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    It Makes $ense: Planning and budgeting



    Story by David Poe 

    Fort Bliss Public Affairs Office

    There are a lot of names for money. Bills, stacks, bands, cash, scrilla, and so on. But, whether it’s cheddar, biscuits, duckets or cake, there are a lot less ways to manage it well than there are names for it.

    In the It Makes Sense series, I’ll summarize as many Fort Bliss Army Community Service Financial Readiness Program one-hour financial management classes as I can get to for the reader on the move. These stories won’t be intended to represent the entire curriculum, but just a taste of this free educational program. Translation: I am neither an especially bright guy, nor a financial planner. If you pick up anything from this series, odds are you could learn even more. Be sure to contact a pro at ACS for the details.

    Last month’s Money Management class was like Finance 101. It included topics such as selecting a financial institution, using a debit card wisely and understanding financial lingo when it comes to your personal checks and banking statements.

    This month focused less on “what to do” and more on how to do it wisely. Renate Alexander, a representative for Armed Forces Bank’s on-base branch, was the presenter. ACS invites finance experts from regional banking institutions to give the class and offer basic advice for students’ questions and connect with them for more detailed consultation.

    Planning and Budgeting ran a large financial gamut across topics ranging from unsecured and secured loans to railing against grocery shopping when you’re hungry, but the most universal takeaways were less complex.

    Be realistic with yourself

    Having a lot of financial goals is undoubtedly a good thing, but after you’ve assessed where your money is going for 30 days, Alexander cautioned against spreading yourself too thin in the chase for a stronger financial portfolio. If you have 14 changes to make, consider making them one-at-a-time, rather than trying to live all 14 new changes on day one of your effort.

    “If you have bills you want to pay off, or goals you want to achieve, such as buying a house,” she said, “make it realistic. It doesn’t help if your budget looks really good, but it’s not going to work. A lot of times it takes two or three times before we get it right. Be sure to go back and re-evaluate your budget if it’s not working.”

    Within those savings goals, she also stressed the value of not going cold turkey on any one change. Once you’ve decided that daily $2.79 energy drink off the shelf isn’t a smart way to roll, instead of going straight to water, try only buying it four days a week, then three and so on. At least buy them in bulk and keep them in the fridge. Most people can grit their teeth and change for a short time, but long-term change is a process and breaking counterproductive habits is no different.

    “Just try to skip one or two days and bring that total down,” she said. “If you can cut costs like these in half, over a year it can be money you can put into savings for something you really want – or to live life a little bit better and a little less stressful. Don’t go from one extreme to the other extreme.”

    Be an advocate for yourself

    Did you get your first car financed with an APR you didn’t love, yet you’ve made a bunch of payments as agreed? Contact your finance company and negotiate a lower rate. They’ll work to keep you happy because they want your business on a second car, or maybe other holdings you may have. Alexander recommends an interesting particular approach to negotiating.

    “Let’s say you have a credit card with a high-interest rate and you call that credit card company and you ask them for your payoff balance, it immediately generates the question, ‘Why?’” she said. “Most of the time, another person will get on the phone and do what he can to encourage you to stay. That works with a lot of things, so don’t be afraid to go to someone and say, ‘Hey, I would like to continue being your customer, but we have to talk.’”

    Free credit reports rock

    Last but not least, Alexander said to be savvy about where to get your credit reports from and the legal entitlement to one free credit report per year. If a website wants a credit card number for your allegedly free credit report, think twice.

    Alexander also said that checking your credit report monthly should be more than enough frequency for you to build upon, maintain or fix your credit situation. Saving money by not subscribing to services that want to charge you for one-click access to your FICO score from your smart device at a moment’s notice may be, at least in a small way, risking that same FICO score because that same money could have been applied to the actual debt being reported.

    That’s all for this It Makes Sense. Look for us again soon, but more importantly, visit for more details on FRP and to enroll in these free classes.



    Date Taken: 06.06.2018
    Date Posted: 12.26.2018 14:37
    Story ID: 305137
    Location: FORT BLISS, TX, US 

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