We’ve all heard the saying that money can’t buy you happiness. This may be true, but having cash on hand does come in handy when life throws a series of wallet-draining curveballs at you. Since I’ve been out of the military, I’ve had several financial surprises, including a parking ticket, buying new tires, and a reinstatement fee for an inaccurately suspended driver’s license (long story). It was frustrating to come out of pocket for these items, but it would have been even more stressful if I didn’t have savings to cover them.
So what is the “rule of thumb” when putting away money for savings? What I’ve seen over and over again in finance forums is to have at least 3-6 months of savings. Then there are those that advise having a “rainy day” fund AND an emergency fund. This is where my anxiety begins to kick in. I thought an emergency fund WAS the rainy day fund?! Depending on what book or blog you read, almost everyone will have a different viewpoint on how much to save and where. I think the most important thing is that you consistently save, and set goals that are realistic to your personal situation. Pledging to set aside $500 a month when you don’t have that much to save will only lead you to set aside $0 and we just can’t have that!
If you struggle with saving, budgeting, or money management, The Budgetnista (http://thebudgetnista.com/) is a resource that I found helpful during my transition. The website is run by Tiffany Aliche, a financial educator specifically invested in teaching personal finance literacy to women of color. Unlike some more…umm…RADICAL financial experts (I won’t name names), she doesn’t preach complete self-deprivation until you reach your financial goals. If you’re like me and can’t go five seconds without picking at your nails, she suggests scaling your weekly manicure back to twice a month. If grabbing Starbucks is part of your daily routine, the challenge is to go three times a week. Learning and applying healthy financial habits is never an easy task, but it can make all the difference when you’re put in a position where income is unstable.