If your family is having trouble financially while your spouse is deployed, it’s important to know that you’re not alone. Almost a quarter of all military families with active duty service members are young, single-income families. And some of those families have to rely (at least occasionally) on food stamps.
It’s hard enough being away from your significant other during their deployment, without the added stress of financial woes. Below are six important strategies to help you financially, especially while your spouse is deployed. If you follow these through, you still may have to make financial sacrifices, but you’ll know that you’ve sought out some of your best options.
- Get familiar with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)
If you need to break your lease to relocate due to your spouse’s Permanent Change of Station, the SCRA can help. Under this act, members of the military may be eligible for specific caps on interest rates for loans (like car financing and mortgages) and other debt (like credit cards) incurred prior to military service. Plus, they can save on unused subscription services by suspending or canceling accounts while they’re deployed (like cell phones or cable internet).
- Put off Large Purchases
You may have many good reasons to buy a new washing machine, replace your car or dishwasher, or buy furniture for that empty room in your new home, but try to spend money only on basics until you can get on better footing. You’ll pleasantly surprise yourself with what you can do without, and the creative solutions you can come up with in the meantime. If you must lay out a large sum, look for businesses that offer affordable interest free loans over several years, with perks for members of the military.
- Weed Out Wasted Time
You may not be able to work full time, but if you carefully analyze how you can economize your spare time, you should be able to carve out enough to take on part-time or temporary work. Think of your time as money—each hour that you spend at the grocery store could be spent making money at work, if you took turns grocery shopping with other military spouses or family members. Staffing agencies are a good place to start looking for jobs, as is Flexjobs.com.
- Establish a Realistic Budget
Even if you don’t spend a lot on extras, having money set aside for food, utilities, water usage, car expenses, clothing and an emergency fund can take some of the anxiety of out making all of the financial decisions for the family.
- Go Cash Only
Put away the debit card, credit card, checks, etc. while you’re out and use cash to pay for groceries, gas, entertainment and other small expenses. It’s an eye-opening experience to see that money leave your wallet, and can be made part of the saving money game mentioned above. The deployment of your significant other is stressful enough without having to worry about money, too. With a bit of planning, courage and ingenuity, however, combined with the resources above, you can ease the financial burden while your spouse is gone—and hopefully worry just a little less.
- Save any deployment pay
Depending on the type of deployment, your spouse may be eligible for several kinds of extra pay including Hardship Duty Pay (HDP) and Family Separation Allowance (FSA). Saving any personal income you receive is key, but it’s also important to put the deploymen t pay you receive straight into a savings account whenever possible.
It’s best to treat these additional incomes as a rainy-day fund just in case an emergency expense crops up. Plus, the more you save, the more you earn interest on those savings — and as any family with a deployed spouse knows, every penny counts.
Posted by Deborah Chavis, a Fire Theft Unit Manager for Esurance in Tampa, Florida. A former military wife herself, she also has a son in the military who was deployed while his family stayed at home. At Esurance, Deborah is part of Evets, a team dedicated to supporting our military and their families.