The deployment of a spouse can be one of the most difficult life events a military family can endure. Aside from the emotional toll that sending a loved one off to a combat zone can take on a family, other practical concerns can cause just as much stress. The financial situation of a family that has just sent a soldier abroad can become less stable when one half of the management of the household is a world away. There are several resources and skills that military families can draw on to make sure that even when separated, the family can function as smoothly as before.
Communication is key
Even though it may seem impossible to stay in any kind of regular contact while your husband or wife is overseas, communicating about issues is the number one key to successfully making it through a deployment.
InCharge.org interviewed Dr. Earl Beale, director of the Family Support Center at Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota, about the most common issues that follow families during a deployment and, more importantly, how to deal with them.
"The number one issue deployed service members worry about is how they'll communicate during the deployment about finances, child care, family decisions, etc.," Beale said. "We have military family members who come in just to use the video phone to discuss a major purchase with their deployed spouse."
For families without the capabilities to communicate on their own, Beale encourages checking with your local military base. Some offer phone cards and computers for email that spouses can use to communicate during a deployment.
Setting and keeping budgetary goals
While communication can help with unseen problems that come up, most issues can be avoided if you and your spouse make sure to set and keep a clear financial plan before deployment. Military.com outlines a few key topics to discuss, such as where your family should be financially when your spouse returns, whether or not you should be paying down any debt during that time or how much to save up for a future purchase.
By discussing these things in addition to any monetary issues prior to your spouse's departure, it can make the entire process much smoother.
Ease into the reunion
InCharge.org spoke to Amy Manglesdorf, who managed her family by herself when her husband deployed. She was better prepared than most, with years of experience as an Army Family Team Builder, the stresses of handling her family finances alone were still difficult to handle. When her husband returned, she saw some problems come up that she never expected.
"Don't plan on any big expenditures that first month after he gets home," Manglesdorf said. It can feel like another honeymoon period, she explained, and the reunited couple may feel like they have to make up for the lost time they spent separated during the deployment with a long trip, multiple fancy dinners and a significant purchase.
Try not to abandon the sound financial plans you made with your spouse before and during the time he or she spent away.
For Manglesdorf, "That's when all the bills start pouring in."
Even though it is only the soldier that may see combat, military life is not easy for all involved. As a spouse leaves to serve his country on a foreign battlefield, preparing for your soldier's safe return can be just as difficult. Take advantage of the time you have together to plan for any expected and unexpected problems that may occur, and remember to reach out and take advantage of any available resources that your local military representative can provide.