You’ve finally finished basic training and technical school and now you’re ready to settle into your first assignment. After your first couple of weeks on the job, you get it: that big, shiny paycheck deposited into your bank account. It’s the biggest paycheck you’ve ever received, and you’ve got big plans. A new big screen for your dorm, a week’s worth of meals at the food court in the BX, or maybe even a new car. Before you go into the hole before you reach you next rank, read these tips on how to save that hard earned cash.
Don’t Buy A New Car
A lot of airmen do it. They realize they have a steady income and want to impress everyone who pulls into the dorm parking lot. But, once you take a few laps around the base you’ll realize a few things. Notice how the older, higher ranking members drive older, used cars? They get paid five times more than you; why aren’t they driving the newest Mercedes? Because they know what depreciating assets are, and that it’s better to save money than drive around in a flashy car. This isn’t even accounting for gas, insurance, and maintenance. Before you know it, you’re spending your entire paycheck on one thing. Get a reliable used car to last you through your first enlistment.
Investing in a Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) or traditional retirement account can seem like a waste of money at such a young age, but it’s actually the best time to start investing. You don’t need to put your whole paycheck in the pot, just start with one or two percent of your monthly earnings. The idea is to create a habit of investing. Think of it like investing in your future, the same way you do with exercise or academics. You work out and study to be better in the future, the same applies to saving money.
Take advantage of the free or discounted items available for airman, like military discounts at your favorite stores or services. Outdoor recreation is a great resource for cheap tickets to local attractions or rental gear. Don’t splurge on mountain bikes or water sport items, just rent them on base.
Skip the Fast Food
Not only is it unhealthy, it costs a fortune compared to buying groceries. Learn how to grocery shop; yes, you have to actually learn how to shop for food. It’s not as easy as walking through the aisles picking up whatever looks good, this way of shopping can cost as much as fast food. Look for deals and keep your storage in mind. Most dorms come equipped with a microwave and small refrigerator. Don’t buy more than you can store.
It’s fairly common to deploy during your first enlistment; take the opportunity to save part of the tax-free income. Deployments are a great time to get out of debt, create a “rainy day fund” and plump up a retirement account. You’ll be compensated for doing a tough job in a difficult environment; don’t blow the earnings as soon as you get home.
With some simple lifestyle changes and a new mindset you can be on your way to riches while serving in the military. There are many more ways you can spend and save responsibly; consult your local finance offices for more information. Money management is a long-term goal; don’t get sidetracked by something shiny in the meantime.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.