Military life can be difficult on families financially, so learning to stretch your paycheck is always a helpful thing to do. Maybe you can’t afford childcare so your spouse has to stay home to watch the kids; maybe his or her job doesn’t pay sufficiently; maybe they can’t keep a steady job because you move so frequently. No matter the reason, there are things you can do to make your paycheck last a little longer, which will take some strain off of your family.

Budget, Budget, Budget

The first item of business in stretching your paycheck is to sit down with your spouse, and have a long, honest discussion about where you’re currently spending your money. Write out a current budget, and then write out your ideal monthly budget. Every dollar should have a name – whether it be bills, groceries, gas, clothing, gifts, or otherwise. You must take control over your spending and tell your money where to go if you want to stretch that paycheck for longer.

Use Envelopes

Swiping the debit card is one surefire way to lose track of what you’re buying and what you have left. The best way? Use cash. Withdraw cash weekly and keep the allotted amount (determined by your budget) in separate envelopes. Whenever you need to make a purchase, use the cash in your envelope. If there’s no cash there? You can’t make the purchase. It’s all about teaching yourself to work with the cash that you have in front of you, and to make your spending habits fit your budget, not the other way around.

Use Coupons and Shop the Sales

A huge money saver in terms of groceries is to clip coupons and shop the sales. In other words, don’t find yourself in the grocery store with a food list that isn’t flexible based on the current sales. If you were planning on grilling burgers this weekend but chicken is on sale, swap out the burgers for grilled chicken. Clipping coupons could potentially save you hundreds of dollars every month, though you must have lots of time on your hands to make it work.

Find Alternative Methods of Transportation

If you find that your life is on a military base, do you really need a car to get around? Can you bike? Can your kids walk to school? Gas and car maintenance are expensive these days! Do your best to go green in terms of transportation if you can, you’ll save yourself tons of money (and get some good exercise in the mean time)!

Tell Yourself No Regularly

Here’s the bottom line: stretching your paycheck out means that you’ll need to tell yourself (and your family) “no” more often. No, you can’t buy that Coke at the gas station; no, your little boy can’t get a new video came since he beat the other one; no, you can’t just borrow from another envelope because your “spending” envelope is empty. Say “no”. It’s hard, but it’s vital to making that paycheck last, and it does get easier over time.

You’d be surprised how long your paycheck will last when you tell your money how to behave, rather than spending without any thought.