilize these tips and leverage some of the free resources provided by Navy Federal Credit Union to help you maximize your savings and your financial confidence.

This post was presented by Navy Federal Credit Union.

6 things to do with your bonus

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One of the incredible benefits of military life is the occasional influx of money, a la bonuses. Whether you're re-enlisting or about to ride on that tax-free train, it's time to talk about what to do with that extra scrilla.

Here are 6 things to do with your bonus:

1. Have a strategy

Just as you came up with a method for making your bed the fastest in the barracks and nailed down how many minutes it takes from being horizontal to being in formation, you need a plan for what you're going to do with the extra money. The best way to accidentally spend it on Ubers and pizza and six packs without even realizing it, is to let it sit in your checking account without a solid plan. Bonuses are an excellent opportunity to establish or update your financial health. Not sure what to do with all that green? Ask a financial advisor to help you. Many of the larger institutions, such as Navy Federal Credit Union, offer financial counseling services.

2. Pay off that debt!

So you booked a trip to Bali right after basic when you had 72 hours of leave and bought all the things there, including round-trip airfare for that girl you met on the beach that had always wanted to see New York. Or, maybe you bought the truck with the options you couldn't quite afford and you still have 93 months left on your payment plan. We're not judging. Paying off debt, especially that of the high interest and unsecured varieties is an excellent use of your money. By paying that off now, you're saving so much in the long run by not having to pay interest.

3. Invest in a Roth IRA

Do future you a giant solid and invest the cash in something that will grow as much as those muscles after a good Crossfit workout. How about a Roth IRA? With a Roth IRA, you pay taxes now and withdraw the funds tax-free when you retire. Wins all around.

4. Invest in a 529 or ESA

It seems like every week we're reading a different headline on the changes to the GI Bill. Maybe your kids will get it, maybe they won't. With ever-changing rules and politics always at play, the GI Bill is about as assured in 18 years as your 1-year-old getting that soccer scholarship. It's always good to have a back-up, so investing in a 529 plan or an Education Savings Account (ESA) for your little Beckham or Hamm isn't a bad idea. Learn more about the plans, here.

5. Create or establish an emergency fund

Hard to believe the military would ever give you short notice that instead of moving across the state, you're moving across the world, but alas, here you are trying to figure out how to ship a pet across the Pacific on your own dime. And, you know as well as the next person that as soon as you deploy, your car is going to break, a kid is going to break an arm, your appliances are going to blow, and so is that tiny extra stash of savings you had. Emergencies happen. Whether it's flying your whole family home for a funeral or paying for the unexpected out of pocket, putting your extra money in a separate account just for these types of occurrences is a great use of your cash. #Life happens, be ready for it.

6. Treat yo'self

You've paid off your debt, you have a nice little stash o' cash and you're feeling good about your financial future. Well, boo, treat yo'self. Maybe you don't book the first flight to Sin City, but invest in the photography class you've always wanted to take. Or finally take that family vacation (look kids, Big Ben!) you've been putting off until you were in a better spot. Whether you're splurging on Hamilton tickets or a monster truck rally, taking a little of your money for yourself is well-deserved.

No matter how you use the extra cash, Navy Federal Credit Union can help you reach your financial goals and meet all your financial needs. It's their mission to put you first. Let them.

This post sponsored by Navy Federal Credit Union.