By Julie Provost

7 life hacks that military spouses know best

During our second deployment I had the difficult issue of always taking my young boys to the grocery store with me. Every week I had to brave the commissary with a two- and four-year-old… and you can only guess how that went. At the same time, my best friend always had to take her kids to the commissary whenever she needed to go. We had to figure out something to help keep us sane.

We decided to take turns going to the grocery store. One of us would watch the kids while the other went to the store, went home to put away her groceries, and then headed on over to pick up her kids. We would then trade off and the other would watch the kids as the other mom did her grocery shopping. Kid-free, we could take as long as we needed. This life hack saved us stress as well as time and money. With no children asking for this and that, we were able to stick close to our shopping lists.

As military spouses, we sometimes have to be creative and find life hacks to problems you might not have in the civilian world. Here are seven life hacks that military spouses know best and that you can use to make life easier:

1. Trade babysitting. 

100_1327.JPG from Flickr via Wylio
© 2006 cowboytrix, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Find another mom that you trust whose kids get along with yours and trade babysitting. Whether it is so you can shop in peace, go to a doctor’s appointment, or so you and your husband can go on a much needed date, having a friend like this will save you a lot of time and energy looking for a sitter and you won’t have to pay a dime.

2. Have a back-up plan.

Planning from Flickr via Wylio
© 2009 Jeremy Keith, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

No matter what you are doing or what you are planning, always have a back-up plan. What if your spouse has to work unexpectedly? What if they get deployed before Christmas? Nothing in military life is set in stone until it happens. Having a back-up plan will save you in the end.

3. Know your bills.

dollar bills from Flickr via Wylio
© 2011 401(K) 2012, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

Every military spouse needs to know the which, when, and how of paying all of the household bills. We need to know all of this because sometimes we will literally be the only ones who have access to the accounts and can actually pay the bills. Setting up online bank payments is easy and can save you time, late fees, and stress.

4. Have a cleaning schedule.

Cleaning from Flickr via Wylio
© 2008 Lars Plougmann, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

Routines are important and a good cleaning schedule is part of that structure. Knowing that on Mondays you need to vaccum the house and on Tuesdays you clean the bathroom means you will be able to keep a tidy home even during the stress of solo-parenting, deployments, watch schedules… you know what I’m talking about.

5. Make a meal plan.

Groceries from Flickr via Wylio
© 2014 David Mulder, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

Planning out meals will save time and money and keep your family healthier. Planning ahead means you will be less likely to opt for fast food on the way home from baseball practice. When grocery shopping, you’ll also know which foods to reach for because you need them and which ones you want just because they look good right now.

6. Be involved in a regular social activity.

Gapers Block Book Club: Water for Elephants from Flickr via Wylio
© 2007 Daniel X. O’Neil, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Be involved in something on a regular basis. This can be a program like MOPS, a book club, or volunteering at your kid’s school. Getting out and being around other people on a regular basis is the best way to make friends and to remember who you are beyond someone’s spouse and someone’s parent. If you are new to your duty station, this is a great way to get out there and start meeting people.

7. Have a savings account.

BANK from Flickr via Wylio
© 2011 Steven Lilley, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

You don’t know what will happen in the future. Starting a saving account can give you peace of mind and more financial stability. Set up an automatic transfer from your (or your  spouse’s) paycheck to a dedicated account at your bank. Doing this means that account will grow automatically. Even if you can only save $10 a paycheck, that’s a start. If you get a tax return or come into a bit of money unexpectedly, you can put part of that in a savings account to get things going.

Life hacks are a military spouse’s best friend, especially during a deployment or PCS. What have you learned along the way that can help other military spouses?