Dealing With Financial Woes As A Military Family
I am sure that many of you questioned the episode of Army Wives a few weeks ago in regards to the enlisted family who made a few financial mistakes. Many felt as if the show was saying that not only do enlisted families go through money problems, but they are also oblivious in fixing them. Based on experience and working with many families both enlisted and officer, I can tell you this isn’t always the case. Regardless of your branch or rank, money is something that affects us all. Whether we are running behind on bills, having trouble saving or making the bills and just not having enough left over for vacation, money is always a factor in our lives. Here is my story…
A week before we were married my husband decided to leave the Army. He had 8 years of active duty and was ready for the next chapter in his life. This would mean a drastic pay change for us both. Finding civilian work was difficult, but luckily he found employment with a government agency and we were thrilled to start our lives together. When we married in 2004 we didn’t have a penny to our names. Saving money was something that we didn’t really do. If it weren’t for my parents, we would have never been able to have a lavish wedding the way we did. We both worked and barely had any debt so we enjoyed our newly married life as most do, spending money and going on trips. Were we young and stupid? I would say so!
Our new apartment as husband and wife was a one bedroom, one bath, kitchen and living room – that’s it! No closet space and barely any room to move. We hit rock bottom one month into it when I had no left over money to pay my car. Where did the money go? We took a trip to Atlantic City for my 21st birthday and we forgot to put money on the side for my car payment. I was mortified! I worked overtime for one month straight just to make sure this would not happen again, but something always did happen and emergencies come up. Not having money put on the side for emergencies was killing us. We slowly realized that if we didn’t stop living so lavishly we would never be able to afford to move into a bigger home or start a family.
Luckily we started saving just before our son was born in 2006, but our over spending as newlyweds really put us in the hole. We knew then and there that we needed something to help us get on track with bills, but what? This is when my husband re-enlisted, this time with the Army National Guard. He was already talking about re-enlisting anyway, but instead of waiting until he was done with college – we decided to push it up sooner. Not only would the sign-on bonus help us out tremendously with bills, but we were able to put money on the side and actually have a savings account. Do you see where I am getting with this? No, I am not telling you to enlist in the military just for the sign-on bonus, but I am telling you that regardless of how financially prepared you think you are, there is always something that happens that will make you realize you are not.
I look back today and wonder, what would have happened without that re-enlistment bonus? Would we have climbed out of debt? How would we have managed with a child? My husband is now at the end of his ETS and ready once again for re-enlistment. Six years have gone by, are we in a better place financially? Yes we are, but I believe that as we grow in this life as a couple, we learn a few things along the way. And each day we are more and more aware of the situation and how we can better manage our finances.