$ How We Fared On My Husband’s Last TDY $ — and Why We’re Using a Credit Card Again

by jolyn on October 20, 2010

in Military Living,On Credit Cards

That’s Temporary DutY for you non-military folks. Military-speak for a business trip.

Yea, yea… So he last went TDY, like, two months ago. But here are the numbers anyway.

  • During his four-week TDY to Texas in August, John spent $1657.98 (excluding lodging).
  • His reimbursement came in the next month at $2,300.45 (again, excluding lodging).

A difference of $642.47, obviously in our favor. This is pretty good considering a core requirement of the class he was attending seemed to be the socializing that went on after-hours. Oh, and also that the $1657.98 included $243.52 toward a new car stereo- so yay, for him!

Seriously, I’m not being sarcastic or begrudging him or anything. His car radio was just one of many things that has been falling apart in his 11-year-old Toyota 4Runner, still running strong though not without quirks that come from racking up some 144,000 cross (multiple-) country miles.

And about to rack up many more. How many miles between Ohio and northern California? I should look that up.

August was pretty tight financially, what with John’s TDY and the kids and I going to Maryland to visit friends and our nation’s capital. A whopping $85.01 went into our savings account that month. Seriously. When the $2300.45 travel reimbursement hit the account in September, every penny of it went into savings. It really annoyed me: I mean, we basically gave Uncle Sam a free loan for the month of August.

We’ve Resurrected a Credit Card

First, for the times when John is traveling and we’re footing the bill for weeks at a time before he has a chance to file for a reimbursement.

Yes, John has a government credit card. But don’t even get me started with the problems we’ve had with their inept billing and accounting services.

But I’ve also gone a step further: I’ve started using that same credit card again for regular purchases: mainly, fuel; groceries; and other regular, unavoidable, monthly bills.

Yea, yea, I know what they say about using a credit card…

…you use more than you would pay with cash. That’s why I am purposefully only charging purchases that I would be making anyway. Also. I’m paying off those purchases on a weekly basis instead of waiting for the credit card payment due date.

I got that idea from a reader comment (and I am so sorry I’m not taking the time right now to look again for which one of you made that comment. But if you recognize yourself when reading this? I thank you! And feel free to remind me of yourself and to take credit in the comments below) and I really can’t believe I never thought of doing it that way before. Paying off your credit card purchases as you make them totally takes away the mentality (for me) of putting off the purchases until the next month, but still gets you the rewards for using the credit card in the first place.

My goal? To rack up enough reward points to finally get my DSLR I’ve been jonesing for for oh, so, so long. Call it what you will: I want me my Nikon.

(And if you have a DSLR recommendation? Please comment away.)

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Mrs A Reduces Her Credit Card Debt Further And Other Stories
October 30, 2010 at 10:51 pm

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Tonya October 25, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Credit card reward points has helped us to stay in three different hotels for FREE during our trip back to the East Coast. Credit card usage does have a few benefits!

One thing I want to be sure to caution you about…one of my credit cards has a limit on the number of purchases you can make online every month. I believe it is four. You may want to check with your credit card company if you haven’t already.

And I believe that Officers and Enlisted get the same per diem whenever TDYs and Deployments are taken.

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Laura Reply:

I’m glad to know that about the per diem for TDY or deployments being the same now for enlisted and officers. It definitely wasn’t back when my husband was on active duty. An officer usually got around 3x what an enlisted person did.

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Forest October 24, 2010 at 11:38 am

As long as you genuinely stick to the plan it’s a fine idea….. Just as soon as you make that first slip reprimand yourself badly and don’t let it happen again. One slip can become two, three etc etc etc.

Good luck building up to that DSLR, I want a new one too!

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Lisa Morosky October 23, 2010 at 6:07 pm

I’ve never thought of paying off the credit card as you go either. That’s a way better piece of advice than “pay it off each month”. Of course, it might not work for everyone. Some cards have a maximum number of online payments you can do (and sending in a bunch of checks sounds like a headache). BUT, for me, it’ll work. :)

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jolyn Reply:

I wouldn’t actually recommend this for everyone… “Best intentions” and all that. But that’s another post. It’s great when it works.

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Cheryl B. October 23, 2010 at 10:48 am

OMGosh I think that was me!! I am thrilled that I gave you a good idea. Funny thing, just this month we have switched to a debit card account linked to a checking that pays 2.51% on the first $25,000. To qualify for that “high” interest, we have to use our debit card 10 times a month. So this first month we debited everything because we did not have a good idea of how much we would use it. We charged gas to AMEX at Costco (now we have to swipe twice to debit, once the AMEX and once our debit card) and that is at least 5-6 transactions a month right there. I was a bit of a spendthrift this month to make sure we got our 10 transactions, and we did reach it a full what week and a half early.

