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Embracing Your Cheap Side

The ranks of military families who say they have cut back for good on spending is on the rise. First Command's ongoing research into the behaviors, intentions and attitudes of middle-class consumers reveals that 20 percent of Americans contend they have permanently reduced their spending. And half of Americans say they embraced frugality as a way of life.

This new frugality represents a dramatic and welcome change for our nation. Consumers are breaking their addiction to spending not just because they have to but because it makes them feel better. They learned what our research and market experience confirmed: As you save more, you feel more financial secure and less stressed. Having a reasonable savings-to-debt ratio makes a person feel better about the present and more optimistic about the future.

Americans are embracing a variety of financially responsible behaviors.This is particularly true the armed forces community. Our research shows that military households with annual incomes of $50,000 or more have been cutting back onexpenditures in a variety of areas,

including leisure activities, clothing purchases and household goods. They shop at discount stores, use more coupons and buy generic instead of brand name items. When they make purchases, more than one third are using cash or debit cards instead of credit cards.

Need help cutting spending? Here are a few tips to help keep your finances under control.

  • Track your spending on a note card. Many people don't balance their checkbooks today. Try writing your budget on a 3x5 card and carrying it with you; every time you spend money, subtract it from that card.
  • Save your credit card receipts. If you charge your daily expenses on a credit card, then use your receipts to help you keep a running total.  At night put your receipts for the day in an envelope and write down the day's total on the outside of the envelope. This daily practice makes it easy to keep track of your expenditures throughout the month, not just when the bill arrives in the mail.
  • Look for ways to save on electronic services.  Premium television channels, cell phones, Internet service - the costs can add up fast.  Are you really getting full value out of the expense?  Can you eliminate some expensive but seldom-used features?  Also, you may be able to save money by seeking out a provider who offers bundled services. 
  • Don't buy your lunch with a credit card. In fact, don't buy a lunch at all. You can save hundreds of dollars per month by bringing a lunch from home. That's an easy and painless way to cut spending.

Today, Americans are regaining their fiscal sanity. And that?s a good thing. Government isn't going to be able to resolve all of our economic problems, now or indefinitely. The current bailout represents a debt we must eventually repay. And it's relatively minor when compared to the looming $38 trillion Medicare funding deficit and the $5 trillion Social Security funding deficit facing our nation. Resolving our long-term economic issues will require a genuinely healthy economy featuring Americans who spend and save wisely.

Need more tips on how to save your money and feel more financially secure? Visit Military.com's Finance Channel for money-saving tips.

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