Financial class helps keep Army Families on track
December 21, 2011
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- The holidays are a time for giving and spending time with loved ones, but some people may get a little too carried away when buying gifts. Just like people sometimes overindulge on tasty treats, they also may overindulge when filling up their shopping carts.
The Financial Readiness Program offers a budget development class to help Soldiers and Family Members get their personal finances back on track.
Careful planning throughout the year can help people's wallet "stay in shape" for the holidays and avoid what is known as the "January bill blues," according to Judee Kelley, personal financial readiness specialist.
"Your budget should never be out of shape because of Christmas, (because) we all know it is coming every year in December," she explained.
By tracking every purchase for one month, people can understand where their money is going. Only after they know where their money goes can they create a realistic budget, Kelley added.
"It's easy for anyone to let money fall through their fingers," she said. "Money has a way of disappearing if you don't tell it where to go."
"All spending should be included in the budget," Kelley continued. "Even if you want some 'spending cash,' it should be planned out through the budget."
Kelley said the most common complaint she hears is her clients' expenditures look good on paper, but never seem to add up right. Often, it's the little things that throw a budget off track.
If someone smokes a pack of cigarettes every day, at the end of the year, he or she will have spent more than $3,200.
Kelley, who admitted she was a "pack-a-day" smoker, decided to cut back on how many cigarettes she smokes over time to cut back on extra spending. Now, she said she smokes only five cigarettes a day.
Every dollar should be included in a spending plan to make sure people keep track of where their money is going, Kelley added.
Christina White, who attended a budget development class Monday, is a Family Member with three young children. Although she has never had a credit card, she said she needs help understanding how to budget her money effectively.
"I've got three kids," she said. "They're young, but I want them to go to college."
"With the Christmas holidays here on us, I realized I didn't have as much money to get them all the things they wanted, and (I) didn't have as much money as I would've liked," she continued.
Kelley shared realistic ways Soldiers and Families can easily reduce monthly spending by changing little things, like unplugging appliances and cable receivers when they aren't being used, turning down the thermostat while no one is home, and bringing sodas and lunch to work more often.
One other tip Kelley always shares with her clients is "always pay yourself first." Saving for the future is something young people don't think about, but Kelley said it's never too early to prepare for retirement.
Financial Readiness offers several classes on a monthly basis to help Soldiers and Family Members get their money on track. Counselors also are available to speak to units or family readiness groups.
For confidential, one-on-one financial counseling, call the Financial Readiness Office at 772-0050 / 5196.