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According to the most recent Military Family Advisory Network’s (MFAN) Family Support Programming Report, 80% of respondents indicated that their finances caused them stress over the past 12 months.

The truth is – military spouse unemployment is soaring, inflation is at a 40-year high, housing costs are through the roof, and dependable childcare is scarce. With military spouses handling the finances in the majority of active-duty households, this leaves most of us trying to make ends meet and juggle priorities while still trying to achieve our goals….all during some of the toughest financial times we’ve seen. This can be more than stressful.

With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of basic steps Milspouses can take to get in control of their family’s finances and on a path to a healthy and less stressful future:

Review Income: You’ll want to review pay, deductions, and allotments to determine exactly what you have coming in each month. You must know exactly what you are working with to manage it effectively. If you are unsure how to read an LES, no worries – Military OneSource breaks it down for you on their website. Check it out here.

Track Spending: More often than not, my clients (mainly Milspouses) start by saying they know exactly where their money is going…..and then we track actual spending and compare. Who wants to guess how many are accurate in the beginning? Well, I’ll just say that it’s a small number! The only way to truly be in control is to know where your money is going. There are several ways to track your expenses – good old-fashioned pen and paper or by using an app. There are many apps available today – check out an article I recently put together for my friends over at AMBA on the best expense tracker apps.

Budget: A goal without a plan is just a wish……and financial goals are no different. A budget or plan is necessary when trying to manage your finances and meet your goals. Take a look at your income and spending and see how you can create a plan that works best for your family and your current financial situation. Take this opportunity to also do an audit of any debt you’re carrying. Check balances, due dates, interest rates, etc. Not sure where to start? Check out Military Saves and their Spending and Saving Plan Tool.

Build an Emergency Fund: According to that same MFAN survey, 22% of active-duty families and nearly 40% of Veteran families report having less than $500 in an emergency savings fund or none at all. This seems to be the largest contributing factor to financial stress. Having an emergency savings fund is crucial. Being able to handle those bumps in the road that life – especially when you’re married to the military – often sends our way.

For now, I want you to forget the notion that you MUST HAVE 3-6 months of savings – that’s too overwhelming for most of us currently. Start with whatever amount is do-able for you and work toward saving it consistently. Small amounts add up and before you know it, you’ll have an emergency fund in place….and a little added security.

Get It All in Order: Now that you’ve created a budget, tracked your spending, and started saving for emergencies, what else do you need to get in order? All your important documents. This includes birth certificates, social security cards, marriage licenses, insurance policies (good time to check your beneficiaries), Wills, Power of Attorney, etc. MILDOCs is a great free resource that you can use to keep it in order. Once you have it all together, be sure to store it in a safe place that you can access easily.

Being prepared for whatever the military throws at you is critical to surviving these days. This means in addition to the steps above, now is a great time to think about ways you and your spouse can work together to create a brighter future. Look for ways to save, ways to earn, and ways to work together to meet the goals that are most important to your family.

Amy is a military spouse, mom of two, and Accredited Financial Counselor® who is dedicated to helping military spouses navigate ALL the challenges that come with living this unique life. She helps MilSpouses take control of their finances, make the most of military benefits, work toward a career, or start their own business. She works to help spouses create plans and set goals around life, love, and money when married to the military. Amy is passionate about helping military spouses build a strong foundation for themselves and their families.

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