Budgets, Budgeting and Deals.

If you’ve landed here looking for info about Sears Heroes at Home, that post is directly below this one.  Thanks for stopping by!

It’s that time of year, the time of year that I hate.  When people start talking about the military budget for next year and why the raise isn’t good enough.  I’ve seen that the estimate is 1.6%, which I believe is larger than last year, but far below Bush Era 3%+ raises.   It could just  be me…..but it sounds pretty ridiculous to just automatically get a raise every year, on top of all sorts of other raises and benefits, and then complain that it’s not as much as you’d like.

If you can’t get by with the money you make now due to mismanagement, then a small raise isn’t going to help much because you will just mismanage the extra cash right along with the rest.  I speak from personal experience. When we were making almost 1k less a paycheck, we had a lot more loose funds then we do now.  Every single pay period we would go out to dinner and see a movie. (or two!) We bought what we wanted and did what we wanted  and burned gas going anywhere whenever we wanted. We just didn’t have the bills that we have now.  And I’m sure you know the story, young people falling into credit card debt is practically a coming of age ritual.   We paid our bills, and then suddenly interest would shoot up, and even though we were making large monthly payments, with all the fees and raised APR it wasn’t even covering minimum payments.  We tried to be more  thrifty but it took a while to learn. And by the time we did, it was all practically unmanageable.  There’s a lot more to it then that, but I won’t quibble, we dug our own hole and it was never the Navy’s fault for not paying us enough.

If you just think that you need more money because you deserve it, then that’s your opinion, but my opinion is that you need a lesson in humility.  Yes our military does a great thing. But it’s paid volunteer work.  I don’t believe that our great heroes of this country were the kind of people who felt so high and mighty that they felt like they deserved more than they were getting.  I  think the kind of person who goes above and beyond is the kind that would keep on doing their job even their pay was cut instead of raised.  So I think you have a pretty good idea of my opinion of the kind of people who get upset that we’re getting a raise, being given extra money for no real reason, and complain that it isn’t good enough.

I suppose I ought to step down from my soap box and move on with the show!

I strongly recommend budgeting.  Even if your financial situation is fantastic. When I started budgeting several years ago (prior to all the debt), I had a few “holy crap!” moments.  Such as we were spending up to 60 dollars a month on fast food.  My husband buying a soda from the vending machine everyday adds up pretty quick also.  (30+ a month depending on what kind he bought) So I don’t think it ever hurts to see an accurate break down of exactly where all of your money is going even if you’re not living paycheck to paycheck.

There are lots of options on how to accomplish a budget.  When I first started out I used a spread sheet.  First it was the windows program and then I switched Google Docs since you can access those anywhere.  This method only works if you know how, or are willing to learn how to use a spread sheet.  It involves using formulas that will add, subtract, multiply or a ton of other things between rows, columns, individual blocks or whatever you want.  Formulas for a basic budget are pretty simple, but I don’t think I really have the resources currently to try to explain in my little blog what to do.  But using the Google Docs tutorial should probably be a lot of help if you want to go that route.

Since getting a smart phone I’ve been using a budgeting application MoBudget (Windows phone only) It has been PHENOMENAL.  Any smart phone will have apps like this though, some of them will cost money, others won’t. You just need to look at the details, use free trials, and figure out which one has the features you want out of it.  If you have a windows phone, I cannot recommend MoBudget enough!   There are also websites that offer budgeting features and some banks will also have something like a budget with their online banking.  I believe Navy Federal at least at one time could break down your spending and show you where all your money was going.  And most Navy Bases will have budgeting classes. I believe I even once got a budget layout in a file from NMCRS once.  I don’t know about bases for other branches. If you’re with another branch and know whether or not there are similar programs please share the info, every little bit helps!

Once you see where your  money is going, you can start looking for areas where you can cut back or be a little more thrifty.  Everywhere you go, at any point when you spend money, ask them if they have a military discount.  Grocery stores, gas stations and things like that usually won’t.  But hair salons, mom and pop shops, random stores in the mall might.  Every bit helps!  Other stores might have special days where the military get discounts, like Old Navy. (at least they used to, I haven’t shopped ON in a while) If you find out that somewhere you spend money often has a discount, then that is super.   I seem to have found more places in my hometown (non military) area that have discounts more than here in an area where there are always lots of military people around.

If you want to plan a trip to a theme park, a vacation, a concert, whatever. Check with the establishments to see if they have military discounts, or certain times of year where they offer it.  And also check the MWR, I tried to look it up and it seems like the MWR is an all branch thing. Just googling “MWR” and your area will get you what you need, there is no over all website that I can find.  They have discounted tickets and prices for all sorts of things.  Our roommate just got into a rock concert last week for 10 dollars through the MWR! And it was a B-I-G name concert, I’m sure the cheapest tickets were selling for 30+ bucks.  Back on the fourth of July we all went to a water park that was letting Military in free, and family half off. In the past we’ve gone to theme parks for free on special military days.   So be aware of your recreational deals and discounts of the area.

When buying gas or groceries, try to go with stores that have discounts.  Some gas stations have points programs.  And many grocery chains do.  Some even combine with gas stations. I’m sure we’ve all see the gas stations outside of WalMart where you can get gas for 3 cents cheaper if you use a WalMart card.  We don’t shop at the commissary, the commissary is on base, and we don’t live on base or even all that near to base and we only have one car.  So the last thing my husband wants to do is get off of work, come home to pick me up and then turn around go straight back to base, or go to base on a day off. So we shop at other stores, earn cash back and whatnot, coupon when we can.  Perhaps if I could get some collaboration going on, I could make up a more area specific index of discounts, but I hope this has been over all helpful to as many people as possible.

Some other useful things are Groupon, Living Social, Facebook has a “Deals” app thing.

When it comes buying big-ticket items, like a vacuum, washer/dryer, etc, I read this advice somewhere once, one of those advice columns from AOL or something.  The way it was explained, was that if you couldn’t decide between buying a super expensive item, like a Dyson or a more affordable less expensive vacuum, then you can divide the cost up by use. A Dyson can cost in the ballpark of 600 dollars.  Lets put this against generic vacuum that’s 150 dollars.   If you vacuum once a week, then the Dyson costs you 11.54 per use (rounded) for 1 year, and the generic vacuum only 2.88.  Breaking it down into smaller numbers often helps if you’re just trying to decide if its worth the extra money.  Between 600 and 150 is a tough decision, between 11 and 2 doesn’t seem so extreme.    This was entirely paraphrased but if anyone knows where the original article is I’d be more than pleased to cite it 🙂

So there you go!  My thoughts, opinions, ideas, tricks and tips on this topic.  Coming soon, my hobbies, hobbies I hope to start soon and might hopefully start making some money off of (and maybe give you some ideas as well)!

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One thought on “Budgets, Budgeting and Deals.

  1. Lulu LeSabre says:

    After hubbs joined last year was the first time I had to get serious and make and (attempt to) stick to a budget since our income was dropping fairly significantly and our rent here is a lot more. I should have been less impatient to get out here and waited until his live ashore was approved so we could just get into housing. Hindsight and all that. At least we’re not here too much longer.
    I’ve been amazed at all the little perks I’ve discovered that help as a supplement to the actual pay and I have to agree, there’s nothing to complain about with the pay, if you handle it properly you should be able to do alright.

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