JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —
Keeping a careful eye on spending, not getting deeper into debt and being on the lookout for scams is the advice Joint Base San Antonio financial counselors are giving installation members who are trying to manage their finances during COVID-19.
Sarah Henson, JBSA-Randolph Military & Family Readiness Center community readiness consultant, said there are several strategies servicemembers and military families can utilize in helping them manage their money better during the pandemic.
First, she said service members and families should review their expenses and determine what items are needs and which ones are wants. Second, consider options that can help save money on their grocery bill, including using coupons and putting together a menu or meal plan.
By using coupons and planning meals, Henson said families can get into the habit of only purchasing food items they will need to create their meals while avoiding wasting food.
Also, she said monitoring utility usage can be helpful in determining where individuals and families might be able to cut back.
Henson said service members and families should review their expenses by looking at their credit card or bank statements, add up the charges on those statements, and look at what is being spent on fast food and other unnecessary items that are not really needed.
She said service members, military spouses and families can also get a handle on their finances by creating a budget.
“Creating a budget or spending plan is key to making sure your money is going to things that you value and not wasted on things that you don’t,” Henson said. “Accountability with other family members can be helpful too. Sit down and create a financial plan together, or better yet, reach out to your M&FRCs to schedule a virtual appointment with a financial counselor.”
With more people staying in quarantine and working from home, increases in costs for items such as groceries and utilities can strain family finances, possibly forcing them to purchase items with credit and putting them deeper in debt.
Kevin Keith, JBSA-Lackland Military & Family Readiness Center personal financial readiness manager, said individuals and families with significant debt should strive to live within their means by not adding new credit balances for two months. While doing that, he stressed the importance of continuing to make at least the minimum payment on any credit balances.
Keith said these measures should be followed up with a debt elimination plan.
“This prevents the yoyo effect of paying off debt just to create new debt,” he said.
In addition, Keith said to set aside some money for emergency savings. “Otherwise, all the debt reduction is wasted when they have to use their credit card to fix the car,” he said.
Henson said service members and military families who are wanting to pay off their debt should create a debt repayment plan they can stick with. She said JBSA financial counselors are available to help with creating a debt repayment plan.
Also, JBSA members can utilize Power Play, a free online program that provides tools to individuals to help them develop a personalized debt elimination plan. The program is available at https://powerpay.org.
Roy Bolton, JBSA-Fort Sam Houston Military & Family Readiness Center financial readiness specialist, said service members and families should check with their finance and insurance companies to see if they are willing to delay payments on home or car loans. He said many insurance companies are offering discounts on car insurance, some as high as 20 percent.
During these uncertain times, service members and military families need to be on the lookout for scammers, who will use electronic means to try and take advantage of them.
Bolton said JBSA members should be aware of scammers who are using fabricated notices posing as health organizations or agencies to solicit funds for fake tests or equipment, using fake updates from an employer about policies or procedures to address the risk of a scam, setting up phony websites containing maps and dashboards, sending information about protecting yourself, your children or your community that contains a malicious link or attachment, sending charitable appeals to help victims of COVID-19 that are not legitimate, and providing false information about stimulus checks.
Check with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to learn about the latest financial scams associated with COVID-19 pandemic at: https://www.consumerfinance.gov.
Virtual meetings with a certified financial counselor can be arranged by contacting JBSA M&FRCs, including Fort Sam Houston, 210-221-2705, Lackland, 210-671-3723 or Randolph at email@example.com.