ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Army News Service, March 1, 2007) - Though financial experts disagree on the amount - quoting anything from $500 to two month's pay - they all agree that saving for an emergency fund is a "must-have" item in anyone's budget.

Unexpected financial challenges pose a huge risk for those living from paycheck to paycheck. Sudden repairs needed on a vehicle, unexpected dental needs or parking or driving fines can all cause unnecessary stress. More importantly, they can cost a person far more than the original expense through high loan rates, financing fees or late penalty fees for those who juggle bills when an unexpected expense crops up.

"Time is the most important ingredient in any savings recipe," said Suze Orman, CNBC Financial Correspondent and author of "The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous and Broke." She recommends putting away something every pay period, even if it's just a few dollars.

"When you do that, a little becomes a lot, and you can save yourself," she said.

The Defense Department has teamed up with the Consumer Federation of America to provide tools, resources and financial counseling to servicemembers through, and enlisted the help of Orman to help Soldiers learn the tricks and tips to becoming financially strong.

The Web site contains dozens of examples of where to shave expenses and create an emergency savings account - from saving pocket changes each day to bringing your lunch to work - without making huge sacrifices.

It also has links to savings calculators, suggestions on where to put your emergency fund, and print and electronic newsletters with tips on how to save virtually anywhere money is spent.

"Saving money is important for single Soldiers, too," said Isaac Templeton, chief of transition support services at the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command.

While single Soldiers might not have the additional stress of planning financially for a family, they should be making financial plans, too, according to Templeton. Many installation BOSS programs are participating in Military Saves Week through a contest that encourages Soldiers to save, and may reward their installation BOSS program for doing so in a "sign up to save" competition.

Tips to shaving expenses and saving money (from

Aca,!Ac Substitute coffee for cappuchino. Over one year, the $2 a day saved creates almost $500 in savings.

Aca,!Ac Use store brand, over-the-counter medications. Shop carefully, comparing ingredients, and you'll discover many name-brand drugs have a store-brand equivalent at half the cost. You'll save $100 or more over the course of a year.

Aca,!Ac Use only YOUR bank's ATMs. If you use a competing bank's ATM once a week, paying $2 for their service and $2 in service fees at your bank, you'll save over $200 a year by going to your bank's ATM.

Aca,!Ac Raise you insurance deductibles. If you're a safe driver, raising your deductible can save thousands of dollars in a single year.

Aca,!Ac Give up premium cable channels. Watching one rented or pay-per-view movie per week instead of paying for a premium channel will save up to $500 a year.

(William Bradner writes for the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command.)