My husband has been in the military for 20 years. He has worked his way up through the ranks, but when we first got married we were a poor enlisted family that did not know how to work the military system to our advantage. Here are some tips I have learned over the years on how to make it on one income in the military.Â
- Use the military healthcare system. I realize there are many of you who have horror stories about military doctors. I have them myself, but I also have them about civilian ones as well. There are great military doctors, you just have to be picky. In the military health care system they should pay for everything including some OTC drugs. Â If you use a military pharmacy you can even request children’s Tylenol, Ibuprofen (childrens & adult), Claritin, Zyrtec, Robitussin, etc. Â
- Sign up for WIC. Â I know not everyone agrees with WIC but it is something that we used many years ago and it really helped us to make ends meet during that time period. This site will explain the WIC programÂ http://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/.Â Â There is probably a WIC office on base. Â
- Deployment benefits. Deployments are never fun, but if your spouse deploys make the most of this time. First of all most of the current deployments create a situation where your income is now tax free. There are also various deployment pays that your spouse will receive that are non taxable. Use that money to pay down any debt, or if you are debt free beef up your savings. There is also a savings program that allows you to invest up to 10,000 a year with a guaranteed 10% return on the investment.
- Speaking of savings we have had many times in our military life where our pay has been wrong. Once it was a several thousand dollar mistake. You need to have an emergency fund. Having money in the bank can help you through moves, deployments, and promotions which tend to be the time when your pay can be inaccurate.Â
- Make sure you use the military to cover all other work related expenses. Â For example, if your spouse has to take a cab home from the airport after a TDY, the military will reimburse them for it. Â
- Save money on kids stuff by using Â hand me downs, e-bay, thrift shops (including the base thrift shop), yard sales (especially this time of year.) Â Go early for the good deals. Â Craigslist is also a great resource. Â
- Talk to First Sergeant if AF or Chief if Navy about money/financial Â planning. Â Â
- If Air Force, visit the Family Support Center. Â I think they may have changed the name of this to Airman Readiness Center or something. There is a place called Airman’s Attic with all kinds of free stuff. Some with free things including diapers, formula and clothing. Â
- Whenever you move, even if you have the military hire movers, do a partial DITY move. You can usually make a few hundred dollars just by weighing your vehicle and filling out a few forms.Â
- Increase the number of exemptions for taxes. Â This creates more money in your pocket each pay period.
- If you can live on post, this is almost always a better deal than renting. Everything is covered in your BAH including utilities.Â
- Shop at the commissary. There has been a lot of debate about whether or not the commissary is cheaper, but I have friends who have made price books and they agree that the commissary is cheaper.Â
- Many bases offer services for family members of deployed service members. I know that where I live the Army subsidizes drop in child care as well as gives discounts on tons of programs if the parent is deployed.Â
- Become a resident of state you are stationed if there is no income tax.
- Utilize your local library for entertainment. Books, CDs, movies and activities for preschoolers are all available at the library for free.Â
- This would be long term, but, your spouse should start on their bachelors degree if they don’t have one already. Apply to Officer Training School or even a ROTC program somewhere. Â Let the military pay for it all. Â Take advantage of all the tuition assistant programs available. My husband got his commission through the Navy. The Navy paid his salary for 3 years while he got his bachelor’s degree. He also got his masters degree paid for by the Navy, as well as numerous certificates and certifications.Â
These are just a few ways to thrive on a military income. I hope to continue this series throughout the summer. Â Thanks to my friends and military spouses Liz and Nancy for helping me come up with these suggestions.Â