Sarah Edens is a proud Air Force wife and freelance writer. She has BA's in history and Spanish from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA. In addition to writing, she enjoys community involvement. Recently, Sarah started a project called Operation Purple Ribbon, which is dedicated to raising funds and awareness for domestic violence prevention in my community and deserves a blog-post of its own.
Her website, Freelance Adventures, is a place where you can read her blog (A Slice Of Life), browse through her portfolio, see what's on her bookshelf, and more!
This is the beginning of a three part series to become financially savvy - Manisha Thakor gives excellent easy to understand, sound advice and Sarah Eden has packaged her answers perfectly so that this money chatter will NOT get boring. A perfect match!
My Budget Just Got Deployed…Now What??
An interview by Sarah Edens
I recently had the privilege of interviewing Manisha Thakor, MBA, CFA. She has a passion for helping women become financially savvy, and has co-authored several books on achieving financial success. I was curious to get her advice on how military families can take the guesswork out of handling finances during deployment. She shared some much-appreciated advice with me, which you can read below!
Q. How do we generate a budget as a couple that will get us through a 6 to 15-month deployment?
First, take stock of what your mandatory obligations are (housing, transportation, food, childcare, mandatory debt pay down, insurance, etc.). See what this looks like as a percent of your total
take home pay. In an ideal world this figure is no more than 50% of your take home pay. If it's around the 50% mark, your primary financial obligations are “in balance” relative to your income. Of course, that's “ideal.” For all too many hard-working Americans that figure eats up more than 50%. So your first step is to take a hard look at those essential, often recurring items, and see if there can be any cuts there.
What's the logic behind this? In an ideal world your take home pay is allocated like this: 50% needs, 30% wants, 20% savings
(for spending that you will do in the future). If your needs are much more than 50% you'll either have to cut down on wants or savings. This ratio comes from a wonderful book written by Elizabeth Warren & Amelia Warren Tyagi called All You’re Worth
Second, do the same with your wants. Basically you are creating a “healthy spending pyramid” to compare your outflows to the way you might compare your eating to the food pyramid. If you are having trouble getting ends to meet (and millions are so don't beat yourself up) a useful tool comes from my all time favorite personal finance book, Your Money Or Your Life
. Basically what you do is take your household annual income and divide it by 2,000 (for 40 hours worked x 50 weeks per year, the average amount an American works). The result is your pre-tax hourly wage. If your household income is $40,000 divide that by 2,000 to get $20 an hour as your pre-tax pay. Next time you see something that costs $200 do the math. Is it really worth 10 hours of work? Maybe yes, maybe no but now you have a tool you can use to make smart spending decisions. Since reading about this tool in Your Money Or Your Life
, I've never spent money the same way again.
Lastly, if you are still struggling with budgeting, for one month write down everything you are spending money on. In one color highlight everything you spend money on that really brought you joy. Now look at everything else. Those are places where you could cut back on spending and not cut joy out of your life (and you maybe surprised by what you don't highlight. It could be dinner out with people you don't even like!).