HOHENFELS, Germany -- With unemployment at an all-time high and a shaky global economy, paying down debt and saving for the future is more than just a good idea. Unfortunately, many people don't know where to start.
That's where the Department of Defense's Military Saves program can help. Military Saves is a national campaign designed to persuade, motivate and encourage military families to save money every month.
To help kick off Military Saves Week, Feb. 25-March 2, the Hohenfels Financial Readiness Program will host a weeklong event to help put people on the path to savings.
"I'm really excited about Military Saves Week this year because we're going to do something a little different," said Donna Gotel, Financial Readiness Program manager.
Hosted by the Army Community Service in Building 10, a variety of organizations will share money saving tips and offer advice on creating a savings plan.
"Both the Community Bank and the Service Credit Union will have representatives on hand to share some investment strategies and opportunities with their institutions," said Caroline Wilkins, Financial Readiness Program intern.
Visitors will also be able to take advantage of a certified financial planner's expertise, as classes will be given throughout the week on TSP, retirement planning and investment strategies. The financial planner will also offer free one-on-one consultations.
Gotel said the time to start saving is now.
"You never know about the 'what ifs' of life," said Gotel. "If you live day to day like most of us do, what if your car suddenly breaks down and you have no money? People need to be prepared."
Saving money isn't only about investing and budgeting. It can also be about spending smarter or taking advantage of support programs that can cut down on your expenditures.
Women, Infants and Children (WIC) representatives will sponsor a booth discussing their program. Gotel said that many people think their income is too high to qualify for WIC, but with the higher cost of living in Europe, families who may not be eligible in the States can often receive benefits here.
"WIC gives you a lot of great items like milk, fruit, peanut butter and cheese. This could save you a lot of money on your grocery bill," Gotel said. "Families should really come in and see if they qualify. Even a capt ain with a non-working spouse could qualify."
WIC isn't the only way to save on your grocery bill. Ric Potteiger, Hohenfels Commissary store director, will explain how to make the most of the commissary's new "Rewards Card."
The Hohenfels New Parent Support team will also share some tips for saving money at the grocery store.
"We'll talk about things like the differences between Huggies diapers and the AAFES brand, which is basically the same but costs less," said Summer Mack, New Parent Support Program home visitor. "Just because something has flashy advertising or a picture of a baby on the package doesn't mean it's the best thing for your child."
Mack said they will also discuss various ways NPSP programs can save families money, such as providing 20 hours of respite a month for free, a savings of $80 on child care costs.
"We think it's important that mothers can go to appointments without a baby or go have lunch with their husband," said Mack.
While all these savings and investment ideas may help visitors start saving for their children's college fund , Terri Carr, Employment Readiness Program manager, will be providing information and classes on various resources available to help Soldiers and civilians fund their own college education right now.
The various booths will be open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Feb. 25-March 2. In addition to all the learning opportunities, there will be snacks, cake, raffles and prizes.
"It's like an information fair," said Gotel.