Got a handle on your bills? Published Aug. 3, 2006 By Senior Master Sgt. Chris Caviezel 20th Services Squadron superintendent SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- Maintaining personal finances is your responsibility, regardless of whether you are military or civilian. However, as a military member, it becomes even more important because you are more likely to deploy. Financial problems incurred prior to or during a deployment become much harder to resolve while deployed. Personal finances can become a problem for two different reasons. First, you may have the money, but may not have taken the time to write a check or submit payment. The other reason is that you are just flat out spending more money than you earn. Regarding the first reason, every military member has direct deposit. While this may be something we now all take for granted, this was not always the case. The military implemented direct deposit to save money as well as to streamline our finances. No longer does anyone have to wait for a check, then take it to the bank so he or she can get some cash for the weekend or pay some bills. Instead, in the case of getting some cash, all we need to do is go to the automated teller machine to make a reasonable withdrawal. Likewise, the money is in our account much sooner, making it more convenient to pay our bills. Most, if not all bills these days can be paid electronically. Generally, there are three types of automatic debits that can be employed. The first, and most common, is that the company who you are receiving the bill from (like your cellular phone) can, with your permission, initiate an automatic debit. This can be set up so that it automatically debits from your account on a specific day each month. The second method is through a bill pay service offered by your bank. Essentially, you log onto your account through the Internet. The most work occurs when you initially set up a payee, but with repetitive payees it literally takes seconds to make the payment. The bill pay service may process the transaction electronically, or it may mail the check on your behalf. The third and final method is that your bank, with your approval, can set up a transfer to go from your account to someone else's account. This is particularly helpful for a situation such as re-paying a loan you may have gotten from your parents, or paying rent to an apartment complex that does not have automatic debit capabilities. Some banks may charge for these types of services. Others don't charge anything. You will need to shop around to find the best deal. A few financial institutions even refund the charges you may incur while using other banks' ATMs. Now, let's address the issue of spending more money than you make. Unfortunately in today's society it can be very easy to spend more money than you make. Often, banks will send out "pre-approved" offers. Doesn't it feel great to be "pre-approved?" However, you must be very careful of these offers. Credit is a great thing, if used wisely. Establish a budget and stick to it. If you find that every month you are paying interest on your credit card, or worse yet, you find yourself having to skip a payment, then you probably need some help in correcting your situation. There are a few resources you may wish to contact, and you do not even need to wait until you find yourself in trouble. Don't hesitate to be pro-active! Our Airman and Family Readiness Center is an excellent resource for giving guidance on helping you establish a budget, or modify your current budget. In addition, some financial institutions provide advice on anything from budgeting, debt management, credit counseling and even retirement planning and investments. As a final note: Don't forget! Your first shirt is someone you can turn to for advice on any number of matters that may affect your career. Contact your shirt, before your shirt has to contact you.