23 January 2018: This shutdown is over. Keep your momentum and be ready for the next one: 12 Ways to Prepare For The Next Government Shutdown
It’s happened again: Congress has failed to pass a spending bill, and the federal government has shut down. If the shutdown is not resolved in a timely manner, and there is no separate bill to authorize military pay, the military paycheck scheduled to be received on 1 February 2018 will only cover the a few days, and additional military pay won’t come until the shutdown is over.
While this can be a stressful situation, it isn’t a surprise and it isn’t a disaster. Government shutdowns are, unfortunately, somewhat common. The government has shutdown 18 times since 1976, with the longest shutdown lasting 26 days. It’s irritating to feel like your paycheck is being held hostage in a political situation, but none of us can change that situation.
Fortunately, there are quite a few things you can do to help manage a missing paycheck:
- Assess your situation. If you regularly track your spending, this will be easy. If you don’t regularly track your spending, this could take a little time. Make a list of the essential expenses you need to survive, focusing on the basics of shelter, food, transportation, and utilities.
- Make a list of the assets you have available to you. This includes current balances in checking and savings accounts, emergency funds (this is one of the 463 reasons to have them!), plus any income you’ll have coming in from other sources like 2nd jobs, etc.
- Make a menu for the next two weeks, using the food that you already have in your freezer, refrigerator, or pantry. If you must purchase food, go cheap! The internet is awash in recipes for inexpensive meals. Not sure where to start? Check out websites BudgetBytes for recipe ideas, and always remember that meals don’t have to be fancy. Peanut butter on crackers or canned soup is a perfectly reasonable meal!
- Check with your bank or credit union to see if they are offering interest-free loans for missed paychecks. USAA and Navy Federal Credit Union have already announced their loan plans.
- Turn off any automatic debits that come out of your bank account.
- Contact your creditors, including your landlord, and explain the situation. Ask if they have any specific programs for the government shutdown. Be sure to include creditors who are expecting payment via an allotment. If you’re not going to be able to make a payment on time, tell them up front and ask what the consequences will be. Ask them to waive late fees or other extra charges for late payments.
- Consider whether you want to add some income this month. This might mean picking up a second job, or trying one of the ideas in this article.
- Think about ways to slash your spending. Adjust the temperature in your house, unplug your television, and plan your driving carefully. Plan a game night at home instead of going out with friends. Don’t buy anything.
- Delay expenses that can be delayed, and ask for accommodation on expenses that can’t be delayed. For example, let’s say you need some dental work. As your dentist if it can wait until after the shutdown, or if they will accept a small down payment until the shutdown is resolved.
- Identify resources to help you if money gets tight. Your branch’s emergency relief society is a good place to start.Army Emergency Relief
Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society
Air Force Aid Society
Coast Guard Mutual Assistance Society
Now that I’ve told you some useful things to do, there are also some things that you definitely should NOT do.
- Don’t panic, or let yourself become very upset about this situation. Chances are, the shutdown will be resolved before it impacts military pay, or Congress will pass a bill specific to allow the military to be paid. Freaking out is not a solution.
- Don’t be worried that your car will be repossessed or you will be evicted from your house. It takes more than one missed (not late!) payment for a repossession or eviction to start. Be sure to communicate with your creditors and landlord.
- Don’t stress about your credit. Late payments aren’t even reported to credit reporting agencies until they are at least 30 days late.
- Please, whatever you do, do not take out a payday loan.
Chances are, Congress will pass a spending bill or a special bill to pay the military. In the meantime, use that stressed-out energy to take some positive steps to be prepared in case your pay is delayed.
Questions? Ask them in the comments and I’ll get you some answers!
For more perspectives on the government shutdown, you might enjoy these articles:
Military Money Manual’s How To Survive A Government Shutdown 2018
Military Dollar’s Sunday Summary: Government Shutdown Edition
Do you want to know more about your military pay and benefits?
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