Tag Archives: holiday spending

Controlling Your Finances Without Letting Them Control You

2017_21 Days_Financial_Fitness_blog

The new year is here! You may feel a sense of calm and relief now that the holidays are over and you can get back into your regular routine. But perhaps your holiday spending wasn’t ideal, and you need to get back on track financially. Don’t worry! While it may take some work, fixing your finances post-holiday season isn’t an insurmountable task. “Improvement” doesn’t equal drastic changes; it could be a few small steps to help relieve some financial stress. Remembering this can help you stay on track during the process and keep your current financial situation from affecting how you see your value as a person.

People who connect their personal value with their financial state may consider a threat to their finances a huge stressor and threat to their self-worth, according to a study by Dr. Lora Park of the University of Buffalo. You’ve probably heard the phrase: “Money doesn’t buy happiness.” Achieving your definition of financial stability is important, but it won’t make other life stresses and issues disappear. A recent study by Dr. Matthew Monnot of the University of San Francisco found that human connections contribute to happiness more than money and that tying personal worth to extrinsic or external entities such as wealth can cause less satisfaction in life. A focus on intrinsic or internal needs like relationships and community can more positively impact well-being. So, while working on your relationship with your finances, work on your relationships with friends and family, too.

As you try to improve your finances after holiday spending, here are some tips from Every Sailor, Every Day campaign contributor and financial expert, Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte:

  • Be proactive about understanding your spending and how to recover. Look through receipts and other records of transactions to see what you spent, make sure your statements are accurate, and then figure out how your budget needs to change so you can recover financially, get your savings in check, and avoid additional debt. If budgeting isn’t your area of expertise, Military OneSource and MilitarySaves can help!
  • Figure out the financial balance that’s right for you. Making sure bills are paid each month and saving money for the future are important, but having some of your hard-earned money set aside for the fun stuff is good, too. When working on your budget, make reasonable room for all three. Having everything categorized can help you be prepared if unexpected expenses pop up. And don’t forget that the Blended Retirement System (BRS) is available as of January 1, 2018. If eligible and opting into BRS, consider how it may affect your finances.
  • Think ahead and look for bargains. The holiday season isn’t the only time you may find yourself buying gifts. Plan ahead for birthdays, anniversaries, and other celebrations by setting reminders a month in advance so you don’t scramble at the last minute to find a gift you hadn’t budgeted for. Also consider your relationship with the recipient, and think of non-monetary gifts that may be more meaningful. Incorporate ways to save in all of your shopping. Compare prices, use coupons, and take other steps to save on gas, groceries and other daily needs.

Following these steps and others that work for you can put you on the right track to getting your finances closer to where you want them to be.  Recovering financially after the holidays is a process, but dedication and the right mindset make it minimally stressful. Creating and maintaining a budget, determining what financial security is for you, saving daily, and realizing that money doesn’t determine your worth are key steps to making the improvements you want to see in 2018.

Resolve to Reframe your Money-Mindset for 2017

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2017 is officially underway, as are millions of New Year’s resolutions. According to the University of Scranton, more than one third of resolutions made are money-related[1]. Despite the good intentions, motivation and ambition, 25 percent of all resolutions fail to make it past week one. What’s the deal?

The process of setting goals for the New Year can be a time to reflect on successes and opportunities, motivating positive and meaningful change. But it’s easy to get caught up in feeling obligated to solve all of the issues in our lives in 365 days through a few unrealistic resolutions, which can ultimately contribute to feelings of failure, decreased self-worth and added stress. Coincidentally, these are not things that we typically associate with financial prosperity. When it comes to your financial goals for 2017, focus on making money your ally rather than your adversary. Sure, you may want to double your nest-egg, triple your wealth and eliminate all debt by December 31, 2017 – but are these realistic moves for you? And at what costs do these achievements come with?

Rather than resolving to solve it all, commit to reframing your money-mindset this year through a few small acts to guide your decisions, offered by our financial expert Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte.

