This type of thing was a huge contributor to my separation.
While getting him to understand the importance of budgeting (which will have to wait until he's back), the only way I can see a resolution is for him to turnoever managing the finances to you. You both get an allowance for minor individual spending (but he gets no credit card to carry around daily) and you pay all of the bills from one account.
With this method it is still imperative that you have routine meetings about budget, what's getting paid when, etc. Because you want to remain on the same page. But you cannot let your partner put you and your children in the hole. Been there, done that, dug myself out over the course of 2 years.
Some people will change and others will not.
I think my early years prevented me from being like that - spend, spend, spend. I am very good with money. Very conservative. Having savings is important to me.
Having been with others like you describe your husband...well, things didn't work out forever and ever, happily ever after.
I have a friend who is going through what you are now. Her husband is a secret spender. She gives him cash allowance, double what she takes for her and her kids, and he blows through it quickly with nothing to show for it. They have a credit card and a debit card that they keep locked up in a safe box to be pulled out for gas purchases or car maintenance only. He somehow, even though she has an eagle eye, manages to put charges on BOTH cards every week!
Both of their families have to step in help with child care, clothing, food, and household purchases (like toothpaste) because they can't get their heads above water. Before she started dating him, she had thousands saved, a retirement plan, etc. Now, she has closed accounts and rising debt.
I have another friend who is going through what you are now. Her husband is a secret spender. He has his own credit cards, his own bank account. I don't know how much is accurate - I just have what she has told me. But in a years time, he dropped his contributions to the family coffers by more than 75%. Which translates to him spending an additional, roughly 100k a year on his own, in addition to what he was socking away without her knowledge. (I know of at least an additional 10k that he received every year that she couldn't touch.) He never pays his credit cards - she will get tired of the bills stacking up and finally opens one to see that he hasn't paid in 4 months, so she will take over minimum payments. If his cc are maxed out, he goes to using the family coffers with his debit card. She has no control.
What would work? Maybe going to a cash only basis. NO joint accounts. With his pay (your husbands pay), his allowance can be allocated to go into his bank account only and the rest to your bank account so you can manage the finances.
Do his buddies go out to lunch? What if you ordered pizza once a week and had it delivered to the guys at work? Made a big lunch and sent it in with DH?
Does he get hungry during the day? What does he buy at the gas station? Candy bars? Chips? Soda? Stuff you can get at the commissary and pack in the car for him so he doens't have to buy it?
Is he addicted to sugar?
For me - I have been with secret spenders. It hurts on so many levels. It takes the secret spender wanting to turn things around for there to be change. Some of the above suggestions may help.
For me - I know if I start eating out, then I am like 10x as hungry as if I was eating all my meals from home. I eat more. I eat more often. I "need" to grab something here and there. Lol - use to be that I couldn't make a 2 hour drive without stopping to pick up a snack at the gas station or a quickie drive thru because the person I was with had that behavior. Now I pack snacks/food/drinks for road trips. And yeah, I can go more than 2 hours in the car without stopping for something!
For me - cash is the best way for me to feel what I spend. With a cc, it's so easy to spend and not realize HOW much was spent. I spent the day with a friend last week. Friend wanted to go out to lunch. Yeah, I had packed my food so I wouldn't have to eat out and the friend knew I did this. Buried my food so it was inaccessible. Ok, fine, out to lunch one of my favorite places. Cost $35 for 2 people. Did the appts and finished up business and it's time for me to go home. Friend decides it's food time. Again. Again, my food is inaccessible. So grudging, I agreed to go eat at IHOP. Cost $22 for 2 people. It cost me $57 for two meals out and I didn't splurge. I told the other person how much it was. "Really??? You've got to be kidding!!! It was only two meals out. It couldn't have cost THAT much!!" Uh yeah it did and it went on my cc cuz I didn't have the cash. So he probably has no clue HOW much he's spending. What's a dollar here and a dollar there?
I've got another friend - this one is a guy - and he swears it's cheaper to eat out than to eat in. Maybe for him...but for me, it's cheaper to eat in.
What will you do? Hitting him upside the head with a 2x4 or a 2x6 is not an option.
Make a goal poster with house stuffs on it?
Make a list of the debt and post it on the fridge? And email him an update every two weeks? [You said he was deployed.]
Make an excel spreadsheet with the budger and week to week updates on the spending - to include his - and send it to him weekly?
ps - does your husband worry about where his next meal will come from? (I use to worry about that, so grabbing what I could when I could was a behavior I use to have. That got that fixed now. I don't worry about my next meal anymore.)
The secret food spenders I knew actually came from homes overflowing with food. Like the there was so much food (boxed, canned, packaged) that an entire nother room was designated for food and there was food on the counters, fridges stuffed to the gills, etc. I personally think they were overwhelmed by the amount of food at home that it was easier for them to grab gas station food and go out to eat than to deal with food choices at home.
The other thing I recall from the secret food spenders was that they didn't like the food choices at home. One was traumatized by his step mother's cooking. He claimed that she put vinegar on everything and he hated vinegar! Thus, the treats out so he would be "full" when he got home. True, he's age wise an adult, but he didn't change his teenage behaviors. Not even having a heart attack at age 31 would not change his behaviors.
The secret food spenders didn't really know how to cook either.
Sitting down for family meals has always been important to me. Not to the secret food spenders. Was meal time for DH pleasant growing up? Full of turmoil? Family members fended for themselves?
The way I budget is around my credit cards I know it may sound crazy but I got a few at different dates of the month and plan accordingly so everything (even if I end up short) will be covered and cared for and worst case scenario can be covered by a card that has a later due date to buy time til my next check. I'm greatful I haven't had to push things to tight BUT I am glad I know I am covered if a hardship does happen and it makes it quite easy for me to follow to I know this date this is due, this date that is due etc and I sort of look forward to seeing it positively affect my information as well sort of like a little game If you have all your cards synched to the same due date I'm not sure how to budget that way it may be easier or maybe I just need to stay busy?! But if you have a system or find out a system that works for you and your situation since you are the only one that knows that stick to it!!! Good luck