Again, I am so glad I gave you a good idea and anyone else who starts doing it.

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jolyn Reply:

Yea! You identified yourself! You are an excellent example of how these techniques only work for people who fastidiously track their daily transactions. That’s an upcoming post. I’m looking forward to using my rewards points for a new DSLR. :)

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Nicole October 22, 2010 at 10:47 pm

I have been faithfully paying off the credit cards each month. Unfortunatly my mini-daschund ruptured a disk in her back recently – the vet bills have topped $700 on last months credit card bill – but it’s paid off now. Fortunatly we have a small emergency fund started (not yet finished, but better than not started!).
Kudos on the self control – I have to monitor the account daily just to keep on track.

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jolyn Reply:

Yes, I think having an emergency fund is a necessity for this type of credit card usage to work. You simply can’t think of your credit card as a buffer for unexpected expenses — like vet bills! I wouldn’t recommend anyone using a credit card for anything if they have consumer debt and don’t have an emergency fund, and who don’t track their daily transactions. It’s hard work being fiscally responsible!

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Crystal @ BFS October 22, 2010 at 3:17 pm

We’re one of those families that only uses rewards cards and very little cash. For us, cash just disappears but the credit card charges stare me in the face all month. This method means that if we ever spend more than our normal $1400-$1500 total, then I track down what the extra was. Lately, it’s been Mr. Pug’s vet bills. It’s okay since we have enough on hand to pay $3000 if necessary every month, but we only do that when planned (like Christmas or vacations).

Congrats on the extra from the TDY!

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jolyn Reply:

Yea, I do think you guys are one of those abnormalities: some people need to feel the cash leaving their hands. For me, cash also seemed to “disappear” — and I had trouble tracking the categories, which is what I want to do. Maybe it’s because we’re visual learners? Hmmm… And yea, the TDY basically paid for our trip to MD/DC that same month, is one way to think of it. :)

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Laura October 21, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Credit cards for me are like the cigarettes I quit 25 years ago. There’s no half-way on either. It took me several tries to quit smoking, and I found that even one cigarette had me right back to the pack-a-day habit in less than a week. I’ve paid off credit cards before, and then told myself that I’m going to pay the card off each month, or weekly, or whatever, but then some BIG purchase or emergency hits and I’m not able to pay it off, or some super-duper special-deal-this-week-only comes along, and before I know it I have a balance. So if you can do this, I stand in awe of you, but I know it’s something I can’t do, so I’m not even going to tempt myself.

And I so hear you about those TDY reimbursements. What used to burn me was the difference between enlisted and officer pay for the same deployment; I could never understand why officers received about 3 times the enlisted reimbursement even though they used the same transportation, and their lodging and meal costs weren’t that much more than for enlisted. Hopefully that’s gotten more equitable these days.

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jolyn Reply:

I think this calls for another post. I wouldn’t recommend this type of credit card usage for someone who doesn’t have an emergency fund. That’s the main difference for us, really, compared to even two years ago: if something unexpected comes up, we have a resource from which to pull so it doesn’t just sit on the card while we mindlessly continue to use it for regular purchases.

At least officer and enlisted get the same per diem? At least that’s how I understand it. It’s been ten years since my husband was enlisted, and even then he didn’t go on TDYs regularly like he does now.

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Jerilyn October 21, 2010 at 10:27 am

So do you pay your credit card weekly on line? I would rather do that, too, than wait til the end of the month.

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jolyn Reply:

Yes, exactly. No-brainer, eh?

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Cathie October 21, 2010 at 9:24 am

I’m impressed that you have the self-control necessary to use credit cards. I know myself, and I know that those amazing deals I find would have a way of costing more in the long run. I’m a cash girl. If we don’t have it, we can’t buy it.

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Kristin @ Peace, Love and Muesli October 21, 2010 at 8:18 am

Paying off credit cards each week is smart beans. I always overspend when using my card. It’s not pretty.

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jolyn Reply:

It’s a total no-brainer. I can’t believe it never occurred to me to do it this way before.

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jolyn Reply:

I think this is calling for another blog post. I wouldn’t recommend everyone doing this unless they had other things in place: like an emergency fund; and a habit of tracking daily expenses…

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Andrew October 21, 2010 at 8:04 am

I was going to recommend the Canon Rebel, but then I saw the Nikon… my experience with the Rebel is that the starter kit is good enough for me as an amateur to take better photos… so it really depends on what you’re looking for. A lot of people recommend buying the body and a different lense.

[Reply]

jolyn Reply:

Andrew- I wanted one of those once upon a time, but Nikons come so highly rated by so many, including other amateurs like myself. But I’m still not 100% decided…

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