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
- 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!
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:
- 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 (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!
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.