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Do you want to know what to expect returning to a financial budget?

When you left for deployment your spouse, partner, or family were asked to help manage the financial responsibilities while you were gone. Returning home requires many adjustments and you may not be ready to take on the financial ones immediately. The first step is determining a time that both you and your financial supporters are ready to discuss a transfer of responsibility. Here again it is important to recognize the possibility that your capabilities may have changed, the financial situation may have changed, and the need for a new or different direction might be called for. The talk about money centers around how much comes in and how much goes out. To manage finances it is important to have a plan. In this case the plan is a budget.
Do you want to know how to create a budget?

It is the responsibility of both partners to participate in this process.

The first step is to determine how much money comes in and how much money goes out. Where does the income come from? What is the money spent on? Listing the income, every dollar spent and the debts is essential. If there are more expenses than income there are two choices: Find more income or reduce the amount of money that is spent.  Perhaps, both will help balance the budget or make the income equal the out-go.
When you have a feel for the amounts of money in and out, the next step is to determine how to plan ahead to spend your income in your best interest. With this information you can list the income by the date it comes in and the expenses by the due dates. By totaling the income and expenses by week or month it will become clear how to manage the income to meet the due dates of the expenses.
Do you want to know how to stay on budget?

The best way to stay on a budget is to honestly look at the plan to see if the income and expenses expected are realistic, and if everything possible has been included. The next step is to monitor both weekly. If income goes down then expenses need to go down. Sometimes we think that the situation is not permanent, so we continue as if the income or expenses will return to “normal.” It is inevitable that unexpected expenses occur—that's normal. In the current economic climate it is important to be very conservative in your expectations about what is normal. No need to be pessimistic or negative; just be prudent in spending only what you have. Also, the credit card industry earns billions of dollars due to us over-extending ourselves by using credit cards when we (when we are ruthlessly honest) know we can’t repay what we have charged. Credit card financing charges are very high and becoming higher every day. If this is an issue for you see Credit Cards and Other Options under MONEY.

Do you want to know how to get back on budget?

If you have monitored and checked your income and expenses, you know where and when the income went down and where and when you spent more than you planned.  If you have not been keeping track, it's time to start doing that now. Human beings respond to feedback, but if you do not create feedback about your expenditures versus your income, you will be at the mercy of credit cards, family charity and other distasteful alternatives, including homelessness. Denial absolutely does not work in the financial arena. Create a plan to balance income and expenses. If you need help to find a way to increase income or reduce expenses please go to Credit Cards and Other Options. One suggestion is to cut up your credit cards and make do with cash no matter what, or freeze one credit card in a big container of ice, so impulse buying is difficult but it is available for airline tickets and other planned for-and-needed expenses or for emergencies.

Credit Cards and Other Options

There are two main areas that may need to be dealt with concerning credit cards.  The first area deals with credit card debt that has already been built up either before you were deployed or during your deployment.  The first thing to do is review each credit card bill to find out the minimum monthly payment, the interest rate, the balance you have due and owing, and the amount of credit you have left on the card.  Make yourself a list of each credit card and the telephone numbers for each.  The only way to get these cards paid off is to make an attempt at it.  Remember that budget you developed from above to show your income and expenses.  How much is available for credit cards?  Once that is determined, get on the telephone and negotiate lower interest rates, payment plans, etc.  The worst answer you can get from a company is NO.  Oh, well, move on to the ones you can fix.  Be sure that you do not exceed your credit limit by accruing interest as these charges for doing so can be very high.  Also try to always pay a little more than the minimum payment due each month.  If you pay only the minimum payment due monthly, it causes a ding to your credit rating and you don’t need that.  Lower credit rating or stressed credit can affect premiums you pay for car insurance, health insurance, and life insurance.  It can increase your necessary expenses and it takes a long time to fix a credit problem.  Finally, if you need to work out this first area of credit cards, the second area is not even an option for you until all credit is cleared and paid off.

The second area deals with getting a line of credit to pay some of the necessary expenses until you can get your income level back to where it needs to be.  If you do not have balances on your credit, you can get credit fairly easily.  However, beware, find the best credit option for you.  The lowest interest rate, the higher credit available, and workable terms for payment.  Usually the best place to find credit is at your bank or through one of the veterans’ service organizations you are aware of.  But remember if you are going to build up some credit card balances, there must be a plan to pay them back and it must be a plan the whole family buys into and understands.  Monitor all credit card activity on your accounts and be ready to respond quickly if someone attempts to steal your credit from you.  Know your financial situation daily or at the very least monthly.

What other options are out there to help you recover financially?  Seek out financial professionals, an accountant, a financial planner, a course at your local college, or services from a non-profit provider.  If you are computer literate, get a program like Quickbooks to keep your checkbook and your credit cards on, so you know your financial position.  And no matter how bleak it may look, remember that the only way to start getting out of the black hole is to look up and see the sky.  Attack it positively, a few items each day, build on your successes, and throw your failures over your shoulder.  Educate yourself about finances.  Don’t wait for someone else to save you.

Examine each of your necessary expenses.  Can they be lowered with some sort of conservation?  Shop around, make companies compete for your business and be sure you are using what you pay for.  Ask your suppliers, if there is something you can do to lower bills.  Suppliers of utilities will usually come to your home and evaluate your situation and provide you with tips on conservation at no cost.  Expenditures that you have for educational materials, dues, and subscriptions should be evaluated.  Can you get the same information cheaper, maybe even at your local library?  Begin to surround yourself with successful people, both at work, at church, and through service organizations.  Budget your time wisely, stay productive and keep learning all you can.  If you are good at some skill, find a way to make that skill something that can make you more income, even on the side.  Clean out those closets, those garages, those tool sheds.  Remember your junk is someone else’s treasure.  Sell it.  Search out ways to increase your money coming in to the family.  Brainstorm together.  You may have some special talent your community needs and will pay for.

Financing options are always available.  You have to be willing to be responsible for where you are right now and then search out the expertise to help you step up a level to fix your money situation.  Once it is solved, many of your other problems will begin to disappear.  And best of all, that smile and inner peace will start to return.

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