SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
The holidays can be a tough time of the year for Airmen; don’t add the burden of finances to that struggle.
As Airmen prepare to travel, stuff stockings and vehicles with gifts, it’s important they do so with caution of their funds.
John Willcockson, 50th Force Support Squadron personal financial counselor at the Airman and Family Readiness Center at Schriever and the Air Force Academy, makes sure to remind Airmen they are the gift.
“Your family will care more that you arrive safely,” Willcockson said. “If you don’t have a lot of money to spend for the holidays, that’s OK.”
Brian Smith, retired Chief Master Sgt. and military relations liaison at ENT Credit Union, said he made many mistakes while traveling for the holidays and witnessed Airmen do the same. Now, he helps to prevent those.
Smith echoed the sentiments of Willcockson regarding safety while traveling and suggested planning in advance to help save money.
“Budget and follow it as best as you can,” Smith said. “Obviously, there are situations where you have to go beyond the budget, but this is where planning is key. Have an account with a few thousand dollars in it for unwelcomed events that arise. Unfortunately, these types of events will occur.”
Smith also suggested Airmen understand their vehicle’s condition prior to a road trip. While Airmen hope driving is a cheaper way to travel, it could become costly.
“I recommend Airmen ensure their car is in good shape i.e. check tires, oil and even washer fluid and ensure their insurance is up to date,” Smith said. “God forbid, one gets into a car accident and their auto insurance has elapsed. My recommendation is to plan your leave far enough in advance to where you can purchase your tickets while the tickets are cheaper. The longer you wait the more costly the price tag becomes.”
Willcockson also has plans for those who arrive to their destination still want to purchase gifts.
Airmen must be methodical with their purchases and understand it’s not about how much they spend.
“People feel like they want to give family and friends a token of their appreciation or love,” Willcockson said. “That, unfortunately, gets translated into the amount of dollars they spent. You might give yourself a list of a few people who you’d like to buy something for and then for a lot of other folks, you might give them something from your time or something you’ve spend time making. If we tell folks why we care about them, those are lasting memories.”
Willcockson understands some Airmen have larger families and may want to purchase gifts for several people. He said to keep an eye on the tab and not go overboard to put a smile on faces over the holidays.
“It can be useful to figure out what’s memorable to the person receiving the present,” Willcockson said. “Because you get those Apple Watches for $400, and that’s right outside the budget limit for most of us. If you have six kids, it may be fair to decide to get one large present in the range of $20-40 and one small present for each child in the range of $10. That’s not a lot of gifts for the kids, but it’s more about the time you spend with them.”