Saving to survive holidays
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- The sounds of laughter wasp through the cool crisp air, as two girls played outside.
Their proud parents looked up briefly to watch, before turning back to the paper.
The couple went through their checklist; did they pack all their clothes, kitchen items, professional gear? Were the bills paid and did they save enough for their change of station?
Even working with a budget, Tech. Sgt. Logan McKeown, 35th Fighter Wing ground safety NCO in charge and spent nearly $10,000 settling his family into the local area. This is close to three months pay for a technical sergeant with dependents.
So to offset the cost of relocation from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, McKeown sold his vehicle and other household items before leaving the states.
"I didn't want to store my vehicle during my 4-year tour here or my washer and dryer so I sold them," he said. "After selling my car and other smaller items I had a good amount saved up to use once I arrived."
Upon arrival, McKeown rented a car for a couple of weeks so he could "brave" into Hachinohe City and search for better deals. He bought two vehicles in decent condition, along with other necessities, and by the end of the first month he had spent a big chuck of his savings.
With the holiday blitz around the corner, the McKeowns had to prepare their financial budget so they can still have a great Thanksgivings and Christmas. They did so by saving money throughout the year.
"We knew we're going to be at a certain point financially by January and tried not to worry about it," McKeown said. "My wife and I are good at keeping each other in check with big purchases and staying frugal throughout the year. As for traditional spending or spending that directly impacts quality of life, we buy what we need."
Fortunately the McKeowns have budgeted adequately to get back onto the road of financial independence. There are many programs available here to help families and single Airmen who may be struggling, to ensure they have an enjoyable holiday.
The Airman and Family Readiness Center offers classes year round on spending plan preparation, saving and investing, credit and debt management and retirement planning.
Their goal is to inform and educate service members and their families on these topics before the holidays to ease the stresses associated with holiday shopping.*
The First Sergeant Council also hosts a program every year for Airmen and their families, who may need a little help during the holidays. This year they will hand out $25 gifts cards to 120 Airmen across the base.
"The great thing about these gift cards is that they can buy what they need," said Senior Master Sgt. Randy Farless, 35th Security Forces Squadron first sergeant. "The average turkey cost $14, so there is some money left over for other fixings. But some people might want a ham instead of Turkey, or need other things. Giving them the money instead of handing them a food basket gives them the option."
With an understanding that their spending will increase during the winter months, the McKeowns preplanned with a monetary savings goal for the New Year. This gives them a target, and adjusts their spending accordingly.
"I don't have a large extended family, but we will still buy presents for a few people," he said. "A lot of our gifts are very personal like a basket with small goods, pictures, etc... tied off with thread. I think it's something inexpensive but also very thoughtful."
For the McKeowns, last minute saving has proven to be a miserable experience and they compare it to dieting before beach season.
"I don't do extreme dieting, but I keep a good diet throughout the year," he said. "This is the same with budgeting. You have to hit that maturity where you can learn to be frugal with your money and it has to be part of your lifestyle.
"Until then you will always be closer to broke than you want," he continued. "Some millionaires still clip coupons because it has always been a part of their lifestyle."
Faced with a dire situation and in search of another base to improve his family's wellbeing, McKeown volunteered for an assignment here. Knowing that the relocation would test the limits of his family's savings, they prepared for the move the best they could. With smart budgeting and frugal purchases anyone can still have a great holiday season.
*According to Walter Anderson, AFRC community readiness consultant there are several things Airmen can do to budget wisely:
Make a list and check it twice - Afterwards, give it another look and decide if anyone can be eliminated.
Set a realistic budget and stick to it - It's important to set a limit on how much to spend on each person and stick to it. This also eliminates emotional purchases that get many people in financial trouble, especially on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Cash is king, so skip the credit cards - With the plastic at home, it's easier to stick to the budget, especially with just cash in hand. Also avoid any 90-days-same-as-cash deals; late payments will result in finance charges and possibly penalties.
Learn from last year - If Airmen went over their budget last year, it's time to learn from their mistakes and avoid repeating the same mistakes this year.
Still looking for more personal help? The AFRC offers classes on financial budgeting and provides one-on-one financial counseling from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
The AFRC also collaborates with banking institutions on base to offer various financial classes which are typically held the third Thursday of the month. Visit the Misawa Community Calendar on www.misawa.af.mil, for more information.
If you are financially stable, but looking for a meal deal, the Misawa Club is offering Thanksgiving "Turkey to Go." It feeds up to 10 people and includes a 12-15 pound turkey, cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans or buttered corn, 10 dinner rolls, and pecan or pumpkin pie. This could be a time and cost saving option to budget, pay bills, and still enjoy a great feast with all the trimmings, Anderson said.