Servicemembers and civilians learned ways to spend money responsibly during a budgeting class Monday in the Army Community Service building. Participants received information on how to develop spending plans, evaluate net income and prioritize expenses among other lessons.
The class is the first of four during Military Saves Week, a national campaign to persuade, motivate and encourage military Families to save money every month, which last from Feb. 25 to March 2.
"It doesn't matter how much you earn," said Virginia Duffy, personal financial officer instructing classes for ACS during Military Saves Week. "You always need a plan to spend those dollars."
Duffy led Monday's discussion on budgeting using a PowerPoint display and handouts. Evaluating values and priorities is a big step towards developing a good budget, according to Duffy. She told participants to establish the amount of money they want to contribute to aspects of their life such as their education and faith.
Community members should then develop a spending plan that allows them to responsibly contribute to these values and priorities without overspending. A spending plan should be simple and reflective of an individual's needs, wants, values, priorities and goals.
To create a good spending plan, Duffy suggests people assess their monthly net income after deductions such as state and federal income taxes, social security taxes and pretax benefits like health insurance premiums. Spouses are recommended to combine each other's total monthly income after deductions.
Community members can use this net income to determine the amount of money they can apply to savings and living expenses, such as mortgages, groceries and shopping. Duffy said an ideal spending plan contributes 70 percent to living expenses, 20 to percent debt repayment and 10 to percent savings.
Following these budgeting tips should help people save money, which is important considering 70 percent of U.S. citizens and a third of military servicemembers are living paycheck to paycheck, Duffy said. "The bottom line is people aren't saving enough," Duffy said. "Building a spending plan reduces stress."
Duffy also provided tips to help people stay within their spending plans. Community members should consider using cash envelopes to track their spending. As opposed to credit and debit cards, using cash makes it easier to keep track of money, Duffy said. You can also use Excel spreadsheets and online sources such as to track expenses.
"A huge part of budgeting is discipline," said Maj. Stanley Schrader, U.S. Army Force Management Support Agency, force management staff officer. "You have to be very careful and stay with your plan."
Schrader, a husband with six children, attended the class to receive refresher training on budgeting. The knowledge he gained from the course reinforced his budgeting skills.
David Rocha, Information Technology Agency, wireless telephone control officer, called the presentation very informative and helpful. He attended the class to learn more ways to save money. He said the handouts and information will help him become more financially responsible. He also plans to share money-saving tips with his son in college.
"With the financial uncertainty of the U.S. economy, it's wise to save where you can," Rocha said. "The cost of everything is rising, so you have to make better use of the money you have."
Military Saves Week classes on Fort Belvoir end today with the "Your Insurance Needs" course at 5 p.m. at ACS. The course is open to active-duty servicemembers, retirees and dependents.