JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
Military Saves Week in February is an annual campaign that encourages service members and their families to save their money and prepare for the future, but its message is worth repeating throughout the year.
“Developing Your Spending Plan,” a class scheduled from 10-11:30 a.m. June 15 at the Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Military & Family Readiness Center, reinforces that message, showing attendees how a well-developed financial plan allows them to pay for the necessities of life and save money for emergencies and other future needs.
“Everyone can benefit from looking at how their money comes in and how it goes out,” said Don Lenmark, JBSA-Randolph M&FRC personal financial counselor. “Unless you’re actually tracking expenses, you don’t have a good grasp on how your money’s being spent.”
During the class, attendees will learn that establishing a budget is an important part of a good financial plan. They will see components of a spending plan and financial planning worksheets, hear tips for controlling spending and learn how to set SMART goals – goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-sensitive.
Getting a good grasp on how their money is being spent may seem like a daunting task to many people, but Lenmark will show that it is possible – and not so difficult – from his own personal experience.
It all started with a simple ledger sheet affixed to a refrigerator door.
“It happened when my wife and I became parents,” said Lenmark, who was in the early years of his Army career at the time. “We got very good at our spending plan just by getting it all down on paper. We were a one-income family with two children, but we still found a way to be successful through weekly and monthly accountability of where our money was spent.”
Lenmark will introduce two ways to track income and expenses: a simple spending plan worksheet and a more detailed personal finance worksheet, including a helpful checklist. Additional methods of tracking income and expenses will also be covered, such as using an Excel spreadsheet, budgeting apps and financial software programs as well as utilizing spending tools within one’s online banking account.
Seeing where their money goes allows people to make informed decisions about how they spend it, Lenmark said.
“We can all be better with the choices we make,” he said. “Take a hard look at where your money is going. We have more control over expenses than we think.”
Lenmark will also offer tips on how to curb spending.
“One way is to cut back on dining out,” he said. “If you spend $300 a month eating out, cutting that in half will save you $1,800 a year.”
Cutting back on credit card use – especially cards with high interest rates – is another way.
“With finance charges, you’ll end up paying a lot more for something,” Lenmark said. “We love the word ‘unlimited,’ but it’s important to stay within your means.”
Setting aside money for emergency situations allows people to bypass the use of credit cards and avoid monthly finance charges that quickly add up, especially when they only pay the minimum, Lenmark said.
“One-third of all Americans cannot handle an emergency expense of $500 without putting it on a credit card,” he said. “Let’s learn how to have an emergency plan.”
Getting control over spending not only saves money, it also eases financial stress.
Money is the No. 1 source of psychological stress for adults, Lenmark said, while financial stress is cited as the leading cause of the breakdown of marriage in 56 percent of divorces.
A spending plan empowers people to gain better control of everyday expenses and work smarter toward their personal financial goals, he said.
"Getting started is the hard part, but once people gain momentum, they find budgeting is much easier than they thought it would be,” Lenmark said.
To register for the class, call the JBSA-Randolph M&FRC at 210-652-5321.