Saving Money on a Military Budget

9 Tips to Improve Your Finances

At one time or another, most of us run into some tight financial times. Being on a military salary—which, as we all know, isn’t the greatest in the world—doesn’t help. But, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t be able to save money, whether you’re trying to grow your retirement fund or just socking away a few extra bucks for a rainy day. Here are nine tips that will help you save money, even on a military salary.

  • 01 of 09

    Review Your Spending Habits

    stack of receipts
    Getty Images/Lauren Burke

    Sit down with your receipts and track exactly where your money goes every month. You might be surprised at the number of unnecessary expenses, impulse buys, and frivolous purchases. They can add up very, very quickly. Based on your expense tracking, adjust your spending to fit your need to save. 

  • 02 of 09

    Create a Budget

    Budget
    Getty Images/Creative RF/David Sacks

    If you don’t have a monthly budget, you have no idea how much money you have coming in or going out each month, and that makes it really hard to get yourself onto a regular savings plan. Track your spending carefully for a few months and break it down into categories (housing, food, clothes, household expenses, etc.) The make a budget and stick to it. 

  • 03 of 09

    Pay Your Bills First

    Always pay your bills first.—before buying groceries, putting gas in your car, or doing anything else. Once you’ve paid your monthly bills, split the remainder of your income among your other expenses.

  • 04 of 09

    Actually, Pay Yourself First

    Make a commitment to save a certain amount of money out of each paycheck. Put that money somewhere specific (like a dedicated savings account set up for only this sole purpose). It doesn’t have to be a huge amount, either, but do it with every paycheck--before you pay any of your other bills. Even a few dollars each week will build up over time. The trick is to leave it alone. It’s awfully tempting to dip into your savings whenever you see something you really want. Don’t do it.

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    Use Cash to Shop

    pay with cash
    Getty Images/Glow Images, Inc.

    Do you whip out your credit card every time you make a purchase? Most of us do, but that can lead to trouble. Using plastic makes it hard to track on a daily basis how much you’re spending. Sure, you might have a number in mind, but it’s not the same thing as watching the amount of actual cash in your wallet dwindle. Use cash for your purchases, and you’ll probably find yourself taking a pass on something you might otherwise have bought with a credit card.  

  • 06 of 09

    Eat Out Less

    Sure, grabbing a burger is convenient on a hectic weeknight, and there’s nothing like going to a nice restaurant to get one of those all-too-rare date nights off on the right foot. The problem is that eating out—even fast food—is very expensive. Save yourself some cash by dining in more often, and you can put the money you're saving away for the future.

  • 07 of 09

    401(k) and Retirement

    If you’re a military spouse and have access to a 401(k) or other retirement program through your employer, use that to your advantage. This money is taken out before taxes, so not only does it reduce the need for you to make painful spending cuts, but it can lower your tax burden as well. In many cases, employers match the contributions (up to a point) their employees make to their retirement accounts. Don’t miss out—it’s free money! 

  • 08 of 09

    Open a Thrift Savings Plan Account

    The Thrift Savings Plan is available to all servicemembers, as well as other federal employees, and makes an excellent option for saving money for retirement and helping you build that all-important nest egg.

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  • 09 of 09

    Keep a Coin Jar

    jar of coins
    Getty Images/JamieB

    Get a large jar and every evening, dump all the coins you accumulated during the day. Sure, it's only a few cents here and there, but you'll never notice. And over time, the amount in the jar will grow.