Budgeting in this economy is tough for nearly everyone. But what about those who have no control over where they live, sometimes have to work on a lower income, and may have to leave at a moment’s notice? If you’re in a military family then you know exactly what I’m talking about. You face challenges that most don’t even know about or understand. So what can you do to optimize your finances while also taking on those extra challenges?
Talk About Goals Before Deployment
Just like with any other marriage, communication is key to reaching goals together. Add in a looming deployment, and this talk becomes even more important. Open the lines of communication before deployment so that, when you or your spouse is away, the spouse at home can focus on working towards goals that you’ve both set together. This will ease the transition when the deployed spouse returns home by making sure that you’ll be on the same page with the efforts you’re making and the goals you’re trying to achieve. It’s hard enough to deal with being away from your spouse and learning how to live together again after deployment - don’t let personal finance become another stressor on top of that.
Live on One Budget
Whether or not the spouse at home has a job, it’s ideal to plan a budget that assumes the military is your only source of income. By setting your budget that way, the spouse at home has more freedom to pick up and move to a base if you and your spouse decide that’s what’s best for your marriage. Yes, this may require some very intense frugality, but it could be well worth it. By learning how to live off of one budget, you don’t have to worry about how long it takes to find a job if you do move, or if you decide to stay at home and take care of the kids full time. Bonus - if you end up living or continuing to live with two incomes while working with a one-income budget, then extra income can go directly towards savings or to help you get out of debt.
What if you really can’t make this work, or you have two incomes but still need a way to earn more money? Consider your hobbies and determine if they can help you earn extra money from home.
Get Paperwork in Order
Paperwork such as life insurance, wills, and banking information should be organized as soon as possible for any family. But this is even more vital to military families who deal with traveling and health risks both from the job and from living in places they’re not accustomed to. By making sure everything is in order, backed up, and easily accessible, you can ensure that you’re ready for anything, anywhere, anytime.
Do Your Research
There are many resources available to help military families deal with their specific challenges. Whether you’re moving to a new city, country, or base - or even if you’re staying at home - you should research what your community has to offer. There’s no reason to go it alone when there are resources to support you both financially and personally.
Build a Network
If you’re the spouse at home, then there’s no question that you’ll have times of loneliness and feeling like you have no one to turn to. Luckily, there are networks that can help you both online and in person. Reading great blogs like this one is a good start, but search for a network in your community as well. The bond you can forge with military spouses may be just the thing to get you through tough times, both financially and personally. And if you really like using the internet to connect with people throughout the country and world, don’t forget that there are some really fantastic personal finance bloggers that you may find helpful as well!
Living in a military family poses many challenges - but if you and your spouse work together you can reach your goals. By streamlining your finances, you’ll be able to spend more time and energy to focus on what’s really important - your family.
Bio: Shannon McNay is Community and Customer Support Manager at ReadyForZero, a website that helps people get out of debt faster on their own. You can follow @ReadyForZero and @shannonmcnay on Twitter.