Don’t Panic! Be Proactive

Military families all over the world are worried about the possibility that the military could not get paid on 15 April, or that they might get a partial check.  I agree that it would be nice to get some sort of answers from the people who truly understand what is going on, but it doesn’t seem that those people are planning on telling us anything helpful right now.

In the meantime, this would be a great time for everyone to consider what rational steps they can take to survive if the government’s 15 April pay is delayed.

First, what you should NOT do:

  • DO NOT take out a “payday” loan.
  • DO NOT cash out your Thrift Savings Plan.
  • DO NOT pawn all your valuables.
  • DO NOT make any major financial decisions while under this stress.

Now, some things that you SHOULD do:

  • DO make sure you have a pretty thorough understanding of your current financial situation.   Look at all available assets:  checking, savings, the coins in the ashtray of your car, CDs, etc.  If you are unclear about things like what you owe and to whom, interest rates, minimum payments, etc., now is exactly the time to figure this out.  Use this as a learning opportunity, and talk with your spouse.
  • DO prepare to talk with any creditors, including landlords, mortgage companies, orthodontists, child care providers, car finance companies, loans and credit cards.  They may or may not be helpful but communication is essential.  Try to get an idea of who is likely to work with you and who is really not going to cut you any slack at all.
  • DO be prepared to suspend any automatic debits that you have scheduled.  If you have automatic drafts that are to come out immediately after the 15th, and you won’t have the money if you don’t get paid, you might want to suspend them as a precaution.  It typically takes a few days to stop an automatic draft from being debited.
  • DO look at the choices you are making RIGHT NOW.  There should be quite a few purchases, both large and small, that can be eliminated or postponed.  Can you take that vacation next  month?  Does that home repair need to be done right now, or can it wait a bit?  Would it be possible to wait to purchase that new washer and dryer, or could you buy a used one instead of new?  On a smaller scale, this would be the right time to cut back on little luxuries.  Can you give up the Red Bull, or buy it at the commissary instead of from the convenience store?  Can your family eat a few more meatless meals?  Might the $5 laundry soap clean your clothes as well as the $9 bottle?
  • DO control your food costs.  For most families, food is the second or third largest amount of money spent each month.  (Housing is typically first, and sometimes auto expenses come in second.)  Look at what you have in your pantry, your refrigerator and your freezer.  Think creatively about how you will make this food last as long as possible.  Learn to fill in with rice and in-season fresh vegetables.  Beans can be prepared a million different ways, they are super-nutritious, and they are cheap.  (Even cheaper if you buy them dried.)  Use resources such as to figure out how to create meals out of the things that you have on hand.

Much of what I have written here directly piggybacks on Janet’s great advice in Government Shutdown?  What Military Families Need to Know.

I’m guessing that my readers have even more great thoughts on this subject.  I would love to hear them in the comments.

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.
  • kittykat

    The “children” up in congress etc should be the ones having to worry about bean recipes, not us :/ While I agree with a lot in this recent post, it is really too lte for a lot of us to make a significant headway in case of a no pay shutdown. I agree curbing spending to shore up some $$ is a good idea, but by now if one doesn’t have extra $$ to tide them over for bit, then eating one more bean dinner isn’t going to help tide them through.

    Helpful post, for sure, but if things are not already in place by now…..

  • kittykat

    I apologize, Kate, if my previous post sounded sour–I know you are just trying to help. It’s just petently unfair that we are all in this position to begin with….those who fight and defend our country should not have to worry and stress like this….

  • kittykat

    Maybe a last minute hail mary to fund the DOD through next yr.?

  • kittykat

    Thanks, Kate…as I said, I know you are only trying to inform us of things, and believe me, your blog is greatly appreciated! I am just feeling sour in general, as are a lot of us, this week. But trust me, however this thing goes down, it has definitely made me think about our finances and saving more closely.

  • TTN

    Please don’t forget that there are protections in the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act that may be useful for families w/deployed family members.

  • tjsmom0124

    I am married to an e-2 in the marine corps and i work a part time job we already live pay check to pay check luckly my husband is state side but my brother along with thousands of other military personal they are fighting to protect us and they also were told they would be compensated for their time (it states it in their contract) i understand that we will receive back pay but is the goverment going to call the water company , the lights company, the insurence company, or the bank my car is financed thru what about my son he is going to have to pay for this as well

  • skippermike

    Everyone relax. Been tru this before a few times! lol. The checks ALWAYS come. My experience dates back to Jimmy Carter. The Republicans at that time were trying to push thru special deals for the wealthy and eliminate medicare.
    Well, they are doing the same thing again…They have tax cuts for the most wealthy, tax cuts for big oil, reduction of medicare that will force seniors and disabled to buy extra insurance ( A huge money maker for big insurance companies) And as in the past, claiming a devotion to the military and also saying if they don’t get what they want, the military will not be payed. This is total B.S. They talk about the President Veto. Do your homework folks. The President can Veto. But, what he and all past Presidents do it a Line Item Veto. And the power of the office is used to provide for the military.
    After all, the President takes an oath to defend the USA.
    Payment of military is part of that oath as Commander and Chief.
    Do not let the Republican chicken hawks use you to get deals for their very rich people. Nor, let your parents, children and seniors lose benefits.
    I am an Independent, Vietnam era vet. USAF/ ARMY
    Thanks for your service and stay cool.