Saving Yourself From Shutdown

Keeping your finances up when the government shuts down


The government shutdown has affected hundreds of thousands of federal employees, many of whom will not get paid until the issue is resolved. On Sept. 30, President Obama signed a bill (HR 3210) that ensures military personnel will get paid regardless of the shutdown, including reservists on full-time duty, plus civilians and contractors who provide support to members of the Armed Forces.

While this will protect those who serve, some military spouses who work in “non-essential” federal jobs could be furloughed for an indeterminate amount of time. And because Congress is funding such payments through “continuing resolutions” rather than the normal budget process, this issue might arise again in the future. So we put together some suggestions on how to handle this or any future government shutdown.

  • Shutdown spending—Find any and everything you can live without and cut it from your budget. Carpool if you can, buy nothing but generics at the store, decide this is a great time to quit smoking…whatever. 
  • Cherish that next check—Thankfully, even if a spending bill isn’t passed by the October 1 deadline, service members will still receive their Oct. 1 paychecks. This is because the checks are issued Sept. 30. After that, however, it all hinges on how long the shutdown lasts. If it re-opens by Oct. 9, there might not be any missed paycheck. If not, then military families are going to feel it.
  • Call your creditors—If a deal isn’t struck by Oct. 9, you probably won’t get your second Oct. paycheck on time. And while there is a chance that some of your creditors won’t be able to do much, it sure doesn’t hurt to at least check. Ask if you can have your payments deferred until the situation is resolved, keeping in mind that you will have to pay whatever you owe at that time. Also ask them to keep any shutdown-based missed payments off of your credit report. After all, this isn’t your fault. 
  • Once the shutdown is over, start saving—The reason financial experts suggest having anywhere from $500 (on the low end) to six months take-home pay (ideally) is because of unforeseen or uncontrollable financial troubles such as the shutdown. Sure, it might be nearly impossible for most military families to set aside six-month’s worth of pay, but with thrifty shopping and watching every expense, it is possible to amass a few hundred in a savings account over a few months. Doing so might help you handle the next financial shock that comes your way.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot any of us can do to prevent a shutdown—now or in the future. But we can prepare ourselves financially to lessen the impact on our families and, hopefully, ride it out while they sort it out.

Helpful links:

  • Department of Defense – The DoD’s official place to find out about the shutdown.
  • Office of Personnel Management – Information for civilian employees affected by shutdown.
  • Paycheck Chronicles – This blog on has some good info and is updated regularly. Includes how military banks and credit unions are handling any loss in pay issues.
Mark Dye

About the author: Mark Dye

Mark Dye has been writing articles, recording podcasts, and putting together books on personal finance for nearly a decade. His work has been recognized by the American Bankers Association and the Institute for Financial Literacy, and received an 2011 APEX Grand Award for Writing. Follow Mark on Google+.

Contact: Mark Dye


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