My name is Kalen Bruce and I am the founder of MoneyMiniBlog.com. This is actually my second post on CNA. My first was about automating your finances. I want to introduce myself and give you a rather unique article today. When I'm not writing about finances or spending time with my wife and four kids, you will find me at work for the USAF. Since I am active duty military, I thought this article would be fitting to start things off as a regular contributor. Don't forget to share this article with your military friends! Enough about me, let's jump in... When you hear about the financial aspects of the military, you won't get far without hearing the word "benefits". As we all know, the benefits range from pride in serving your country all the way down to your food allowance (BAS). Why do we hear so much about the benefits? Because the base pay isn't that impressive, but once you add in the benefits, military pay doesn't look too shabby. The benefits go outside the realm of health insurance and allowances. Let's look at some benefits that the military has to offer that aren't mentioned quite as often...

1. Saving $600 Per Year

Almost every base has a gym. If they don't have anything else, they have a gym. It's easy to take it for granted, but have you ever stopped to think about how much you could be spending if you didn't have access to the base gym? Nowadays gyms range from $10 to hundreds of dollars per month. So let's take the average price of a gym membership...about $50/month...that may even be low-balling it. That's $600/year that you are saving. If you are in for 20+ years, you can look at it like a $12,000+ bonus.

2. The Amenities

It's well-known that some military bases are pretty impressive, while others...not so much. Even the most desolate bases usually have some amenities to offer. Usually something along the lines of...
  • Swimming pools
  • Bowling alleys
  • Movie theatres
  • Hobby shops
  • Running trails
  • Libraries
  • Recreational Rental
You can save gas, if you live on base, by having these facilities within a few miles. Some of these shops can save you more than gas, like the auto hobby shop, for example. It's usually very affordable for the hobby shop to work on your car. You can get an even greater benefit by letting them teach you to do the work yourself. If you learn to change your own oil and brakes, you can save some serious money for the rest of your life.

3. Free Legal Advice

The JAG may not be the multi-million dollar lawyer that O.J. would hire, but they can offer sound legal advice...and best of all, it's free! Free Legal Advice Some of the things the legal office can help with include:
  • Providing legal counsel
  • Preparing legal documents
  • Drafting powers of attorney
  • Reviewing contracts and leases
  • Estate planning advice
  • Notary services
  • Drafting wills
  • Tax advice
You can literally save thousands in legal fees just by talking to your base legal office.

4. Hidden Money

When I first joined the military, I started to notice something. There were several places on base that would hold drawings and contests to win different prizes. I also noticed that nobody seemed to pay much attention to them. I have never really been one for drawings or contests like that, but my wife changed my mind. There were reading contests at the library, random drawings for prizes and several other contests across the base. What was the prize? Usually gift cards to popular restaurants and stores, which basically translates to cash! Once my wife started doing the library reading contests, she noticed that, on more than one occasion, she was the only one competing. And the prize was a $25 gift certificate for reading a few books. It may not seem like a huge benefit at first, but we ended up winning several hundred dollars in gift cards over the first year we participated. It's worth checking into.

5. Free Tickets

Many times when an event comes to your town, your base may receive a certain amount of free tickets to hand out. Who doesn't love free tickets? The free tickets don't end there. Military members can also receive free entry, once per year, for yourself and up to 3 dependants for the following places:
  • SeaWorld
  • Busch Gardens
  • Adventure Island
  • Water Country USA
  • Sesame Place
  • Aquatica SeaWorld's Waterpark in San Diego
You get to choose your tickets each year, so why not try them all? If you're active duty military, simply go here to register.

6. Cheap Travel

If you're in the military, there is a good chance you like to travel. Many times you will have the opportunity to explore the local area when you travel for training. Of course, most of the time you would probably prefer your travel to be for pleasure. Especially with 30 vacation days per year. When you decide to travel for fun, you can take advantage of the low hotel rates at military bases across the globe. If you want the benefits of owning a timeshare without actually buying once, check out AFVClub.com for some seriously cheap vacations. Instead of purchasing a timeshare, you can always just take cheap vacations. When you calculate the annual cost of a timeshare, including maintenance fees, this website will probably come out ahead. If you already own a timeshare, you can use this for another vacation. You can also fly for free using Space Available Travel. You have to be flexible, but for a free flight, who isn't willing to be flexible? You may not want to plan an entire vacation around Space A Travel, but it can definitely come in handy. Especially once you learn the system and how to use it to your benefit. Ask around. Most likely someone around you has used it and possibly even mastered it.

7. Military Discounts

Some communities love the military. You tend to see military discounts almost everywhere in those areas. Sometimes, you may not actually be stationed at a base, so the discounts may be few and far between. The point is to always ask! For example, Home Depot and Lowe's offer a 10% military disocount everywhere. That can easily equate to several hundred dollars if you are remodelling your home. Military discounts can go beyond the stores. Many airlines offer a military rate even if you are flying for pleasure.

