“Change” doesn’t even begin to describe what deployment was for my family. I was juggling so many balls while my husband was gone for a year that they could have put me in the circus… (or possibly the funny farm?)
One of those proverbial balls: Finances.
The family budget and bill paying are somethings that my husband does for the family, and he does it well! Bills are paid on time, the budget is allocated correctly, and interest-payments are kept to a minimum. So what was one of my major stresses in the months before and after he left? How was I going to even /remember/ to pay the bills, much more on time and the right amount?
A few tips if you are new to managing the family finances, like I was:
- Direct Deposit. Don’t be left having to run to the bank to deposit your paycheck each payday. Have it automatically deposited.
- Auto-Bill Pay. Can you pay any bills automatically. Create accounts online with your electric-, garbage-, gas-, telephone-, cable-companies. Have your bills automatically paid each month.
- Bill Payment Online. Don’t worry about having stamps on hand and getting a bill paid in time. Pay through your bank’s bill payment program. Banks like USAA have a free program that is easy to use. We use this for items such as preschool tuition or our city-water bill, which didn’t have an online option through the payee.
- Create a budget and stick to it! If you create a budget and have some discretionary spending then there will not be guilt about “splurging” because frankly it isn’t splurging. With a budget you don’t have to worry about those “auto-bill” payments bouncing. You will save money on credit card interest. Budgeting is the foundation of handling finances while your spouse is deployed.
- Make sure you are comfortable with your “system.” Otherwise, it won’t work.
We sat down before he left for Iraq and he showed me his system. We walked through auto-bill pay. We set up recurrent payments to pay each month automatically. We talked about where money should be spent each month. We were in line and in tune, and I was more comfortable, and therefore more confident. It made that ball so much lighter!
What happens when your husband is the spender though? I’ve heard from several spouses that say they usually do finances but when their soldier, sailor, airman, or marine is deployed he tends to spend money that they don’t have. Create two discretionary accounts for both of you. Have a certain amount deposited in each account each paycheck (again, budget, budget, budget). Then he knows how much he has to play with and isn’t left guessing how much to play with.
Sit down before he deploys. Make an appointment with each other. Circle it on the calendar. Have a plan and come at it from a team approach. Just get it done. Finances can be /such/ a major stress-point for a couple. Then add the stress of an ocean between you, lack of communication, and just plain too-many-balls-to-juggle and it can only catapult if you aren’t in agreement.
Here are some great additional resources if you want some professional advice:
- Preparation Aids Financial Stability During Deployments
- When Couples Disagree – Free Advice from USAA
- Money and Marriage – Developing Your Plan
- Budgeting Basics: Needs vs. Wants
- Just Getting Started (Or Restarted)? Three Concepts to Increase Your Odds of Success
- Tips to Take Control of Credit Card Debt
- Confront Financial Issues Early, Expert Advises