The economic downturn has many military families feeling stressed about their finances. But there is a silver lining to this economic turmoil: Consumers rediscovered how to save and that's one of the single most important things you can do to regain control of your finances and reduce financial stress.
You may think "I can't afford to save right now." Maybe you're focused on paying down debt or you're already cutting back to make ends meet. But, saving money creates an emotional lift. Recent survey results from the First Command Financial Behaviors Index indicate that even in a time of great economic uncertainty, saving as little as $5 a month can reduce stress.
Having a plan and being diligent in your approach to savings and paying down debt provides a sense of control in an economy that seems out of control. Additionally, watching the numbers on your savings account go up -- even in small increments -- provides a sense of accomplishment.
If you feel emotionally stressed about the current economy or your personal financial situation, start by taking a few small steps to increase your savings. Try planning menus around grocery store sales, taking advantage of your local library for movies and books, and cutting back spending on services you can do yourself. Are you actually reading the magazines you're getting? If not, cancel your subscriptions. Make cost-cutting a game. Keep a monthly total of what you've saved and start tucking it away.
To ensure that you spend less money than you make you have to take the time to track expenses. Look at your bank statements for the past three months. Or save receipts for a month and calculate where your money is actually going. You may be surprised at the results. Once you know where your money is going, create a plan for where you would like it to go.
Most importantly, make the shift to cutting back on non-essentials and focus on savings as a permanent change for a more frugal way of life. The economy will experience highs and lows, but practicing responsible spending and savings habits will put you on track toward improving your personal finances.
For more money-saving tips, visit Miltary.com's Banking and Saving channel.