Before you go ape crazy with jealousy, this money comes with a price tag. For Mike, a 100+ degree location, camel spiders, limited communication, living out of tents, and John Wayne toilet paper (rough, tough, and doesn't take crap from no one). For Jennie, complete responsibility for our finances, dateless weddings and family events, full management of condo and catbox cleaning, and the general suckiness of not having a spouse around.
Last time Mike deployed (four years ago), we were far less savvy with our finances. We used our income boost to pay double rent, make double student loan payments, eliminate one student loan altogether, and treat ourselves to a week-long vacation in Jamaica. It wasn't irresponsible, but we were living in the financial present with little thought to when Mike came back.
Not this time, no sir and ma'am. I am going to squeeze every penny out of this windfall and create a good foundation we can capitalize on once our income goes back to normal. After many discussions, we've come up with a game plan, of which I will be the sole keeper to perpetuate and maximize.
Honor Family Debt. This debt originated years ago when Mike was stationed in England and some lousy bank decided to wrongfully repossess his car. Talk about taking advantage of our military. A parental unit kindly handled the situation in Mike's absence but was forced to tell off the evil financial institution with their checkbook. Said gracious giver of genetics assures us this debt is not a priority, but it certainly is for us. It holds the #1 spot on our to-do list and the payoff will be accompanied by a good bottle of wine. Amount unspecified for internet eyes.
Exterminate ALL Credit Card Debt. I am waiting for the day when I can say that all of our credit cards are at zero. The price for the feat is around $7,000 between all of our cards. Not a number I'm proud of, but $5,000 is all on one card that we weren't working on in 2011 (as if that's any comfort or excuse, but there it is).
Polish Off the Car Loan. We owe the bank just under $9,000 for the Mazda. Not only would it be awesome to own the car free and clear, but it will free up $200 a month to be rerouted elsewhere.
Save Up for a Vacation. After the last deployment, Mike and I took a memorable vacation to Jamaica. We booked right after the economy crashed and made off like bandits, but inflation is a lot like karma. We've been going back and forth with a travel agency over a couple of options, but current estimates put us at around $4,000 for airfare and a week at an all-inclusive Caribbean resort. Fuller post to come!
|St. Lucia, one of our top picks|
I can create savings by taking advantage of these small decreases in our regular bills. For example, our water bill is around $80 every two months. If it drops down to $60, I can move $20 in savings. That doesn't look like much on it's own, but if I do that for 8+ months, that's $80 that I didn't break a sweat to set aside and that's just with one bill!
I also intend to create a food pantry for us out of our lowered grocery bills. This is something we've never been able to get off of the ground and it hurts us in the long run. So every time I go to the store, I'll be on the hunt for non-perishables like rice, pasta, canned beans and tomatoes, baking supplies, juice, and cereal. Same will go with household supplies like laundry and dish detergent.
Realistically, we may not be able to meet all of these goals. In the span that Mike is gone, there is still $785 a month for rent, medical bills, routine doctor appointments, regular car maintenance, and summer activities/trips that still need to be accounted for.
It will also be tempting for me to increase our standard of living since there won't be as much pressure to count pennies. I'll have to resist upgrading food products or going on shopping trips. Those little splurges could add up and compromize one of our goals. I will need to be ever mindful to focus on maximizing our savings, but I think it's completely doable with a little mental elbow grease.