Featuring Jenna Sherbert, military wife and side hustle pro!
Budgeting can look different for each family and each situation.
That’s why I brought Jenna Sherbert, a fellow milso and excellent budgeter, to share her tips on where to start.
If you need any extra financial support, make sure to check out my blog post on the financial programs available to families for each branch.
Before everything else, honesty should be the most important aspect when talking about money.
If spending money on a car wash or a music subscription is really important to you, then say that.
Hiding purchases from your spouse will only cause more problems, especially when you are working towards a financial goal together.
Understand Your Why
The most important thing to determine BEFORE you begin budgeting with your spouse is to understand WHY you both want to get on a budget.
Is it to save money to buy a house when you PCS? Is it to pay off debt?
Or maybe it’s even to save money for college.
Whatever your reasons, discussing your “why” with your spouse will help you both get on the same page about how budgeting can help you accomplish your goals.
Create a Budget
Budgeting SOUNDS difficult, but in truth, it is simply writing down how much money you have coming in and how much money goes out each month.
Fortunately, for us military families, we pretty much know how much will be deposited to our account twice a month, so this makes tracking income a little easier.
If writing down a budget on paper feels overwhelming, there are lots of free apps that help you budget.
My favorite is the EveryDollar app which lets you input income and then gives you step by step assistance based on your financial/life goals. You can view it here!
Track Your Spending
One of the most important elements to a successful budget is to track your spending in each category.
It can be as simple as crossing off each budget line item as it’s paid.
If you have a written budget, put an x next to the paid item.
If you’re using the free version of the Every Dollar app, all you have to do is click “spent” and fill in the appropriate box. (They also have a paid version that links to your bank account and automatically tracks your budget for you.)
Needs versus Wants
Your first few months on a budget might be tough. Not because budgeting itself is difficult, but sticking to the budget is, at times.
This is where understanding the difference between NEEDS and WANTS comes in handy.
If you’re trying to get out of debt or save, your needs should be high on your list of priorities, while your wants should be at the very bottom.
“Needs” in a budget are things like money to pay your bills, groceries, and gas.
“Wants” are those things like eating out, mani/pedi appointments, and virtually anything you can do without for the moment.
Am I saying you’ll never get to buy things you want? No.
I’m saying you can always wait to get those things until AFTER your big financial goals are met.
Finding the Right Community
Being a military family is hard because it doesn’t often feel like we have a real community around us, and that’s even more true when it comes to finding a community to rely on for financial advice.
Online, there is a large community under the hashtags #personalfinance and #personalfinanceforfamilies.
On Army bases, they offer programs through the FRG (Family Readiness Group) and through the chaplain’s office.
To find your branch’s specific program, check out this blog post.
Usually there are at least 3 free Financial Peace University classes held on Army bases or in individual’s homes on base.
If you’re having a hard time getting your spouse on board for the classes, the command usually offers one or two options for them to do the course with buddies from work.
For example, my husband will be hosting the Financial Peace class during work hours for anyone in his particular group. He’ll meet with people once a week and they’ll go through the training courses as active duty members working together.
Seek Professional Support
Luckily, each branch of the military offers many free programs designed to help families with anything from budgeting to debt management.
There are also many programs not affiliated with the military, but that still work with military families, to help you find financial stability and support.