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Maintaining as a Military Family- Communicating with Loved Ones

As most know a big part about being in the military, is that home is where the Armed Forces send you. Collectively, our Family has been to 8 countries and even more states. Staying in touch and visiting can be extremely trying on the wallet. Long over are the days of 32 cent snail mail. Don’t get me wrong, nothing is better than receiving a care package from home…NOTHING. While the post office can be a chore to visit, and sometimes a little pricey…a simple, flat rate box full of home inspired goodies can go a long way.

We all know email is free, easy, and has pretty much taken over our communication know-how. Sprinkle that with the new technology of digitally processed photos and cameras….and you have the #1 way that people expand relationships. The Internet has changed the way we keep in touch. These days, there’s a slew of penny pinching options used for staying connected. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Flikr, Email Messenger, Forums, and my prime source of banter…the Blog! However, it is not always personal to send an email saying “Congratulations on your baby” or “Sorry for your loss”. Also a blog post cannot replace a heart to heart conversation or a warm hug Mom.

The phone is the second most used by people like me who live across the world. Deployed Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, and Marines rely on the phone to keep connected with their spouses, children, parents, and friends…these days there is the occasional luxury of video teleconferencing available on some bases downrange. Calling cards are an efficient way to get people talking. There are thousands of companies that offer free calling cards to Servicemen and Servicewomen (USO, insurance companies, banks)…add that to your next care package. For people stationed overseas (like me), there are a number of cheap and free ways to stay connected as well. Voice-over IP allows you to talk on the phone via the Internet. There’s Vonage (runs you about $30 a month for International calling which includes a phone), Magic Jack (I use this one…costs about $40 to start and includes a year of service), and Skype (another fave of mine…because it is FREE and allows for video chatting).

Lastly, the feat of traveling to connect with loved ones is wherein lies the wallet wipe-out. Being a Family always planning the next move in the Military, we quickly became the Family always planning our next visit home incorporated with a move. There are ways to achieve this without damaging your moving expense budget. When in doubt, drive. Driving is usually always cheaper than flying, especially when making an out of the way stop. Plus, a road trip is an experience that lasts a lifetime. Some of my fondest memories hail from road trips home. If you must fly, always search for the cheapest tickets courtesy of the world wide web. On the flip side, fly your family out to see you instead (most likely, they have no idea what kind of life you lead…and this is a great way to share a part of your life). I am a Family of five, so it way cheaper to fund a trip for my Mom to visit us than for all five of us to make the venture across the globe. Also, always try to stay with a Family member to fray the costs of hotel bills (I know this can be hard, but this is the part when you say to yourself…”I get to leave after two weeks”). Don’t eat out the whole time you are at home (while it’s fun to gather everyone for a big night out to dinner, save it for your last night. You did come back for that homemade pie and casserole anyway didn’t you?). Plan for outings like picnics in the park or lake, local attractions that usually have discounted tickets in the town newspaper, and everyone’s favorite backyard barbecue.

Connecting with home can be thrifty and practically cost free. The best advice…always look for new, free ways to communicate. Do so personally and with love. Love doesn’t cost a thing (why do I immediately feel like J.Lo’s back-up singer?). Make the most of your time when connecting with loved ones. It means so much to the ones who are away and the ones left behind..

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