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 member's return makes a lot of purchases in anticipation of the return, or a service member 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. Mostly they are 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 for a long time, and it seems a sensible time to do them.
If I were doing this the right way, 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 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 into 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? Leave a comment below, as I'd love to know.
Kate Kashman is a military spouse, personal finance junkie, and author of The Paycheck Chronicles blog at Military.com. She has four usually lovely daughters, two cats, and one husband. To read more from Kate at The Paycheck Chronicles, click here.
The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.