Deployments are never fun. Whether it’s your first or fifth, it doesn’t get any easier. One thing is for sure, deployments can offer families some relief by giving us the opportunity to save money.
Is your service member is deployed? Here are the top 5 tips to save money while your loved one is away.
- Know the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. This is an important one and it should be on your radar before a deployment arises. There are some critical benefits that help military families during a deployment (and in general), thanks to this special piece of legislation. By utilizing the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, families can break leases that could potentially help with moving to areas that have lower cost of living as well as saving renters for their traditional Permanent Change of Station (PCS). Military members are able to cap their interest rates on loans (mortgage rates and credit cards). Most importantly, military members can cancel or freeze accounts due to a deployment. For instance, my husband’s cell phone bill is about $100 a month stateside. Because he had orders taking him overseas, he cancelled his service that subsequently saved us $1,200 for the year. The same applies for auto insurance or any other account that may have a subscription. They are not going to need those accounts while downrange.
- Put Deployment Pay in a Savings Account. Depending on the type of deployment, TDY, unaccompanied tour, etc., your military member is given additional pay. Only 14 days into our marriage, my husband left for an unaccompanied tour to a location that gave him Hardship Duty Pay (HDP). Because I stayed behind, we were given Family Separation Allowance (FSA) as well. I encourage military spouses to understand as much as they can the different military financial terms to help prepare for any situation. We got married while my husband was still living in the barracks and I with roommates, which meant we didn’t have any practical household items like a sofa or kitchen goods. It was really important for us to save, save, save! We put ALL the additional money into a savings account to gain interest for the year he was away along with building a reasonable amount of money to help us get started in what I call the “real start to our marriage.”
- Unplug Unused Items in Your Home. My husband has a whole side of the room that is plugged with his electronics. Not to mention, he has an Xbox, Playstation that he keeps in the living room. Unplug everything, especially if you don’t use it because it still uses a bit electricity. Every voltage counts in your bill and that could save you dollars that add up in the long run.
- Establish a Tight Budget. Honestly, this is a difficult task, even for me, but it’s a tip that can seriously help with long term planning. I immediately went into a budget funk when my husband left for the very first time and began coping with retail therapy. Let’s be honest, a separation messes with your mindset a bit and it goes for both parties involved. After a month of spending anarchy, I snapped back and realized that I had some craziness coming (aka our PCS). Spend some time to crunch numbers and establish a strict budget. Aside from the deployment pay that’s going into a savings account, what else could you put into savings? What is the figure you have left after bills? There are lots of great resources out there to help military families budget. MilitaryOneSource offers a wealth of information and financial counselors to help you get on the right track. I entered everything into a Google Document and shared the file privately with my husband, so he was able to see how things were going when he got the opportunity to go online. Since then, my husband and I powwow before a departure to make sure we are on the same page. Keep the line of communication open when it comes to budget.
- Meal Plan. A relatively mundane tip from the rest, but still important. In my opinion, meal planning doesn’t get enough attention about how it can really save you money. Confession: I was guilty of eating out or ordering in a lot when I was alone. Why meal plan when it’s only yourself feed? Answer: it adds up. On average, a meal out would be around $10 (give or take) with 5 days of purchasing, that would be $50 a week! If you have children, the figure just goes up. I’m not saying to completely nix eating out, just to moderate spending (we all need a little time out). Instead of spending $50 for one meal a day for a week, I use that figure to feed myself all three meals for a week. Use your strict budget to set-up a special allowance that goes to your food. Take some time to map out your meals for the week. That helps with keeping yourself in check with your planning.