This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Navy Federal Credit Union. All opinions are 100% mine. Navy Federal is federally insured by NCUA.
There’s an old adage that goes something like this: if you want more money, you can either make more or cut back. There’s a lot of truth to that. Money has to come from somewhere– it can’t just appear from out of thin air. But I don’t think that’s the whole story. And for military families, saving money is often just not as easy as “make more” or “cut back.” For many military families, un- or underemployment really squeezes budgets. The unavailability of safe, affordable childcare can squeeze things further. Then, there’s PCSing and all of the costs associated with just living a military lifestyle. I think there’s another option: you can outwit it. You can be clever and resourceful. You can think creatively and use tools to your advantage.
Here are three ways we’ve done just that to save more.
Strategy 1: Find the drain
While most of us would like to believe that our budgets and spending plans are air-tight, the truth is we probably have areas we can improve. In my opinion, when you’re motivating yourself to do anything hard—lose weight, save money, avoid chocolate—making changes that have appreciable successes can keep you on the right track towards your goal. So, find the drain in your budget and plug it. This might look like subscriptions to services or products. Do you need them? (Do you even use them?) End the services you don’t use or want. For the ones that you do, can you downgrade them? Do they have a military discount? Can you bundle with other needed subscriptions? Get on a customer service chat or call and see if there are any promotions that can knock your costs down. Take those savings and allocate them automatically to your savings or retirement accounts. There are plenty of drains. When it comes to our life, John and I love eating out. I work from home and it’s one of the ways that I get out of the house. But it also costs a lot of money. When we cut back, we see a big difference in our budget, and we redirect that money to our savings accounts.
Strategy 2: Use the SCRA
Sometimes, there’s no way to cut back. You’re already at barebones. Or are you? Depending on your family’s circumstances, you might qualify to access the benefits of the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act. (I’ve found that so many military spouses have never heard of this extremely valuable tool!) While the SCRA offers quite a few protections, we’re going to focus on one: the ability to reduce the interest rate on any pre-service loans to a maximum of 6%. Yep, you read that right. And yes, it works on credit card debt and student loan debt. The SCRA helped our family pay down massive amounts of student loan debt, by reducing interest rates that were in the double digits to 6%. This tool means that you can pay your debt down faster, which means you’ll spend less money in interest over the life of the debt. So, you’ll be closer to your savings goals, with a better chance at a higher credit score to boot. There are quite a few rules, terms and regulations to know about the SCRA and to ensure that your situation qualifies for it. You can learn more here.
Strategy 3: Talk to Someone
At the beginning of our marriage, John and I spent a lot of time talking about what our post-military life would look like. We knew he wasn’t going to retire from the military, so we also talked a lot about what we wanted our retirement life to look like. And when we did that, we got stuck. Because of me. When we started talking about numbers, I would get really overwhelmed. I wanted us just to save ALL THE MONEY. Because who knew what we needed, really? So many things could change in the next 30 years, how would we ever be able to figure out how much money we actually needed to live the life we wanted? So, we ended up getting professional help. Talking to a reputable financial counselor can help you move forward if you’re stuck (or even if you aren’t). Personal finance counseling can provide professional guidance and help for your specific circumstances, dispel rumors and myths surrounding financial planning, and help you craft a plan that you can stick to and that will work.
And one more thing…
If you’re looking to be more financially savvy this year, join a community of people who, just like you, are dedicated to saving money, reducing debt and improving financial wellness. Take the Military Saves Pledge and share your savings success tips! Navy Federal is also offering members a $50 bonus when you open your first IRA plan with them.
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