Top 5 Budgeting Tips for Army Soldiers

In today’s volatile financial environment, having a big salary and living beyond your means

does not determine personal success.

No, personal success more often results from hard work, careful financial planning, careful spending and most important of all…careful saving! 

As Soldiers and Leaders, you should know how to manage your income, spending and debt as financial issues can and will affect your Soldiers’ operational readiness and job performance.

One of your responsibilities as an effective leader is to have a financial plan for yourself and help your Soldiers to develop their own.  Here are my Top 5 Budgeting Tips for Army Soldiers.

#5. Spend Only Enough Money to Live Comfortably NOW! 

Again, this goes back to living within your means.  I know, I know it may be tempting to drive on down to your car dealer and buy a new truck with lift kit and wheels, but if you’re an E-3, chances are you can’t really afford it.  This is the number one cause of financial trouble for Soldiers…buying things that they don’t have the money for!

#4. Pay Yourself First and Foremost. 

Setting aside a small percentage of your pay, both civilian and military, in a savings account.  This percentage can vary depending on your budget and/or needs, but I personally squirrel away about 15-20% of my pre-tax pay into a savings account.  Additionally, there are only 2 things you can do with money…save it or spend it.  Money that you haven’t spent in your budget should be saved!

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#3. Buy Wisely; Be a Smart Consumer. 

This may be extremely hard for your Soldiers, but you must always control your impulses to make purchases.  Become a smart consumer and examine what you truly need.  If it is something special you want…save for it!  Not only will you feel more pride from that purchase, but you may realize later down the road while saving that you don’t need it.  Also, look for specials, shop at the PX and clip coupons…every penny counts.

#2. Save Regularly and Enough. 

You do not want to worry about money at an older age.  That being said, start looking into individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and the government’s Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), they are good places to start.  Not only are you putting money away and utilizing the power of compounding interest saving accounts like this are tax-deductible and can provide some tax relief come April…

#1. Create a Budget and Stick to it! 

Look, you don’t have to have a lot of money to worry about personal financial management.  There are plenty of XCEL spreadsheets out there that can help you develop a budget plan and control what you spend.

I personally use a budget spreadsheet and track every penny.  However, the most important point is to prioritize what is important and how much you spend in various categories and stick to it!


Most Soldiers do not get into financial trouble intentionally, they do so thoughtlessly.  Consider some of the tips above and some of the things that can happen if you don’t handle your money responsibly.

If you have any questions, just ask! We will do our best to provide an answer.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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13 thoughts on “Top 5 Budgeting Tips for Army Soldiers”

  1. Kay, I’ve read Dave Ramsey’s book as well, and I really liked it. Paying off the credit cards saves a lot of money in the long run, for interest is costly. Look back at the interest you’ve paid on anything over the past couple of years, and then picture it being in your savings account instead. Want to cry? I did, when I realize how much money was going to nothing. My parents taught me years ago to save the money to purchase it outright, but it seems like once I got my first credit card, all of that went out the window. I am back on that system now, and I like it.

  2. If you have credit card debt make sound and realistic plan to eliminate it. The value of compounding interest can not be over stated. Thanks for recommending the “Financial Peace University” course, I might check it out.

    1. Paying off the credit cards is really important. That one thing alone cost most people thousands of dollars a year in interest payments. The quicker you can pay off your credit cards and stop using them, the better off you will be.

  3. Knowledge is, truly, power. The more we know the more power we have to make wise and correct decisions. So many times a person says “I wish I would have know.” Well, one of the best things is to explore what is out there, whether is in the library, a bookstore, the Internet, radio, or just old fashion conversation. Seek (knowledge) – Communicate – Connect. That is how you can avoid saying “I wish I would have know”.

    1. Knowledge is power. I agree with you there. But applied knowledge is even more important. Most Soldiers and people know what they should do, but despite that knowledge they don’t do it. There’s no other reason so many soldiers are overweight, so many marriages fail, so many people face bankruptcy, etc. Knowing is the first step. Doing is the most important step.

  4. Thanks for the comment, Kay. I think what Dave is stating is great advice and oftentimes taking a financial seminar is the way to go to get back to basics and out of debt. I find what is most difficult to most is overcoming the social pressures to spend regardless of what your income is. It all comes down to individual responsibility and ensuring that, like you said, pay yourself first and make good informed decisions about your purchases. That is great news that you are using the benefits of your deployment to cut down on your debt…that is a great approach! Thanks for the post!

  5. I agree that you should not spend more than you earn. Just completing Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace University” while deployed, I learned how important this concept is. Dave’s plan is to first put $1000 in the bank, then he advises paying off all credit cards until one is debt free. Dave’s mantra is, “live like no one else now so you can live like no one else later.” Much of what Dave talks about is practical, common-sense approach to saving money. I’ve made great strides toward paying off all debt while I’ve been deployed (which, of course, is easy when you make a bunch of money and have little need to spend it). Nonetheless, it would be helpful for one’s spouse to take the course at the same time you do. That way, you understand and hopefully can live Dave’s program together.

    1. The “Financial Peace University” is a great course. I think it would benefit any Soldier. Following Dave’s advice could help anyone turn around their finances in a very short amount of time.

      1. It takes discipline to follow Dave’s advice, for it involves looking at money and stuff in a whole new way. I didn’t realize how indoctrinated I was into the instant credit/instant purchase mentality until I decided to make changes. At first it was hard to wait, put off purchases or even decide to forego it all together, but Iearned that better finances far outweighed not having something I thought I just had to have at the time.

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