merchant mariner families

...a highly unusual, sometimes maddening,
but mostly comical way of life.

September 22, 2015

money and the mariner family...

      In our house, I'm in charge of the finances for obvious reasons...I'm here year round.  Beady gets updates when he's home, but it's basically me running the money show.  Sometimes it seems as if his pay is on its own random timetable, as if bi-monthly and monthly are merely suggestions, but I know there actually is a pattern and after 12 years (fingers crossed) I think I've finally got the hang of it.  Now, I have my own method for managing this mariner household financially, but the women below say it way better than I ever could.  It makes me wish I'd had their advice when I first started out with Beady.   

Amy...About 6 years in Merchant Mariner Land, no children, works full time as a nurse.  Her mariner is on for 4 months and off for 4.  Words of Wisdom...Plan Ahead!

"Try to remember those big chunks that get deposited have to last for when he's home and that getting back on the ship isn't always a guarantee, anything could happen."  How often does your mariner get paid?  "Every two weeks when he's out to sea...since I get a paycheck it definitely helps, but we are very conscious of what we are spending and what needs to be done/repaired.  There are always 'we can do this project after my next time at sea' situations.  It does help us pace ourselves.  We put a good chunk into accounts we don't routinely use as a way to help save.  If your mariner submits vacation pay once he's home, maybe try to wait a bit before submitting...this will help soften the no paycheck blow, and planning ahead is always important!"

Lindsey...Nearly 10 years as a Mariner Family, they have one child and Lindsey works full time.  Best advice?  Budget!   

"His paychecks come once a month regardless of whether he is at sea or not.  We split everything 50/50. He has his bills he's required to pay set up on autopay and I have mine. I never wanted to be judgmental about his spending so this worked the best for us. The more important bills ie. mortgage, come out of my accounts so that I can keep watch on it all. Random fact: I split my half of the mortgage payment between my two paychecks to spread my money out more evenly through the month. For example, rather than sending $750 to the mortgage account from the check on the 25th, I send $375 each time I receive a paycheck. $750 still makes it into the account, just doesn't have to arrive all at the same time and payment is still made in full on time. Make sense?" What's your one or two best money tips for this lifestyle? "BUDGET. Doesn't have to be all inclusive, down to the penny or even really detailed. Just know what you have, where it needs to go and when. Figure them out together!!!! Don't be "surprised" by your obligations or by how your partner spends money. Make your savings an automatic withdrawal immediately after the checks are deposited and a line item on your budget. If you never have the chance to you use it, you really won't miss it."

 SnipeWife... Almost 20 years married, two kids, her husband is on 75 days and then off 75.  SnipeWife works as a substitute teacher.   

How do you manage the finances given your mariner's pay schedule?  "He gets paid twice a month, in the beginning it was hard because there was a difference in sea pay and home pay.  But just before we had our first child, the company did away with overtime and it was built into the salary and averaged out in the 13 paychecks a year; sadly there was a while where I'd rack up the credit cards and his bonuses went to paying those off--what a waste! We've started using the Dave Ramsey method and rarely use the credit cards except for MAJOR things for the home." How do you manage financially when your mariner is home? "In our first year I gladly handed the finances over to him when he got home but soon learned that it just can't be split like that. I guess because there is no difference in his pay sea/home my biggest thing is the difference in the paychecks at the beginning of the year till about May because of taxes." Money Tips? DO NOT GET DEPENDENT on credit cards. Live well inside your means and save up for the things you want. Give generously."

Shana...No kids, 6 years of Mariner life, and she works part-time.  Her mariner is 4-6 months on, 2-3 months off.  Secret Weapon?  Planning in a 4 month increment.

"He gets paid bi-weekly but when he's home, only gets two paychecks (during the first month) and these are half the regular paycheck. I have 4 accounts I budget the money between. First I set aside what is needed for the mortgage, etc for that month. (I pay the utilities out of my account.) 2nd account is a savings account for his time off. I have a goal, of about 8k, so that when he comes home, that pays the mortgage and all monthly bills. After putting money in both these accounts, the remainder I divide between a life savings and checking account. His minimum time away is four months, so I always go off of that. If we are saving for something or need to pay off something, I make sure it's done in the 4 month increment. I don't like to count on extra months." 


