Monetary Preparation for the 2011 holiday season begins now.

This is the sentiment of the Financial Readiness Program, which offers numerous classes and free confidential counseling for Soldiers to help with efficient holiday spending.

Establishing and maintaining a monthly budget is vital to efficiently using money and enjoying the fruits of labor, according to Erica Drame, FRP manager.

"We work hard, we want you to play hard, but we also want you to do it realistically, within your budget," she said.

Make a Budget

FRP counselors will sit down with Soldiers and their Families to and go over their monthly earnings and expenses.

The consultation gives people an idea of how much money they should be spending monthly from utility bills to toiletries.

Drame said that Families who understand their financial situation will be better prepared to appropriate funds during the holiday season.

"When you know what your budget is it helps you to be able to spend more freely," Drame said.

She estimated that about 90 percent of people spend more effectively after consultation.

FRP also uses budget counseling to help clients find ways to save money.

Counselors will talk to Families about their spending habits and suggest ways for people to find better deals such as buying in bulk.

The goal is to attain more while spending less.

Drame said Soldiers should also take advantage of the numerous discounts given at restaurants and stores. She said Soldiers should always ask businesses if they offer any service for servicemembers.

Using savings tips and finding discounts will give people extra money for the holidays.

Drame, who Christmas shops year-round, also recommends that people start making purchases as soon as possible.

"If you do have the opportunity to buy early and monitor how much you're spending, you'll have a better Christmas," Drame said.

Use cash

When it comes to payment methods, Drame said cash is the way to go.

She said credit cards can create a false sense of security, because they allow people to pay the debt during multiple months.

Issues often arise when Families overspend during holidays and don't have the money to pay the debt.

"It's almost like it's not money," Drame said of using a card. "The next thing you know…you're struggling from January to May to pay those credit bills."

Drame offered two ways people can use cash wisely.

They can set a spending limit for the entire season and they can also set a spending amount for each person an individual or Family plans to buy gifts for.

Both would be helpful in avoiding financial hardship.

Stick to the plan

Drame stresses that whatever the plan may be, sticking to it is the key to avoid excessive spending.

FRP encourages Soldiers to visit with a financial counselor to discuss budgeting and saving. Drame advises to come before November to optimize preparation time for the holiday season.

For more information, call the FRP at (703) 805-1833.

Page last updated Fri October 28th, 2011 at 15:06