Military members have unique opportunities to both earn and save more money while still active duty or in the reserves. You might be familiar with some of these, but it’s easy to forget about them if it’s not built into your habit pattern. Let’s get after it!
Travel and Per Diem
I travel a lot for in my current billet (1-2 weeks per month) and I get per diem for every day I’m away from home. The amount varies depending on location and whether there is a base galley nearby or not, but you’re going to get some money no matter where you go. So travel on as many work trips as you can, be frugal while on those trips, and you’ll have extra cash hitting your bank account a week after you get back.
Shop at the Commissary
This is a no-brainer. Food is the third highest expense for most households (after housing and vehicles) so you can save a ton of money by shopping at the commissary. I do most of my shopping there and the prices simply can’t be beat by local grocery stores, especially here in San Diego. The U.S. government spends an enormous amount of money subsidizing commissaries for military members, so take advantage of this one. Also, make sure you make a list and don’t go hungry!
Bonus Tip: Always refuel your vehicles on base. It’s cheaper.
Ask for Military Discounts
You already know about this one, but how often do you take advantage of it? Most companies have military discounts, but they don’t advertise it, so make sure you ask whenever you’re shopping. Retailers with military discounts include Lululemon, Lowe’s, Patagonia, North Face, Mountain Hardwear, and many many more. Also, if your credit card has an annual fee, give them a call and they will likely remove it.
Don’t Buy that New Car
This isn’t unique to military but it’s so important and service members make this mistake all the time! Don’t buy new cars and don’t buy cars you can’t afford! Vehicles are depreciating asset, which means their value tends to decrease with time. So that sick $45,000 Mustang GT you bought two years ago with a 18% interest rate is probably worth $25,000 today. Wouldn’t you rather spend $45,000 on something that will increase in value – or even better – pay you every month! This is why you need to put money into passive income streams. (Check out my article about Turnkey Real Estate Properties to learn more)
You can make a LOT of money while deployed. Obviously this one depends on your branch of service, your military occupation, and many other factors, but it’s worth thinking about. Extra pay while deployed can include: imminent danger pay, combat pay, hazardous duty pay, sea pay, and Family Separation Allowance. These, like your BAH and BAS, are not subject to federal or state taxes as well – that’s a big win! And if you deploy to a combat zone like Iraq or Afghanistan, your base pay will not be taxed either! This can be substantial depending on your pay grade and time in service. Also, if you’re in a combat zone you can participate in the Savings Deposit Program which enables you to earn 10% interest on up to $10,000.
Additionally, your expenses generally decrease significantly while deployed. You’re probably not going out to eat or traveling while deployed, so you can cut expenses while increasing your income.
Most civilians don’t think of military service as the type of occupation that leads to wealth building. This is an over-generalization. Remember, wealth is not determined by how much money you make, its determined by how much money you save and what you do with that excess. It’s very possible to build wealth while in the military, you just have to create the right habits and plan ahead for many years from now. If you only plan two weeks ahead to your next paycheck (like most Americans do), you will never become wealthy.
Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this article, please share with a friend and follow Honor and Equity on Instagram @honorandequity.