Your patriotism is reflected and rewarded in your salary, and that’s something you need to take advantage of. You have a unique opportunity to turn your salary into a resource that will outlive your military service.
Here are some tips for saving money in the military.
1. You’ll get a great income as a service member – make sure you know how to save it
As a young person in the military, you can count on almost 100 percent of your paycheck being disposable income. You’re so busy training, eating in the chow hall, and sleeping in barracks that it’s easy to accumulate money quickly.
Saving it is the real challenge, especially once you’re off base. So long as you keep your head, you should be able to accumulate significant savings. How do you do that? Plan, persevere and persist.
Open a savings account
If you don’t already have a savings account, open one. USAA offers great banking for military members, since it’s a bank only available to past and present military members and their families. Or, try a high-yield savings account like the Discover Online Savings account, which offers a APY with no minimum balance required.
Start a budget
Even though you won’t have to budget for housing, food, and other expenses while in the military, you will have to someday. Starting a budget now can help you plan for the future, even if it just includes your going out money and savings.
Luckily, there are tons of apps you can try to help you budget. Here are a few:
2. Plan for your future
We all know that person, the guy who completed his service and retired to enjoy his comfortable life. It’s no mystery how he achieved that—he merely planned well. No matter what rank you are, looking ahead will help you manage your savings. As you progress through the ranks, try to live the same way and keep the same habits. Don’t live above your means.
Behavioral scientists Dr. Elizabeth Dunn and Dr. Michael Norton explore the idea of “happy spending” in their book, Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending. They offer spending advice and recommendations that everyone can adopt, not just those in the military. They tend to lean towards advising you to plan your spending and investing in experiences and moments rather than material things.
In a culture that is slowly moving away from consumerism towards a more minimalist lifestyle, such ideas are no longer New Age baloney but accepted wisdom. Embrace the idea that planning to save now will allow you to spend time later.
3. Pay yourself first
When David Chilton wrote The Wealthy Barber in 1989, it became an instant hit. The advice was simple and straightforward. Pay yourself first. Ten percent of all your income should immediately go into savings. The percentage amount may change for you, but the premise is the same.
If you’re just starting out, you won’t have debt or significant bills, so paying yourself is the priority. Decide what percentage of your salary will go into savings. Setting up multiple savings accounts is another way to compartmentalize your savings. One account could be for property savings, one for education, and so on. Consider this transaction just as automatic as your taxes.
Monthly direct transfers that distribute your salary into your savings accounts are a good idea especially if you’re living on base with low expenses. Setting up a Thrift Savings Plan or Individual Retirement Account is a great idea to get started.
4. Use the right credit cards
There are some credit cards that are better for military members and veterans. Here’s a few: