Post-Deployment Spending Sprees

If you've been in the military a few years, you've probably seen it (or even done it):  The homecoming spending spree.  There are two variations on this theme:  a spouse who is preparing for a service members return makes a lot of purchases in anticipation of the return, or a service member who comes home and immediately makes several purchases, sometimes large ones.

With proper budgeting and planning, this might be useful or even necessary.  Without forethought, however, it can surely be a bad thing.

This week has been an excellent example for me.  My husband is coming home on R&R soon  and I've been on a little mini-spending spree in anticipation.  Most of it is things that needed to be done eventually, including numerous small repairs to his car, but altogether the total expense is a little more than I expected.  Add in a huge commissary trip, a stop at the local liquor store, and a few updates to my own wardrobe and now I've spent a substantial amount of money.  I'm only feeling a little bit guilty – the car repairs had been put off a long time and it seems a sensible time to do them.

If I were doing this really well, I'd have set aside the money in a separate account to pay for these expenses.  I didn't but I'm pretty sure that I'll be able to absorb them into my regular budget without too much trouble.  Of course, I haven't gone out an done anything drastic.  We once had a friend who purchased her husband a new car before he came home.  They're a sensible couple, and I imagine that there had been discussions of getting a new car, but the thought still made me very nervous.  That's a lot of money for a surprise!

I've also seen returning military members go on post-deployment sprees.  Again, I think that is fine if it has been planned and fits in the family's overall budget.  A new game system might be a great reward for months of hard work, as long as it isn't causing a financial shortage in other areas.

What experiences do you have with post-deployment spending?  Has it worked well or not?  What kinds of things have you bought?  I'd love to know.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.