Paycheck Chronicles

The Tug of War Between Earning More and Spending Less


Your personal finances live in a perpetual game of tug-of-war.   You have an amount of income, and you have an amount of expenses, and each one is pulling on one side of the rope.  Sometimes, your expenses are more than your income, and the rope gets pulled in that direction (and you go into debt.)  At other times, your income exceeds your expenses, and you can spend it all, or build up savings.  It's pretty simple.

For most people, the rope gets pulled back and forth numerous times across their lifetimes.  There's a relatively predictable pattern, where you make money, and then your expenses increase, and then you make more money, and your expenses increase again, and that at some point you make less money, and then eventually your expenses decrease, and maybe you make more money again.  And so on.

Most personal financial education is focused on spending less.  There are a few outliers, who teach about earning more, but they are definitely rare.  (Can you name one?)  But the classes offered on base, the articles you read here, and the other resources available are often all about spending less and managing the money that you already have

The fact is, you're more likely to be successful if you think about both sides.  Not always at the same time, but over the course of a lifetime, considering both your income and your expenses will work together to keep your line in balance.

Military members are in a unique position when it comes to making more money.  On one hand, you can't go ask for a raise.  On the other hand, you can work towards promotion, military pay usually has a cost of living adjustment each year, and the military pay scale includes regular time-in-service increases.  Over the course of any five-year period, the average military service member will receive hundreds of dollars more each month.  That's an amazing opportunity!

At the same time, military families might increase their income through spousal employment, a part-time job for the service member, or starting a small business.  Every opportunity won't be available all the time, but additional income can be an option.

On the other side of the coin, military families can ensure that they are spending within their income, prioritizing savings, and making good choices all around.   There are so many ways to learn how to do this:  on-base classes, books, blogs like this, help from family and friends - there is always something more to learn.

A successful financial life needs to include both increases in income and smart use of the money that you have.  Keeping those things in balance will keep your tug-of-war in balance, and no one will fall in the water!

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