A budget is your spend plan – it’s a roadmap for how you’re going to spend your money. With careful planning, you can work toward paying your bills every month, having some money to play with, and saving for the future. In military life, it helps to plan ahead.
- Talk to your PFM about making a realistic spending plan. This is especially important when life is changing:
- If you PCS, your Base Allowance for Housing (BAH) might go up or down. You also might have moving expenses, above what the military covers.
- If you get married or divorced, your expenses will change.
- As you start the transition to civilian life, know that expenses for housing and medical benefits will go up.
- Start your budget by looking at – and writing down – what you do now.
- Sort bills from the last few months into stacks: bills that are the same every month (rent or mortgage, a car payment); expenses that change every month (utilities or a credit card); and bills you pay a few times a year (auto insurance).
- Include necessities like food, transportation, and clothing. Don’t forget incidentals like entertainment, charitable donations, or travel.
- Then add up the expenses you expect for next month
- Write down your take-home pay for the month. Include any other money you get – like child support.
- Compare the totals.
- Do you earn more than you spend? Great! You can start building a emergency fund to cover 6-9 months of living expenses or a transition fund if you’re considering leaving the service.
- Do you spend more than you earn? Look for ways to cut costs.
- Want a reality check? For a month, use an app or a notebook to track every dollar you spend. Then you’ll know exactly where your money goes.