Crafty Spending during Holidays Helps Budgets
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2011 Service members and their families may seek assistance for financial challenges during the holiday season through family centers and other financial planning resources on their local installations.
"Our family centers have staff on board who are certified financial counselors, and they offer a variety of classes and one-on-one counseling sessions for service members and their families,” said Barbara Thompson, director of the DOD’s military community and family policy office, said during a Dec. 8 Pentagon Channel interview.
It’s particularly important, she said, “that our military spouses are savvy in this arena because many times they are managing the family’s finances when their military member deploys.”
Thompson also suggested spouses attend classes even when their significant others are not deployed to benefit their financial planning skills since managing finances can be “very daunting.”
“I think it’s really important for spouses to take courses or classes,” she said. “Whether you go to saveitinvest.org or you go to the family center and meet up with a personal financial manager or you go to Military OneSource.”
Thompson cited the holiday season as the opportune time to create and adhere to a budget.
“It’s really important to remember, whatever the season, it’s important to have a budget,” the director said. “It’s important to have a limit and make sure you stay within that limit.”
Thompson noted there is no specific amount for how much each family spends – it is incumbent on their income.
“You want to make sure with your finances that you have the sufficient funds to pay for your, what I call, everyday expenses – your rent, your car payment, gas, food on the table, any kind of out-of-pocket cost for medical care,” she said.
“And then, above that, you start to think ‘what do I have at the end of the month that I can use for a special occasion’ whether it be the holidays or a birthday celebration,” Thompson said.
In addition to being thrifty and crafty with budgets, Thompson also encouraged families to seek assistance before debt spirals out of control.
“I would suggest that you go to your family center on your installation and we have personal financial managers who are there to help you drawdown your debt and help you get on a spending plan that can be reasonable,” she said. “We also have financial counselors through Military OneSource and they’re available for 12 sessions that are completely free to our military families.”
The director noted seeking professional help through these programs can help improve credit ratings and reduce debt.
“[As a] last resort, the family centers also host the relief societies for each of the services,” Thompson said. “So if it really gets to the point where you can’t pay your bills, you want to seek that help before it spirals into something that’s really untenable.”
Thompson explained that families of deployed service members also can seek extra help through these installation resources or Military OneSource to avoid overcompensating for the absence of a loved one.
“[There is] the idea that sometimes we think we have to make up for our children because they are missing the presence of their mother or their father since their deployed,” she said. “I think there’re other ways, without spending money, that we can still achieve that connection.”