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Airman get money-saving tips for 2013

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Like many of those reading this article, I am a relatively new Airman, just trying to learn the ropes of the financial world. There are many things I want to buy, I battle the urge to spend money and I recognize the need to set financial goals.

Fortunately, the Whiteman Airman & Family Readiness Center offers numerous programs which can help Airmen learn to manage their finances, pay off debt and plan for retirement, just to name a few.

"The first thing an Airman should be able to do is read his or her Leave and Earnings Statement on their paycheck," said R.D. "Smitty" Smith, 509th Force Support Squadron Airman & Family Readiness Center accredited financial counselor. "If you can't read your LES, then how do you know if your pay is correct and what it's supposed to be?"

Service members should also be aware of what entitlements they are authorized, as two Airmen will often have different financial statements, depending on their individual situations.

"Airmen need to know what their expenses are, and to track them, while being able to maintain a lifestyle within their means," Smith said.

In an effort to help Airmen make sound decisions regarding finances, Airman & Family Readiness offers the following tips: 

-- Save money

Always look at the cost of items you want to buy and ask yourself if they are things you need immediately, or if you should purchase later after properly planning to do so. Write out financial goals and be disciplined to stick to them. Pay yourself first, put money away and only withdraw just enough for the week.

-- Live within your means

Do not make expensive purchases that are out of your means. Common purchases in this category include vehicles and homes. Keep car and house payments within your budget and save money for a down payment.

-- Keep a record of your expenses

Write down everything you spend for a month. Be as detailed as possible, and try not to leave out small purchases. Assign each purchase a category, such as rent, car insurance/payment, phone bill, cable, utilities, food and entertainment. Always overestimate your expenses and underestimate your income.

-- Make a budget! Be disciplined

Once you have managed to balance your earnings with your saving and spending goals, write down a budget so you will know each month how much you can spend. Goal-setting is key to becoming financially fit; just having a written, physical budget can provide motivation for responsible spending. List your budget categories in order of importance and meet the most important needs first. Live within your pay grade! 

-- Take care of possessions

It is a simple premise - if you take care of your stuff, you will need to replace it less often. Try not to replace items until absolutely necessary.

-- Pay with cash

With debit or credit cards, you are not actively handing someone actual dollar bills; therefore, it is easy to lose track of how much you are spending, making you vulnerable to spending far more than you expected. Watching dollar bills leave your wallet is never pleasant, so to help yourself be more fiscally responsible, shop with actual green in your pocket.

-- Credit Cards

Credit card abuse often leads to debt. People frequently purchase expensive items on credit, thereby exposing their credit profile to ruin if bills are not paid on time. When you do incur debt, pay it off on time.

Ultimately, however, perhaps the most important thing Airmen can do is establish a solid savings.

"Ten percent of Airmen income should go into emergency savings" said Sandy Williams, 509th FSS community readiness consultant. "Establish credit early, but pay off the credit cards."

For more information, or to make an appointment for more personalized help, contact the A&FRC at 660-687-7132.