  • Regain a sense of control. Perhaps your money-resolution is motivated by the unexpected lack of green in your wallet or accounts post-holidays, which can leave anyone feeling a little blue. Rather than resigning yourself to a hopeless financial outlook, tackle holiday spending with a level-head. Gather up your receipts (paper or emails from online transactions) so that you can not only get an accurate assessment of what you spent, but so that you can ensure that your bank and credit card statements are accurate when they start to populate your inbox. Once you’ve taken this step (and forgiven yourself for any overspending), create or modify your budget for the New Year so that you can reasonably reduce your debt or revive your savings without creating a cycle of debt for the future. Military OneSource, your local Fleet and Family Support Center and militarysaves.org offer budgeting tools to help you balance payments, savings, investments and spending with peace of mind.
  • Define what financial well-being actually means to you. It’s not all about paying the bills and saving for the future. Even the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau includes being “able to make choices that allow for enjoyment of life” in their definition of financial well-being. Achieving all three requires some balance and a long-term perspective, rather than solely focusing your sights on short-term achievements. As you refresh your budget for the New Year, include a discretionary spending allowance for each month accounting for daily necessities such as groceries and gas, as well as a reasonable amount for entertainment (a night out, a family outing, exploring your next overseas port-of-call, etc.). Doing so will help you plan for blind-spots that may throw your budget off track. You deserve to enjoy all that your career has earned you – just be honest with yourself in examining how you do so and
  • Apply some of your holiday spending tricks throughout the year. During the year you’ll likely find yourself scrambling to buy a few gifts for anniversaries, birthdays or celebrations. Set reminders in your phone 30 days in advance of each event so that you have enough time to search and budget for a gift. When determining your gift, keep your focus on the meaning behind your relationship with the person rather than giving them the most expensive thing your remaining discretionary funds will allow. Non-material gifts—perhaps giving a memento from a memorable duty station to a shipmate celebrating advancement—can be more valuable than anything you can swipe a card to purchase. Outside of gift-giving, you can apply a few familiar tips to get your everyday shopping in check as well. Do your research to compare prices, read online reviews and search coupon deals. Don’t forget to make a list and check it twice whenever you head to the store so that you’re not going in for a roll of paper towel and leaving with a new flat screen television!

If you’ve found that by the end of years passed you’re measuring success by how closely you’ve achieved your financial resolutions, it’s time to take a new approach. Start this year with a little gratitude and a positive outlook by committing to “progress rather than perfection” as your 2017 mantra.

[1] New Year’s Resolution Statistics. (n.d.). University of Scranton Journal of Clinical Psychology. Retrieved December 11, 2016, from http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/

Getting Ahead of the Post-Holiday Blues

21 Days of TSF PSYCH

Now that the gifts have been opened, loved ones have left, holiday leave is ending and leftovers are gone, you may find that the happy is starting to fade with the imminent passing of the holidays. While you might be looking forward to returning to routine, the “come-down” from the fast pace and merriment of the season may leave you feeling a little blue. Here are a few strategies to help you start off the New Year with a positive outlook and shake off the humbugs for good.

Take a Moment to Unplug and Recharge. Though we think of the holidays as a break from work, that’s not always the case. Whether you were forward-deployed, working your usual hours or were hurriedly preparing for family gatherings and last minute shopping, you may have found yourself short on rest. As the New Year begins, make a commitment to incorporate more downtime into your routine and make sleep a priority, aiming for at least seven hours per day. To help you reach this goal, take advantage of any opportunity for brief naps during the day. And, while staying connected with loved ones is important, consider “unplugging” 15-30 minutes before bedtime to create an optimal sleep environment. Check out this post for more tips to help recharge your resilience with a good night’s sleep.

