(Photo credit: Janine Boldrin)
Over the past thirteen years as a military spouse, I’ve messed up a lot. Most of the time my mistakes were because I just didn’t know any better. For instance, I bought a huge couch that was hard to fit in every house from the day we bought it. We moved that couch to five different states and (finally!) just got a new set that is much leaner and more easily fit into the many places we call home. That first couch may not seem like a big deal to most people but a poor decision made me anxious to buy something new because I was tired of reconfiguring every living room we lived in around that one piece of furniture. The choice to buy a big sofa cost my family money.
Then there was six years ago, when my husband went back to school. We moved to a college town where the mass transportation system was awesome. He could ride the bus to school every day and I could walk to the grocery store and local playground. It was ideal situation for us to own only one vehicle for two years and cut down on car payments and insurance costs.
Too bad I only found this out several months into living at our new home. And it was really too bad that we already purchased a huge SUV and a new station wagon within weeks of arriving. This decision was one of the biggest financial errors our family has made and it cost us for several years afterward.
All of these lessons were ones that I wish I had learned early on in my life as a military spouse so I could have saved our family some financial heartache. There are certain subjects we share as military spouse friends but financial suggestions seem to be one that we often skip or, even worse, may inadvertently lend some bad advice.
If we bought a house, we often recommend to a friend that buying is a good option for them. However, each military family has a unique situation that requires a huge amount of evaluation. If we buy a new car, a friend may start thinking about buying a new one too because you got yours at a military sales event that only goes on until Friday. Your neighbors have puppies and she says there are two more in the litter and they are moving in two days, can you take one? Maybe you decide to get a dog.
As military families, we need to think differently plus be making better decisions than we have in the past. Why do I feel this is an urgent need? There are too many of us drowning in debt. Too many of us with houses we can’t sell. Too many of us in foreclosure or operating as accidental landlords. There are too many shelters filled with pets that are abandoned around military installations.
We are facing a huge amount of uncertainty with the drawdown in Afghanistan, the looming budget issues, the present day budget cuts, and the possible change in troop composition and distribution. Our families need to become more financially resilient in anticipation of change. Whether you are a new spouse or a seasoned one, examine how you make purchasing decisions that impact your financial well-being. If you’re not considering your mobile, military lifestyle when making a purchase, start now. Change is coming. Will your financial house hold up to a storm?
Want to learn more on how to do this? Check out my book, The Thinking Spouse’s Guide to Military Life: How to make better buying decisions for your mobile family, where I talk about homes, vehicles, home furnishings, pets, and more! Available on Kindle or Nook. Don’t have an ereader? Get a free reading ap to read the book on your computer, tablet or phone in less than 5 minutes. Check out what other military spouse’s have to say about the book on my web site. By considering your larger purchases in light of your military lifestyle, you’ll be able to roll with change rather than losing money at every turn.