It’s a very bad thing to have all your eggs in one basket, so to speak. I’ve been warning David about our precarious position forever, and here we are now, two weeks into a government shutdown, approaching the middle of the month. Many military families receive an advance on their end of month pay this week, and it seems that should go through with no issues, but there’s a real possibility that no monies will be flowing come November 1. We do not expect at this time to receive David’s retirement or disability payments.
So. First things first. Implement a spending freeze. We have not made any unnecessary purchases, which is to say, we paid our bills and bought what foodstuffs we were out of, but nothing else. Even things we need, like warmer clothes for the children. We can limp along for a while on what we already have.
Next, prioritize those bills. The Treasury Department can’t do it, but we can. I went through our accounts and figured out exactly how much money we will owe people next month. We already cut all unnecessary expenses when David retired, so we don’t have a lot of bills coming in (to match the not-a-lot-of-cash coming in), but most families will have expenses that aren’t really necessary. See what you can do to eliminate, minimize, or postpone those bills until we’re getting paid again.
Check with your bank. We have our direct deposit with USAA, and they are offering a 0% loan to all military customers in the event we don’t get paid on the 1st. You must have had direct deposit with them for at least 60 days and it will be for the amount usually deposited by the government. When you do finally get paid, they will automatically withdraw it to pay back the loan. If you don’t bank with USAA (an excellent company), check with your own establishment to see if they have a plan in place for military/government employees.
Plan your meals. Nothing wastes money like grocery shopping without a plan. Figure out how to use what you already have at home. Plan two or three meatless meals a week. Bean dishes and pasta dishes are very economical. Most people enjoy pasta, but beans are a little more challenging. I’ll teach you how to cook dried beans from scratch next week and share a couple of recipes that we really enjoy. Soups are also nourishing and economical, even if you use some meat. Cooking from scratch is always more cost-effective (and nutritious) than pre-packaged items.
Stay home. Use up some of those craft supplies you’ve been collecting to make Christmas presents. Check out some books from the library and do some reading. While it’s not impossible to spend money from home (thank you very much, internet), you’re almost certain to buy something if you’re going out – a cup of coffee, a meal at McDonalds, that amazing something on clearance at Target. Stay home and remove temptation! Also, maybe avoid Amazon.
In the future, and when the cash is coming in again, consider building an emergency fund, if you don’t already have one. Now that you know exactly what your real expenses are, you can start to build up a little hedge against things like government shutdowns. Wouldn’t it be nice to know you could weather this for a couple months without worrying?
Also, start building a pantry. When the things you normally buy go on sale, buy some extra. With or without government shutdowns, this will save your family a lot of money in the long run, and also give you a lot of peace of mind. Because of our pantry (and the cows that keep the milk coming), I don’t expect to need to spend more than $200 a month, mostly for produce, for the duration of this shutdown in order to keep my family of nine well fed. And I really believe in being well-fed.
Do you have any other tips or ideas? Are you prepared for a loss of pay?