Money can be tight when you have a military family. A lot of military spouses stay home with their kids or have trouble finding jobs due to frequent moves.
My husband and I used to go out to dinner a lot, take little mini vacations, go shopping, etc. My hubby loves to buy things (especially tactical gear; $70 for a SHIRT because its “TACTICAL”..lets not get too far off track). Anyway, when I decided to stay home, we knew we would be tight and we knew we would have to change our ways a little.
But that doesn’t mean you have to stop having any fun at all. I have learned some great ways to save money (especially with travel) for military families.
Shop at Commissary
Find your closest commissary and shop there. We went from spending about $150-180 at walmart weekly to spending about $150 every 2 weeks (or more). Thats more than HALF of our grocery expenses eliminated. Commissary also accepts coupons like all other grocery stores. The closest commissary to us is about 30 minutes away and is very small (however, I have been to commissaries larger than my local walmart). Despite the small size, I have never had trouble finding what I want and I love that they have name brands (unlike Aldi’s).
A few examples of price differences:
- Poly-O Cheese Sticks at walmart: $3.76 | at commissary: $3.00
- Yoplait Greek Yogurt at walmart: $1.00 | at commissary: $0.69
- Donut Shop Coffee K-Cups at walmart: $9.98 | at commissary: $5.52
It adds up quick. Don’t get me wrong, not everything is cheaper.
USAA is like military version of AAA. I found USAA when I was trying to rent a car while visiting my husband in Mississippi. I was 24 yrs and 11 months old and couldn’t find anyone that would rent me a car without an underage fee (you need to be 25 years old or they charge you about $30 a DAY). Thats when I discovered that renting a car through USAA not only got me a discount, but they also waived the underage fee.
Now, keep in mind I was very last minute in reserving a car- so it was going to cost more for that reason anyway but I went from having to spend over $500 to $206 for a one week rental. I’ll take it.
There are actually many different discounts that you can get through USAA. Including:
- car rentals
- hotels and resorts
- cruises and tours
- travel insurance
- home security through ADT
- PODS moving storage
- online shopping
Okay so this is an obvious one. All military family members should know about Tricare and getting health insurance at no cost for active duty members. My husband has Prime and my son and I have Standard. Both have no monthly premiums and have good coverage. I’ve had 3 surgeries in the past year and I haven’t spent more than $100 collectively (excluding office visits and such). Dependents of military members are eligible for prime but I decided to keep standard because it is more widely accepted.
What we didn’t always know was that we were eligible for health care benefits before my husband left for basic. We did have to pay for it because he wasn’t active duty, but even for Tricare Reserves, it was only $210 for family.
I was paying $334 for JUST ME before we switched to tricare.
Another tip that is fairly new for tricare is that they now cover breast pumps and parts 100%. They will cover one electric breast pump per birth and they will also cover the following supplies for up to 36 months after birth:
- Standard power adapters
- Tubing and tubing adaptors
- Locking rings
- Bottles and bottle caps
- Shield/splash protectors
- Storage bags
Have you had the same insurance since before you or your spouse joined the military? Make sure your not missing any discounts. We didn’t even know that there were military discounts for car insurance until we added my husband to my policy. My husband was paying $170 for just himself through geico. I paid $86 for mine, so our total: $256 (monthly).
When we got married and added him to my policy (also geico) as a military member, our total payment dropped to $117. Not bad at all.
Take advantage of those military discounts. You have earned them as a military member/family (spouses sacrifice too!) Don’t be afraid to ask! Hardware stores such as Lowes and Home Depot offer 10% to military members. Old Navy offers 10%. Yankee Candle, Best Buy, Apple.. the list goes on.
Want to learn, step-by-step, how to save money in EVERY aspect of military life? Sign up for our FREE 30-day Military Savings Transformation E-Course which includes 9+ printables, worksheets, and checklists (and even our 50+ page military discount list)!!!
Also, museums are a big one! We both got into the National History Museum in NYC for free. In Boston, we both got 50% off at the Aquarium and at the Children’s Science Museum he got in for free. Always ask, the worse they can say is no.
We just found out about the major military travel hack and we really kicked ourselves! My hubby was telling one of his coworkers at the base about how we were going to be going to Boston. They got talking about the hotel we were staying at and they asked why he wasn’t staying at the base.
Now, we knew about base hotels. I stayed at one in Mississippi for a week at about $60/day. It had a full kitchen, living room, bedroom, and bathroom and came with a pack-and-play for my son to sleep in. What we didn’t know is that regardless of wether or not you or your spouse are stationed there, you can stay at any base hotel (provided that there is a room available) for about $60/day.
We used a groupon deal when we stayed in Boston. Our room was only big enough to fit a full size bed and had a very small bathroom. It also had no refrigerator (so the formula had to be on ice) or microwave. It was $75 per night, plus a $15 fee, plus a $15 hotel fee when we got there and NO parking- so add another $30 for the parking lot. Had we stayed at the base, it would have been $60.
One thing to keep in mind about base hotels is that you can’t reserve them more than 3 days in advance. It made it pretty nerve-racking when I was going to Mississippi. I was really nervous that they wouldn’t have a room available (after all, we didn’t realize it was a holiday weekend) It worked out though.
Also specify that you want a family room. They were going to put me in a private room with a shared bathroom (uh…no) until I mentioned that my son was with me. Then I got a suite that was the size of my first… and second… apartments.