Married and Deployed: How to Manage Finances During Deployment
by Tracy Latona |
Deployments are a time of stress, anxiety, and frustration. Let’s face it; your whole world is turned upside down, and no amount of training can prepare you for the field. It’s hard on both the soldier and the spouse that’s behind holding down the home front. How can money, an often stressful topic, be managed when your other half is halfway across the world? It can feel lonely and disconnected.
What if it didn’t have to be that way?
When my husband was on his first deployment, we got married during his R&R (Rest and Relaxation), a two week break during his one year long deployment to Afghanistan. We were kids (you couldn’t tell us that then, though!), aged 19 and 21, and realized that we didn’t want to wait any longer to get married.
The second deployment was two years later. This time, we had two years of bad money habits, debt, and no financial communication or trust. It was the hazard pay that allowed us to dig out of the never ending cycle of going in the red each pay period.
This leads to my first point:
Get in the same book (if not the same page) as your spouse, and create some money goals. This allows you to work on something together while not actually being together. Having common money goals draws you closer together, have shared victories, and create focus on the marriage during the deployment. If you don’t have trust in the marriage to join accounts (we heard the stories of spouses taking off and draining the accounts), I recommend working with a marriage counselor beforehand to get that trust started.
Use the extra pay to work towards those goals. The extra $1,000/ month of hazard pay allowed us to stop going negative each month with spending. While we weren’t budgeting at that time (stay tuned for that tip!) and it was something we both wanted to happen. If you’re not sure what goals to have in mind or how to reach them, I encourage you to look up Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps as a roadmap to get started. That extra money can make a huge difference in your financial situation, if you handle it right. Don’t let it slip through your fingers and come home with nothing to show for it.
Budget. Make a mission for your money! YOU get to tell Benjamin where to sit, stay, and go. A budget is a mission for your money, and tracking your transactions is making sure your soldiers (dollars) are doing what the mission told them to do. While you may feel out of control overseas or on the home front, you DO control your money.
Be prepared for something (or everything) to break. Have savings to cover it. The car, the washing machine, the cat, the vacuum…inevitably, things will break on deployment. Have at least a $1,000 emergency fund saved up to cover those unexpected expenses, before moving on to paying off debt.
Be mindful of spending to feel better or fill a hole. This is for the soldier AND the spouse. For the soldier, boredom and frustration are a big part of deployments. For the spouse, feeling out of control or trying to buy the kiddos stuff as a substitute for the missing parent is a real struggle. This is where having those strong goals and working together comes in. The accountability will keep you in check, and the budget will give you that permission to spend, or that boundary to ask yourself, “Do I really need this, or am I shopping for a dopamine hit?”
Working together on the finances can be a connection between a couple a world apart. One spouse can do the day to day tracking, but make sure to work together on the goals, budget, and plan. Use this time and the additional income to lay the foundation for your life when you’re reunited.
Golden Rose Financial Coaching