3 Ways to Practice Financial Fitness


Save money. Get out of debt. Teach our kids how to make sound financial choices. Those are just a few of the things the Department of Defense wants servicemembers and their families to think about right now during “Military Saves Week 2013.”

As part of the DoD Financial Readiness Campaign, “Military Saves Week” is an opportunity for military families to focus on creating effective financial habits in order to save money and reduce debt. The theme of this year’s campaign, which runs this week from February 25 to March 2, is “Set a goal. Make a plan. Save automatically.”

They make it sound so simple, don’t they? But as we all know, it’s not as easy as it sounds, especially as we brace ourselves for the possibility of sequestration. So what can military families do? Here are 3 ways to practice financial fitness:

1. Work together as a team.

“Financial instability brings tension within a relationship and a marriage, and that may have some factors that play into marital tension that leads to separation that may lead to divorce,” said Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan Battaglia, Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff during a bloggers roundtable about “Military Saves Week.” “So financial fitness plays a big role in more than just being healthy in the wallet.”

Sgt. Maj. Battaglia’s wife Lisa also stressed the importance of financial fitness within a military household by working together.

“The two of us communicated as a team and made a true conscious effort to stick to a plan. We made sacrifices and became responsible money managers.”

2. Don’t worry about the Joneses.

“Live within your means,” advised Mrs. Battaglia. “You don’t need what the neighbors have if you can’t afford it.”

Mrs. Battaglia shared the fact that she still packs her husband’s lunches and he still cuts his own hair. These habits saved them much-needed money when they first started out as a young military couple, and even though they can afford these things now, they see no reason to change.

“We have built a financial discipline into our lifestyle that permits us to save that expense and use it on something better and more special.”

3. Use resources.

According to Barbara Thompson, director of the Office of Family Policy, Children and Youth, at the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy, there are many financial tools available to servicemembers and their families.

Military family centers offer certified financial managers that provide education in budgeting and counseling. Defense credit unions and military banks on installations are also required to provide educational tools for families. Through Military One Source, families can receive 12 sessions of financial counseling either in person or by phone. Even children can learn to be financially smart by visiting sites like Money as You Grow.

Interested in participating in “Military Saves Week”? Get started by clicking here to take the Military Saves Pledge.

What kinds of financial habits do you and your family have in order to save money and reduce debt?

About the Author

Heather Sweeney
Heather Sweeney is an Associate Editor at Military.com, former Navy wife, mother of two, blogger, and avid runner. She’s the blogger formerly known as Wife on the Roller Coaster and still checks in every now and then at her blog Riding the Roller Coaster.
  • jes

    First thing is, if we can not afford it we do not get it. We have our emergency fund with money regularly going in. We also have a few other savings accounts for long term goals like furnitre and cars so we do not have to take out loans/finance them. We do not use credit cards other than to get the points so we can save them up for a vacation and we pay it off every month.

    Also, we talk about our finances pretty regularly and keep a log of exactly what we are spending and on what.

    • Michelle

      Hey Jes-

      Did the military teach you anything about budgeting? Or did you learn it from your parents, influences, or an outside source?

      Seems like MCCS and NMCRS doesn’t teach responsible lessons.

      PO1 Michelle

      • jes
  • mel

    What I have noticed, while working as a volunteer caseworker at a relief agency, is a disconnection from a person’s money. With the emergence of debit cards and online bill paying and account monitoring, young servicemembers are not paying attention to how much money they have on a daily basis. Many depend on checking their bank balance via internet and we all know that there can be a lag time between the actual purchase and the posting to the account. With the automatic $500 overdraft protection, provided by a bank that caters to military, servicemembers often bring their account into overdraft status because they are still able to use that debit card. Then, they start out the next payday $500 less because the bank recoups the overdraft amount. This has been frustrating for me because I grew up without computers and debit cards. When making purchases, I used cash or checks and maintained a continual balance of my money in my checkbook register. I now advise these servicemembers to keep a written ledger of deposits and withdrawals to reconnect them with their money. I also tell them that when their written ledger shows they don’t have any money left, they need to stop spending even if their bank balance is still showing cash in their account.

    • mel

      Another issue I have faced with the younger servicemembers is living beyond their means. What happened to the days when you started out your first home with used furniture from family and thrift stores. Nowadays, they purchase new furniture for their entire home and want to do this all at once. We slowly replaced the used furniture with new when we could afford it. I have also seen outrageous car payments because many seem to think they should have that dream car instead of waiting until they actually have the money to handle the payment and insurance. People need cars these days, but they don’t need Mustangs and Escalades. Finding something affordable and reliable can be achieved with a cheaper vehicle.
      Having a savings account is a great goal, but what I have seen with many of our clients is that they need to overhaul their attitudes and money habits so that they can actually have money available to save.

      • sabrinacking

        I think you really get the full sense of this problem with your post. In the military world…I’d personally like to see the automatic AAFES credit card go away. I have seen more families struggle all because of the golden carrot of AAFES. We all know the stats on the backgrounds of junior enlisted personnel. Giving young kids who have never had two dimes to rub together in their entire lives a gold card they can buy Coach handbags, designer clothes and other things they can not afford on a military paycheck is little more than institutionalized slavery. They work, purely to buy things they can’t afford, at AAFES…the only credit card in the world which can give them “No Pay Due” on payday. Charge their card up…they just pull it all out of your check, THEN raise your limit…so you can do it again…but worse.