Holiday Spending Tips for Military Families: Insights from GoVA CEO Phil Jawny
During the holiday season, many families, including military families, tend to spend more than usual. Balancing festive cheer and financial responsibility can be challenging, but with the right strategies, military families can enjoy the holidays without going overboard.
These valuable insights from Phil Jawny, CEO of GoVA, will help military families optimize their holiday spending while staying within budget.
Smart Strategies for Holiday Spending
When it comes to holiday spending, the key is to approach it with a strategic mindset rather than giving in to emotions. It’s easy to get carried away with the joy of gift-giving, but impulsive spending can lead to financial strain. Phil Jawny advises military families to take a more calculated approach.
He says, “Start by evaluating your current financial status. Analyze your bank statements and credit card expenses from the previous month to gain a clear understanding of your spending habits.” This strategy-driven approach can help you identify unnecessary expenses, reduce financial stress, and prevent the post-holiday debt that many families face.
Tailoring Holiday Spending to Military Life
Military life often brings significant financial fluctuations due to job changes, PCS moves, and deployments. Instead of sticking to the same spending patterns as the previous year, it’s crucial for military families to adjust their holiday spending to fit their current situation. Rising inflation and energy costs can impact your budget, so it’s important to reevaluate annually, even if you haven’t moved this year.
Jawny advises families to begin by reviewing fixed monthly expenses, such as rent or mortgage, utility bills, and loan payments. Don’t forget to consider hidden costs that may not appear on your credit report.
Finding Common Ground on Holiday Budgets
When spouses have different views on holiday spending, it’s essential to find a middle ground. Open communication is key to resolving financial disagreements. Instead of focusing on your personal wants, discuss the financial abilities of the household. (This is where that budget research comes in handy!) Consider each other’s viewpoints and try to find middle ground by compromising.
The most important thing, Jawny says, is that couples “have a discussion and listen to one another. Don’t make decisions independently of your partner, even if only one person is working steadily.”
Tackling Holiday Spending with Credit Cards
While credit cards are commonly used for holiday shopping, it’s important to use them wisely. Jawny says, “If you’re going to use credit cards, have a game plan. Be strategic!”
While it may be tempting, avoid opening new store credit cards just for the discounts. Instead, create a budget for your holiday expenses and stick to it. Keep a close eye on your spending to prevent any surprises. If you choose to use credit cards, opt for those that offer points for discounts or travel. Paying off your credit card balances early and utilizing cash-back bonuses can help you manage your debt.
Managing Holiday Shopping Debt
To effectively manage your holiday shopping debt, create a budget and opt for personal installment loans instead of relying on credit cards. Jawny advises looking at personal loans with fixed payments instead. “You can go pay cash for your holiday spending and you’ll know exactly where you stand. Then your spending won’t cost you more in the long run.”
Institutions like SoFi offer personal loans with structured, predictable payments. This approach gives you control over your spending and avoids the ballooning challenge of variable debt accumulation.
Recovering from Holiday Debt
If you’ve overspent during the holiday season and find yourself in debt, it’s important to recognize the problem and take steps to fix it. Begin by assessing the type of debt you have and the interest rates from each card or loan. Consider debt consolidation loans to lower your interest rates and set up a fixed installment plan. Jawny explains that revolving debt (credit card bills) can become an ongoing financial burden, but a fixed installment loan payment puts you back in control.
For those with good credit, Jawny encourages military families to explore 0% balance transfers to lower your interest rates and make meaningful progress in reducing your monthly debt.
Navigating Mortgages and Home Purchases
For military families looking to buy a home or secure a mortgage during the holiday season, pay attention, because large purchases will hurt your credit score! Avoid impulsive purchases, especially if you can’t afford them, because any changes in your financial situation can impact your mortgage approval. When applying for a mortgage, maintaining financial stability is key. Consult a loan officer to understand how changes in your finances may affect your approval, including your debt-to-income ratio.
The holiday season should be a time of joy and celebration for military families, not a source of financial stress. That’s why GoVA offers free financial tools, courses, and calculators for service members and spouses. We want to empower military families to take control of their money and make strong financial choices. You can take advantage of all our financial programs on The Edge, our membership platform.
Membership is FREE for service members and spouses, so become an Edge member today.
By adopting a strategic approach to holiday spending and following the advice of Phil Jawny, CEO of GoVA, military families can enjoy the holidays while staying within their budget. Remember, implementing sound financial practices during the holiday season sets a positive example for managing your finances year-round, ensuring a happier and more financially stable future.