This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Navy Federal Credit Union. All opinions are 100% mine.
You know what’s worse than the stress of deployment? The stress of deployment combined with the stress of finances. Been there, done that. The Christmas John was deployed, I spent a lot of time worrying about my budget. John and I were engaged and had a lot–and I mean a lot–of big expenses and big decisions coming our way. (Hello, wedding! Goodbye, job. Hello, PCS! Goodbye, career. Hello, joint debt!) We weren’t alone– and I know that our situation was better than some and worse than others. Most military families deal with some kind of financial instability for a variety of reasons. The holidays can put added financial strain on already tight budgets. Add in emotional spending and you can be in tough shape if you don’t act strategically. Here are 7 ways to take a chunk out of your holiday budget during deployment.
1. Send it early.
Shipping costs can hurt, especially if you’re not planning for them. If you’re shipping presents this year–either to family and friends across the country or to your deployed loved ones across the globe–make a point to send those presents early. Not only will you have the peace of mind knowing that your gifts are there well before Christmas, you won’t have to worry about overnighting anything on December 24 and crashing your budget with a few boxes of quickly sent gifts.
2. Use those perks.
Many websites and stores ship to APO/FPO/DPO addresses. (Need somewhere to start? Here’s a list of businesses that do! You’ll need to read the fine print, especially when it comes to big box stores that may have overseas restrictions on certain products. You might be able to score free shipping straight to your loved one’s APO/FPO/DPO address. If you have to pay for shipping, ship it directly anyway– it makes more financial sense to pay for shipping once than twice. Worried that your presents will be naked have zero Christmas spirit? Spring for the gift-wrapping option for a few extra bucks. You’ll still save yourself on paying shipping twice.
3. Use these little tips and tricks.
If there’s one thing I can do, it’s shave money off the cost of a care package. And you can do. Here are 40 tips to keep you saving… even after the holidays.
4. Spend where it matters.
It can be easy to want to go bare bones on everything. But if you’re sending something expensive or important, be sure to put an appropriate amount of insurance on it and take other precautions (like signature delivery and tracking) if necessary. If you are confused or need help, ask at the post office. They’ll be able to give you advice for your particular shipping needs.
5. Don’t send junk.
Does your loved one really need a “Pooping Santa” candy dispenser? What about those plastic trinkets you picked up at the dollar store? Or that thing that you thought she’d really love… but you’re not quite sure? When in doubt, keep it out. It’s easy to send a bunch of stuff because it matches the theme of the box or because you want to show your loved one that you’re thinking of them… but remember, not only does more stuff mean more weight and a bigger box (which costs extra money), but it also means that you’re probably spending on things that will end up in the landfill or burn pit of a foreign country.
6. Replace junk with these gifts.
Instead of filling a box with meaningless stuff, try these ideas (they’re cheaper and easier to send!):
Have family and friends record themselves sharing season’s greetings or singing carols. You don’t even have to edit them into a nice video– just drop them on a jump drive and send it.
Send a new kind of Advent Calendar– for every day in December, send a letter, card, or drawing from you. (You can always have the kids, friends, and family members contribute, too!)
Make a list of experiences you’ll both do when he gets home: a visit to a new craft brewery, a day of Harry Potter marathons in your PJs, a walk together in your favorite park… The experiences can be as frugal or extravagant as your budget allows.
7. Buy what they want.
It sounds silly, but you wouldn’t believe how many military spouses I hear from who spent a boatload of cash on items that their loved ones did not want, did not need, and end up leaving behind when they come home from deployment. If you’re able, have an honest conversation about what holiday present might look like during this deployment. And then stick to your plan.
8. Use common sense.
One of the biggest ways to waste money is to have something ruined during shipping because you did not disclose properly. If something is fragile, liquid, or perishable, speak up at the post office and tell them when your mailperson asks so they can mark the box accordingly. If the country your spouse is serving in does not allow certain products like alcohol or pork, make sure that you abide by those rules. Sure, there are stories about people sending “contraband” successfully, but don’t take that risk. Why spend all of that money in product and shipping just to have it confiscated? And while you’re at it, make sure that you’re filling out the customs paperwork correctly and that you have all of the information you need, too.
9. Do the holidays another time.
Of course, there’s always the option to delay the holidays until you’re all home together and can really enjoy watching each other open gifts and enjoy them. Holding off will save shipping and packaging costs and just might mean you can shop the after-Christmas sales too for some really great deals! (Score!)
Obviously, this isn’t an all-inclusive list for everyone. But it’s a start. Want to be an ace at holiday budgeting?
See all the ways you could earn and save with Navy Federal Credit Union. If you’re part of a military family or are affiliated with the DoD, you can become a Member at Navy Federal Credit Union.