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Six Smart Money-Saving Moves in 2011

Military families are no different from their civilian counterparts in that the New Year often brings a renewed commitment to financial discipline and saving.

For servicemembers, the most anticipated news each fall is the amount of their potential pay raise. But even while Congress continues to debate a possible increase, there are other basic financial moves a military family can make to save on taxes.

Here are six suggestions:

1. Revise your monthly budget. Take a hard look at your monthly budget and identify ways to trim expenses that likely grew over the course of 2010. Clearly identify income, fixed

monthly expenses, and discretionary spending categories. Be disciplined in your spending and saving -- do not let extra savings one month increase your budget in the next.

2. Commit to reducing your debt. If you still have credit card debt or a high interest secured loan, use the savings from your new, aggressive budget to begin paying it down. If you are debt free or are only paying down a low interest mortgage or auto loan, then be sure to build a nest egg equal to at least six months spending.

3. Thrift Savings Plan. Open a Thrift Savings Plan if you don't currently have one. If you do, consider an even larger TSP contribution. The 2011 contribution limits remain unchanged from 2010. A uniformed servicemember can make a contribution from his/her base pay as well as incentive and bonus pay up to their maximum contribution limit. Uniformed personnel contributing from pay that is subject to the combat zone exclusion can put more money into their TSP account than the usual elective deferral limit.

See here for a chart on 2011 TSP contribution limits: https://www.tsp.gov/planparticipation/eligibility/contributionLimits.shtml.

4. Consider a degree. The Montgomery GI Bill announced another payment rate increase for 2011 to help meet the continually growing cost of education. The full-time student payment rate for 2011 was increased to $1,421 a month. If you are considering further education, be sure to research your eligibility for the Montgomery GI Bill.

For more detailed information, follow this link on Military.com: http://www.military.com/education/content/gi-bill/active-duty-gi-bill-payment-rates.html

5. Negotiate with your insurance provider. Insurance companies have been hit hard by the recession. Use it to your advantage by forcing them to aggressively win or retain your business. Comparison shop for cheaper home or auto rates and then ask your current provider to match or beat those rates.

6. Re-evaluate your monthly utilities. You can save hundreds of dollars a year by comparison shopping or reducing monthly utility bills such as television, Internet and cell phone. Consider cutting the cord of traditional cable or satellite and finding basic or premium television content online in order to save money.

Similarly, streaming movies offer a cheaper alternative to the movie theater. Shop high speed Internet and cell phone providers for better rates, or consider reducing your Internet speed or cell phone minutes to save on monthly usage. Basic utilities such as garbage, home security and recycling are also subject to re-bidding.

While many military families face unique financial situations because of deployments and access to government benefits programs, there are still basic money moves that can make for a more efficient monthly budget and contribute to the family's bottom line. Identify a savings goal in 2011 and then put these tips into effect to achieve it.

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Contributor

Ethan Ewing is a veteran consumer financial services and online marketing executive. He manages all aspects of Bills.com, a leading consumer finance website that provides practical financial advice and free financial tools and resources. Ethan is a driving force behind Bills.com’s growth. He has held leadership positions at two Experian companies and built a lead generation business for Ameriquest Mortgage. He holds a BA from Denison University.

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