By Andia Dinesen, AFC ®
Military Saves Coordinator

Nearing the end of a long month… the 15th has passed and then there are still two more weekends until payday.How did this happen, how am I running out of money already?


There are many ways that this can happen and trust me, I have been there.My silly dog wouldn’t stop chewing her tail and there we were in the Vet’s office finding out she needs antibiotics and the “cone of shame.” Without our emergency fund that shocking $190 bill would have been a lot worse.

Budgeting can be a challenge in the best of circumstances- when you know what bills are coming.But how do you budget for unexpected expenses? Unexpected expenses can often be the secret culprit of money mismanagement sending the best of budgeters into a spiral of debt.So assuming you are already budgeting for most expenses, how do you save any extra for those occasional expenses that seem to suddenly pop up?

One way to get started is to track your spending – 40% of consumer spending is impulse buying what you are spending could open your eyes to your spending habits and help you find a few extra dollars to save.Reining in your impulse buying could be the best way to make this happen.

Taking a look at my own finances, here are a few things I have cut (and could still cut) from my own impulse shopping:

  • Fancy Coffee.At $5 a drink, indulging adds up quickly. This craving 5 times a week could cost $100 a month or $1,200 a year. In 2011 Starbucks grossed over $6.2 billion– that is a lot of my money that I would rather save- maybe I’ll indulge once a week.
  • Lottery tickets.Okay, yes, guilty.Last month my husband and I did spend $5 for the huge jackpot that was all-the-buzz.We won $3- so we still lost.For some folks buying lottery tickets can be a bit more regular.Let’s say you spend $20 a pay period between the lottery and some scratchers. It doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up to almost $500 a year. On average Americans spend $12 million a week on lottery tickets and the odds are not good—only about 1 in 15 million win
  • Going Out to Lunch.I will be honest; this is where I could definitely cut back. I don’t want to add up what I probably spend on lunches out, but I will tell you it is about $20 a week.Let’s do the math, that is $1,000 a year, ouch— that is scary! I think I will pack lunch on Monday.
  • Commissary/Grocery shopping every couple days. This is something I quit doing a long time ago.I go once a week now.I spend much less.This is how we were able to build up our emergency fund.47% of people stop in the store 3-4 times a week– that is every other day. When you stop in that often you will likely pick up about 50% more than if you pre-planned and made an itemized list. If you budget $400 for groceries a month, those extra trips might lead to spending $600 instead.

Finding room to save $100 a month may be easier than you think, but finding those splurges and impulses you need to control to do it might be a bit more challenging.A good challenge is always fun, right?

Visit your installation Family Readiness Center Personal Financial Managers and Counselors for individualized free help.

For some great reasons to build that emergency savings visit

To find more resources visit


Image from Flickr Creative Commons

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