NEWS | Dec. 18, 2020

Budget, spending plan can help JBSA members with post-holiday financial goals

By David DeKunder 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

When viewing January bank and credit card statements, some Joint Base San Antonio members will likely receive a vivid reminder of their holiday season in the form of higher expenses and credit card debt. Those expenditures, incurred buying gifts, holiday related items, food and entertainment, could take a big bite out of their 2021 budgets.

According to the National Retail Federation, the average shopper was expected to spend close to $1,000 on gifts and related purchases during the 2020 holiday season.

Kevin Keith, JBSA-Lackland Military & Family Readiness Center personal financial readiness manager and community readiness consultant, said there are strategies and techniques individuals and families can utilize in getting their finances back in order after incurring holiday expenses and debt.

The key is putting together a budget and a financial plan individuals and families can stick to.

“The purpose of a budget is for us to tell our money what it’s going to do, not our money to tell us what we’re going to do,” Keith said.

A budget should include short- and long-term financial goals for individuals and families, such as for paying down debt and setting aside a certain amount in savings.

“What are our goals? That is the first thing we want to do,” Keith said. “Where do we want to be 12 months from now? Where do we want to be five years from now? If we want to say a year from now, we want to have a credit card paid off or we want to have $5,000 in our savings account. We want to establish where we want to be financially. Once we do that, then we can start to develop our financial plan and our spending plan to meet that goal.”

The next step is for individuals and families to review their spending, Keith said. He suggested looking over three months of bank statements and going over those statements with a highlighter to categorize and identify where money is going.

“This can be a very eye-opening experience,” Keith said. “A lot of people think they know how they spend, but can be surprised when they find out where their money ends up. Just the very act of monitoring your spending will cause you to reduce your spending.”

Keith said JBSA members can save money by following a simple acronym – SAS – which stands for structured, automatic, and separate.

Structured means setting aside a specific amount of savings every month as opposed to what is left over, Keith said. Automatic is setting aside the money for savings through an automatic deduction or allotment to your savings account; and separate is putting a savings account in a separate institution from where you normally bank, removing the temptation to access or move the money around for other than the purpose it is set aside for.

Keith also said it is not too early to plan for the 2021 holiday season. One suggestion he has is to set up a holiday savings account, which may be offered at a bank or credit union, where you can set aside a certain amount of money per month to cover the purchase of gifts and other expenses during the next holiday season.

Keith said when it comes to budgets and financial planning, people should make a commitment to have a plan and be flexible when circumstances make it necessary to do so.

“The key to a good budget is flexibility,” Keith said. “Anything that is stiff and rigid will break. Make a commitment to set a plan, take action, and don’t be afraid to fail. Just because this month didn’t go well doesn’t mean you throw it out. We start over again next month. Every month has its own challenges. Stay committed.”

For JBSA members who would like assistance with their finances, Keith said they can schedule a virtual appointment with a certified financial counselor at any of the three JBSA M&FRCs.

Financial counselors can provide assistance to individuals and families who want to setting up a spending plan, need help figuring out credit reports, are trying to improve their credit, or would like to establish a savings plan. They can also provide information and answer questions regarding the Thrift Savings Plan, the possible effect of finances on security clearances, and more.

In addition, various financial literacy classes are offered throughout the year at all JBSA M&FRCs, including budgeting, saving, car buying, home buying, credit management, saving for the holidays and other financial topics.

To find more information, dates, times, and locations, for M&FRC financial literacy classes, go to:  www.jbsa.mil/Resources/Military-Family-Readiness/, and look under the calendar of events.

Additional information on personal financial readiness and the services offered at the JBSA M&FRC, go to the financial readiness webpage at: www.jbsa.mil/Resources/Military-Family-Readiness/Financial-Assistance/.

To make a virtual appointment with a certified financial counselor or to sign up for a financial class, contact the JBSA-Fort Sam Houston M&FRC at 210-221-2705 or 210-221-2418; the JBSA-Lackland M&FRC at 210-671-3722; or the JBSA-Randolph M&FRC at 210-652-5321.