Deployment can impact a household budget. Your pay could change, or you could incur some unexpected expenses.
With the right information and a little extra effort, you can stay fiscally fit during deployment and stay in command of your household budget. Follow these tips to achieve financial stability and health even while you’re gone.
Understand your entitlements
When you fully understand your deployment pay and entitlements, you’ll know what you’re working with when planning a budget. Check with your unit’s administrative section to confirm what entitlements and compensation you’ll be receiving, such as:
- Family separation allowance — Service members with dependents who are assigned away from their permanent duty station may receive this allowance every month.
- Combat zone tax exclusions — If you’re receiving hostile fire pay because of assignment to a combat zone, the pay will be tax exempt.
- Hostile fire or imminent danger pays (per diem) — This is paid out for each day you’re deployed for more than 30 days, based upon eligibility.
- Hardship duty pay — This is a full rate monthly payment for any part of the month that is served fulfilling a specific mission.
Preparing for fluctuation
In some units, deployments happen very quickly, which may cause your entitlements to fluctuate. Use these tips to keep from overspending.
- Check your leave and earning statements regularly. Go to the MyPay website to make sure you’re receiving what you should.
- You may be entitled to other special duty pay. Your special duty pay should continue during the deployment. Be sure to check on this each month.
- Be careful if you’re overpaid. Because pay can change quickly, it’s possible to get overpaid. If this happens, be swift in reporting it to your administrative section and don’t spend the extra money until you have confirmed that you are entitled to it.
- Stick to your usual financial plan. Don’t think of extra pay as extra money. Be smart. Keep your spending in check, and watch your savings grow.
Before you deploy
The following tips can help you keep new expenses in order:
- Set up an automatic payment to your savings. Money you don’t see is money you won’t spend. The Military Saves program can help you set savings goals, put them in writing and stick to them.
- Put someone else in charge. Make sure your spouse, or a trusted friend or family member, understands your budget, and give them a checklist of your household bills and accounts (complete with account numbers, online login details and due dates). Also, your Legal Assistance Office can make sure you have the necessary powers of attorney in place should your spouse have to make a purchase on your behalf.
- Don’t overspend. Set a budget and avoid purchasing electronics, equipment and other things that you don’t need. Try setting up a separate account for deployment spending so that if someone overspends or miscalculates, the damage is less likely to jeopardize your finances.
Take advantage of extra savings
The Department of Defense offers unique savings plans during deployment. If you take advantage of these higher-rate savings, you can build a nice nest egg. Here are a few options:
- Savings Deposit Program: Only available during deployment, the Savings Deposit Program has a high interest rate of 10 percent and is an excellent option for service members deployed in a combat zone.
- Thrift Savings Plan: If you don’t invest regularly in the Thrift Savings Plan, or TSP, definitely do so during deployment. You’re not likely to miss the money coming out every month, and you’ll enjoy the benefits later.
- Roth Thrift Savings Plan investments: With the Roth TSP, participants have the option to invest after-tax dollars into their TSP accounts. Also, if you meet certain requirements, you may be able to withdraw your money tax-free, along with any earnings accrued.
- Military Star Card: Your Military Star Card offers special lower interest rates during deployment. Make sure you or your spouse contacts Exchange Credit Services before deployment.
Homecoming and overspending
Homecoming is always an exciting time for service members. It can be tempting to overspend when you celebrate a return, so here are some ways to keep your homecoming debt free:
- Set aside for a special occasion. Why not create a separate account just for special occasions? Even $50 a month adds up and can help fund a great celebration.
- Go to your installation travel office for special post-deployment deals. If you’re planning a getaway with your family, be sure to inquire on special vacation or travel rates available for service members returning from deployment.
- Shop at your installation exchange and commissary. Exclusive tax breaks and special sales can save you a bundle.