For a moment, let's look past the drama in yesterday's post, and start thinking forward. What can you do now to prepare for the possibility that military pay could be delayed sometime in the next few months? More importantly, what steps can you take to build up an emergency fund so that the threat of delayed military paychecks doesn't throw your world into a tailspin?
Cutting Back and Building Up SavingsAs with every potential military pay issue, the key is to have emergency funds available and a way to cut your expenses sharply. However, what should you do if you are living paycheck-to-paycheck? My advice is to start making some serious cuts right now. If pay is never interrupted, hopefully you can keep this money aside as the start to your emergency fund. Things you can do include:
- Immediately stop all unnecessary expenses on items such as meals out, entertainment, trips to the beauty salon, unnecessary purchases, house cleaning service, etc. You might even consider postponing minor car maintenance, putting off your haircut, and delaying any large payments that won't incur an expensive penalty.
- Take stock of your pantry, refrigerator and freezer. See how much you can cut your grocery bill by eating the things you've already got.
- Look over your fixed expenses and see if anything can be trimmed. Call your telephone company, your insurance company, your internet service provider, and your child's school or day care to investigate ways to cut your bills. Drop your cable and either your landline or your cell phone. See if a neighbor would like to share internet service, if only temporarily.
- Learn how to shop cheaply for food. Become a coupon queen, seek out cheap meals, and learn to love beans. I'm not kidding.
- Check with your financial institution to see if they have plans to offer any relief during a debt ceiling crisis. (Many banks and credit unions offered relief during the last serious debt ceiling crisis.)
- Think of ways to bring in outside income. Perhaps this is just the right time for your family to pick-up a part-time job, whether Dad delivers pizza or Mom teaches guitar lessons. Start clearing out all the excess stuff your family owns and selling it on eBay, Craigslist, or at a yard sale. Been harboring a small business idea? Dust it off and give it a try. Yes, I know that this not feasible for many people. That doesn't mean it isn't a decent suggestion!
- Get to know the services available in your community. Many areas offer help for heating oil, electric bills, and food. I know that none of us want to use these services, but don't be shy. If you have no emergency fund, this is an emergency situation.
- Consider sharing your fears with friends or family. You might be surprised how much they can help. It doesn't hurt to ask.