Get Moving! Physical activity helps increase the production of endorphins (our brain’s feel-good neuro-transmitters) helping to counter effects of stress while keeping you physically and emotionally fit. According to the Navy Physical Readiness Program, Sailors should participate in moderate physical activity for at least two hours and 30 minutes per week, and should strength train all major muscle groups at least twice per week. If you’re short on time or motivation, get going with this do-anywhere-workout to help you re-establish your exercise regimen. Short on space? There’s a workout for that, too!

Regain a Sense of Control. Does a lack of green in the bank have you a little blue? Though you may have given it your strongest effort this season, realities of overspending can take anyone by surprise when the bills start to roll in. Knowing where you stand can help you regain a sense of Controllability and peace of mind. Start by collecting your receipts and matching them against expenses to separate holiday transactions from regular household expenses. This will also help to ensure that each expense on your credit card statement is valid (for identity theft information, click here). Now that you have a better idea of what you may owe beyond what you originally budgeted for, you can create a feasible plan to eliminate holiday debt or reduce spending to increase cash on hand. In addition to seeking advice at your local Fleet and Family Support Center, check out www.militarysaves.org, and www.powerpay.org to help you determine the best way ahead.

Connect with Gratitude to Combat Loneliness. Though there are holidays that are oriented toward conveying gratitude and love, you can connect with these feelings at any time of year to reap their benefits. If you find yourself feeling lonely, write a note to a loved one, shipmate or friend describing how he or she makes a difference in your life. Expressing thanks can strengthen connections with others and benefit both parties. Volunteering for a cause that holds personal Meaning is another way to find satisfaction, connection and a sense of purpose.

Try incorporating these small acts into your daily life to help you perk up post-holidays, or choose one to practice throughout the New Year. For more strategies to help you keep an even keel, check out Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center’s updated Relax Relax Toolkit.

The Credit Card Statements Are In…Now What?

Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte, AFC®, is an experienced Financial Counselor who has worked extensively with U.S. Armed Forces members and families. She is a recent volunteer blogger for Navynavstress.com, but contributed previously while serving at the Fleet and Family Support Center, Millington, Tenn. Prior to government service, she worked as a Financial Services Representative for several brokerage and insurance firms. As a military spouse, Ms. Livingstone-Hoyte knows firsthand of the financial challenges and opportunities that face military families across the globe. To that end, she embraces a steadfast belief that financial success can be simple, just not easy.

As we leap into the New Year, it is easy for us to find ourselves suffering from excessive holiday spending and recalling how each credit card swipe could have been different. Maybe you overindulged, or maybe you stuck to your budget and still feel overwhelmed by that first credit card statement of the New Year.

Rather than looking back regretfully, let the onset of the New Year motivate you to move forward. Here are two steps to get you on the right path:

  1.  Damage control and assessment. To know your numbers is key, and while it may seem like an agonizing experience, it is the pathway to a full recovery! Collect receipts and match them against your holiday spending so you note differences between regular household expenses and holiday transactions. Next, categorize your numbers to give a better understanding of household trends: food expenses, travel, clothing, gifts, etc. Lastly, check your credit report for changes and accuracy of information. This is especially important with the recent breaches at major retailers like Target.
  2. Strategize Now that you know what you owe, you can construct a viable plan for recovery by setting goals about what gets paid first, in what order and by what method. Use a debt repayment calculator, such as www.powerpay.org, to calculate the best repayment plan for your household, keeping in mind known expenses, such as car insurance renewals, and possible future income, such as a tax return. With this clear picture of your finances, you can also consider discussing your choices with a financial counselor who can help apply objectivity. In addition to your Family Service Center, here are a few online starting resources: http://www.saveandinvest.org/MilitaryCenter/ and http://www.militarysaves.org/.

Financial planning can never be done in a vacuum simply because we have competing goals, needs, wants and limited resources. Take this to heart and along with your debt repayment plan construct a savings plan that will help your family thrive both in your holiday spending recovery and all year long.

Additional resources from Ms. Livingstone-Hoyte:
Get Your Financial Bearing by Setting a Budget
A Lifetime of Financial Security Can Begin Today
Fall into Healthier Finances