8. United Service Organization (USO)

If you have never been to a USO, you are in for a treat. Literally. USO USO (United Service Organization) is an organization that supports our military across the globe. The USO Centers, which are commonly referred to as USOs, are a great place to be. They are found all around the world. The most common place you will see them is in airports, but you will find them in more places than that. San Antonio, TX, for example, has a really nice USO right in the middle of downtown. Next time you fly, be sure to stop by the USO for some entertainment, wi-fi, resting areas and free food!

Final Words

If we add up a few of these benefits, it's easy to calculate an extra few thousand dollars that we save/earn each year. Every base is different, just like every branch is different, but these are all benefits that most military members will come across in their career. It's important to appreciate what we have. I have known way too many service members that constantly complain about how little we earn in the military. I am simply providing another perspective. Most of us [hopefully] joined for reasons outside of money, but it is nice to see that our paychecks really aren't too bad, especially when we consider every single benefit. Of course, the list of benefits could go for pages if you include the non-financial things, but the financial things are nice too. In the world today, we make the choice to serve. Nobody is forcing us and I'm pretty sure none of our current brothers and sisters in the military were drafted, so let's appreciate all that we are given. Be sure to check out more of my content on getting out of debt, saving money, making money, investing and productivity. Photo Credit: Andrew / Joe / The USO

19 COMMENTS

  1. Wow these all add up to a pretty nice package. That being said, I don’t understand how come servicemen and women don’t get paid more for all their sacrifice. I also feel the same about teachers. You guys should be getting paid a lot more than people sitting in congress doing nothing.

    • First off, thank you! As far as our pay, I definitely understand how people think it’s insane for Congress to make what they make, while our military is barely earning above the poverty line in some cases. I guess it all comes down to the government not having a clue how to handle finances. lol

  2. It’s great that you pointed out all the intrinsic benefits one gets by serving in the military and they do add up/save money! Even in the public/private sector, many workers are entitled to benefits that may not pay in cold hard cash but help in different ways to improve our lives. Thanks for sharing this perspective Kalen.

  3. Wow…it’s an honor sir and am right there with dollar ninja…our servicemen and ladies need to be well compensated. That said, there sure are some nice benefits to being in the military 🙂 Well managed and utilized, one can certainly come ahead ahead financially (and in other areas) despite the poor pay.

  4. First off…thank you very much for your service. Sounds like there are some great benefits, and it is well deserved. I’ve also heard the pension/retirement plan and health benefits are excellent too…but I guess those aren’t “little known.”

    • Hey Andrew!

      You’re welcome! Thanks for your support. We really do appreciate it. You make a great point about the retirement. It may not be little-known, but that’s a great benefit to the military. One of the only places you can retire after 20 years.

      Thanks for the comment!

  5. I have a few close friends in the military. They also mentioned the benefit of not requiring a down payment when buying a home. I’m glad the military offers so many benefits to supplement the pay you receive. You definitely deserve this and much more for your service.

    • Thanks so much! You’re too kind. That is another great point. Military qualify for VA loans, which usually have great interest rates and no down payment if you don’t want to pay one.

      Thanks for the comment!

  6. It seems to me that having served in the military you deserve to get all sorts of benefits. I’m glad to hear of some of them that you o get. I’m 56, but if I had it to do over again, I would probably join.

  7. This is all wonderful and the brave men and women from the military deserve this and so much more. I wish they would move up the standard base pay and give everyone a raise. That is something I would support my tax dollars going for.

    • Hey Holly!

      We do appreciate that! I feel the same, I would support most things with my tax dollars that supported the military. Especially compared to where our money goes now.

      Thanks for the comment!

  8. USO helped my family member get home when a sibling died. They are the best. And even though I didn’t live on base, JAG resolved a legal matter with a deceptive gym membership of all things. Go to a free trial week and all of a sudden you have a $150 membership. When I called they said, “Oh, we’ve been waiting to take these guys down!” Serious discounts at Ripley’s aquarium and Medieval Times, too. Not free, but deep deep discounts. That goes for a lot of places if you just ask. Also, get your taxes done for free!

    • Very true! Thanks for adding to the list. Yeah, the USO is so awesome. It’s a great organization. I didn’t know Medieval Times gave a big discount; I’ve always wanted to go! Also, Toby Keith’s bar and grill give a free meal to military members and their families.

      Thanks for the comment!

  9. Thank you for your service!!

    I am a 20-year veteran who retired from the Air Force, and everything you said is 100% true. It’s too bad that so many of us either took these blessings for granted or didn’t take advantage of it.

    What I most remember is how the American Red Cross flew me back to the States from Korea when my Dad passed away.

    Just about everywhere I was stationed got free or discount prices to the amusement parks, sporting events, etc…

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