Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How to Save Money While Deployed

Most of the time your basic needs are taken care of while you are deployed – your food and shelter are provided, and you often receive tax free pay, a token Per Diem (yeah $3.50 a day!), and sometimes other benefits such as hostile fire pay, hazardous duty pay, family separation, etc. You earn and deserve each penny that you receive while deployed and I want to show you how you can put that extra money to work so you will be in a better financial position when you return home. Some of these tips will take some advance planning, while others can be done while you are deployed.

Put your items in storage. 
If you are single you may be able to pack up your belongings and put them in storage while you deploy, saving you rent money each month, minus the cost of storage. This takes a little work, but can easily net you a couple grand over the course of a deployment.  

Note: The DoD probably frowns upon receiving BAH and only paying for a storage unit; I haven’t read the actual regs on this. I never did this because most of my deployments were short notice, but I knew several people did this each time they deployed.

Turn off the gas, electricity, or other utilities. 
This is another tip that only works if you are single and live in a moderate climate. But the savings can be fairly substantial. For example, our gas company charges a $20 monthly service charge, regardless of whether or not you use gas. Turning off your gas service for 6 months can save a substantial amount of money (they charge a $50 hook up fee, so you don’t pocket 100% of your savings). When I deployed, I didn’t turn off my electricity completely because the laws required a fire alarm have power at all times. So I pulled the breakers for everything but the fire alarm and paid about $4 per month while deployed. Phantom power to keep your electronics in standby mode can easily eat over $20 per month. Flipping a few switches can save you over $100 while deployed. Just a couple quick notes:
  • Be careful if you live in extreme temperatures as you don’t want your apartment or house to get too hot or cold. Burst pipes or damaged goods don’t save money!
  • Be sure to empty your fridge and prop the door open to prevent a musty odor.
Contact your insurance agent. 
Most auto insurance companies will allow you to put your vehicle on a vacation policy, allowing you to save money on your premiums each month. You will likely need to keep some coverage, but it is usually much lower than if you were driving your car everyday. Keep in mind these policy changes only work if you are planning on parking your vehicle(s) and no one else will be driving them while you are deployed. You may also be able to save money on your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. Again, it never hurts to ask!

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act may help you reduce the amount of interest you pay on loans while you are deployed, as well as provide other protections or benefits such as stopping legal actions against you while you are deployed and possibly allowing you to break a lease or rental agreement (such as a car lease or an apartment rental). Familiarize yourself with these benefits because they could save you thousands!

Save money on credit card interest. You can transfer your high interest credit card balance to a 0% Balance Transfer Credit Card and save hundreds or even thousand of dollars in interest payments. This is actually available to anyone with good credit, but now is a great time to take advantage of it. You can save more money if you are dedicated toward paying extra on your loan each month.
Prepay debt. If you have extra income (which you probably will due to tax free pay and other benefits) you can save a lot of money by prepaying loans such as credit card debt, auto loans, or even prepaying your mortgage. The savings can be substantial!

Saving money on deployments is easy

Almost anyone can save money while deployed, even those with spouses and children back home. All it takes is a little planning and some diligence. And it’s well worth the effort – you’ll love coming home to a fatter bank account, and/or less debt!
Stay tuned for some of the best places to invest while deployed!

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