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Make a Plan to Manage Finances as a Family, Even When You’re Deployed

Make a Plan to Manage Finances as a Family, Even When You’re Deployed
(Photo by MC2 Jesse Monford/Navy)

By Vera Wilson

Money often comes up in a typical around-the-dinner-table discussion. Your wife may tell you she was just notified of a large increase in Junior’s monthly child care bill, or you may have received an alert that the price of the fire pit you’ve been eyeing online has just dropped 20 percent.

Before dessert, you’ve agreed to buy the fire pit and move money from the food budget to cover the child care increase (and eat beans and rice a little more often). Together, you’ve addressed what you needed to, and in short order.

But what happens when there’s no one sitting across the kitchen table for a while? Some upfront planning will help take some of the decision-making burden off the person left behind as well as let the one deployed still feel involved.

Daily expenses shouldn’t be a problem, but before you leave, have a serious discussion about what you’re both comfortable doing about any extraordinary financial transactions that may occur in your absence. What is currently on your family’s radar regarding large purchases? Is your car on its last legs? If so, can you agree on "must-haves" like heated seats and a maximum price you’re both willing to pay should your partner find a great deal and needs to act fast?

With respect to "nice-to-have" items like the fire pit, set a budget together and stick to it, perhaps agreeing in advance to veto unnecessary single-item purchases over a certain dollar amount ... at least until you return.

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Emergencies are an entirely different matter. If there’s no emergency fund, agree on the method of payment should one arise. Will you use a credit card, and if so, which one? Or is it OK to approach the in-laws about a loan?

What if the air conditioner can be fixed but for such a large amount it may be more cost-effective to invest in a new one? Agree beforehand to a percentage that makes that decision for you. For instance, if repairing it is 50 percent of the cost of a new one, you both agree to move forward with a new unit.

You may be entitled to extra pay and allowances while on deployment. Decide beforehand where this money should go and how it can be used. Do you want to spoil the kids with some new toys while Mom is gone? If Dad always does the yard work, should a gardener be hired?

Follow these guidelines to stay on course financially so you can spend your precious time communicating about how you’ll celebrate when you return.

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