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Enlisting Help In Financial Boot Camp

The desire to have it all landed Kim and George Col¿n in trouble. Kim, 43, is a senior master sergeant in the Air Force. She's been in the military for almost 20 years. George is 52 and served 22 years in the Army. He now works as a contract manager for a security company. The Col¿ns were married in August.

Despite an income of $191,000, which includes George's Army pension, they have amassed a great deal of debt. They owe a little more than $30,000 on eight credit accounts. Kim owes $40,000 in student loans. They have just $1,000 saved for emergencies. After I had them reexamine their budget, they realized they had a monthly deficit of $557, meaning they were spending more than their net pay.

Then there are the Holmeses, Amber, 37, and Trenton, 38. They too have accumulated a lot of credit card debt.

The couple have been married for three years and live in the District with Amber's 16-year-old son. Trenton is an aircraft mechanic and tech sergeant with the Air Force. Amber is a paralegal specialist with the federal government. Together they earn about $135,000.

The Holmeses are spending about $400 more a month than they bring home.

"We both are frustrated with the amount of money that is spent on what seems like nothing," Amber said, adding that a lot of her spending happens when Trenton, or Trent as she calls him, is deployed.

"I will spend more time shopping to fill the void of Trent's absence," she said.

The first major step for all of these couples is to cut their ties to credit. At least for the next year or until they pay off their consumer debt, they have promised to eliminate all use of credit.

"We have tried to save before, but I always thought, what's the point, if we still have debt?" Tarek Bathiche wrote in asking to participate in the challenge. "Please help us out and teach us to be better money managers. Soon we will have two kids running around. In the job my wife and I are in, you never know if you will come back, so we would love to have everything figured out and lined up for them."

What all the couples need to bring to this challenge is the same discipline they adhere to in the military. If they follow my rules, they will end this year in great financial shape and better able to serve our country.

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