1. Kids, no kids, how long have you been with your mariner?
We met online while he started a 4-month trip overseas. Officially met when he got off the ship. That was in 2008. We have two children and, God willing, many more to come ;)
2. Do you work outside of the home?
No, I am a stay-at-home-mom. I worked for one year with our first son and it was SO HARD.
3. What is your mariner's schedule?
Just got off 75-day rotations and started a new job this week with 21-day rotations.
4. How often does your mariner get paid?
Every two weeks.
5. How do you manage the finances given your mariner's pay schedule?
I do most of the budgeting and he does most of the spending but we both know everything about our finances at all times (take turns paying bills, etc.)
6. How do you manage financially when your mariner is home?
Whew! We have been spending so much money on our new home lately which starts to drain the reserves before he heads back to work again. We always make sure we have enough in savings to get us by for a while (our goal is 6 months) should something happen with his job.
7. What's your one or two best money tips for this lifestyle?
Don't blow it all when you start vacation! It looks like a lot of money at first but it has to pay for a lot of things. I am cheap and thrifty and no matter how much money Matt makes, I will always be cheap and thrifty.

Kara...90 days on/90 days off, together for 4 1/2 years, we have two teenagers.  

     He gets paid "Once a month on ship. And vacation pay comes in a lump sum, usually towards the beginning of the vacation. It works. 'Everything is just balanced carefully. I pay things as they come in, and pay ahead and early when I can. He gets paid more when he is working, so I pay a little extra then. An extra amount or an extra payment. Gives us breathing room when he is home." When he comes home "He likes to take over the bills, it works for us somehow. But we talk about stuff, we talk about everything. I know we spend more when he is home. He wants to have fun, and get the big expenses taken care of."  Any tips?  "Save!! He has put away a lot in savings and retirement funds. Make sure you have enough to get by for a bit in case anything happens to the mariner. Loss of job, health issues, etc. Make sure YOU have access to that money in case of an emergency. Have a Power of Attorney! Just being married to him isn't enough for most banks and credit cards! I found out the hard way. (Thank goodness his dad still had POA!)"

Katie... Over 4 years together, no children-she's employed as a social worker.  He has a 3 week on/ 3 week off rotation and may be reassigned to the coast of Africa. 

"We are both financially responsible, however it was a bit more difficult for Pat to understand the concept of budgeting as he has never really had to do it and he always received large, monthly lump sums of money with his first job. His first job he would work for a few months, come home and then not go back to work until his bank account would get low. It was very inconsistent and that was his way of life. Now that I think of it, it would probably have made the finances more difficult if he was still getting paid so sporadically. Since he got his new job, he is currently getting paid on a bi-weekly basis even on the weeks he is not working so he gets a consistent paycheck every 2 weeks. I think this change in pay schedule has made it easier for him to understand why budgeting is needed. I go over all of the bills with him and make sure he understands what money is going where and how to pay the bills if I was ever unable to. What is on auto pay, what is not; where to find all the account passwords to the utility logins, when they are due etc. He was quite impressed with the Microsoft excel spreadsheet I made for us. It was of course, color coded, highlighted and probably a bit OCD and obnoxious for his taste but he knows it makes me feel good having it. The last thing I want is for him to not understand how things work, after all that is how his brain works an engineer.  I worry about not having enough money, as I am used to living paycheck to paycheck and he isn't. I guess this is due to his immense feelings of financial security as he has never had to worry about budgeting before. Bottom line is my worrying and OCD about bills is offset by his relaxed confidence about finances which works great for us! I suppose my advice would be to both understand your family's budgeting needs and make it work for you. Make it something you can both take a part in. I know including Pat in the finances when he is home makes him feel more at home and it is something else we can share together. I think that sometimes he feels bad for not being home all the time and for not having a "normal" job. Although, knowing that his hard work is supporting his family helps him feel better and allows him to feel like he is contributing to the family even when he is not here."

Danielle...5 years with a marine engineer, 3 teenage sons, and she bartends 2 days a week.  

"My mariner's typical sailing schedule is 63 days on and 63 off but he hasn't taken a permanent position which makes it nice because we kind of pick and choose when he goes out. While he is gone I get a draw which pretty much covers bills and then when he gets off the ship he gets the remaining amount that I have to TRY and budget for an undetermined amount of time lol. So usually when the finances get low that is when he has to go back out. Money tips that I have.... Keep him out of it! The less money he thinks we have the better we are. I don't lie about it but I don't give him daily updates let's just say. It is very hard because he knows he makes good money and I have a hard time telling him no when it comes to purchases because he does work so hard and sacrifices so much-- finding that happy median is always an interesting task."

What's your best piece of advice for managing money with your mariner?  Let us know!  

Copyright 2015 Callie's Mariner

September 21, 2015


Over the last few years, I've noticed a bigger voice for merchant seaman families.  Some have been around for a while, others just made their big debut.  Though I wish the list was longer, I'm just so glad there are so many more of us out there!  Happy Sailing!

Tugboat Life, Tugboat Wife

Megan The Nautie Mermate

Girls on Tugs

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New England Waterman

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