A Military Family’s Guide To Saving Money

A Military Family’s Guide To Saving Money

As a military spouse, I know first hand how difficult it can be to PCS, find a new job, leave that job, have kids and basically live on one income, so I wanted to share some tips I’ve learned along the way on how military families can save money.

A Military Family's Guide To Saving Money

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Unless you are debt free and don’t use credit cards, you may be struggling to find a way to pay for that pricey car repair, or even the latest tech gadget your kid(s) desperately want. Because I’ve been in your shoes, I wanted to share some tips to help ease the crunch and keep more money in your wallet.

Shop at the Commissary and Exchange
One of the great perks that military spouses have is getting great discounts on brand-name items at their base Exchange, tax-free. Plus, if you compare apples to apples, the Exchange has lower prices than their off-post competitors. Even if you do find a cheaper price at a retailer off-base, take the ad into your Exchange and they will price match! And as for grocery shopping, shopping at the Commissary actually saves you about 30% or more than the local grocery stores! You can read more about savings at your Commissary by visiting Commissaries.com.

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Become a Couponer
Already shop at the Exchange and Commissary? Do you use coupons? If not, you may want to rethink why you’re not using them. With Commissary prices so low compared to competitors, you can score dirt-cheap deals, or even free stuff, just by using coupons! The Commissary actually encourages the use of coupons, with their relationship with large companies such as Kraft and Unilever, just to name a few. These two companies work with the commissary and create coupons exclusive to military only {these coupons will state “military store only” on them}. Some Commissaries even have retailers sit up front and pass out their coupons, hoping you will use them! You can even use coupons at the Exchange as well – in fact, the Exchange allows you to “stack” your coupons {unlike the Commissary where it’s one coupon per item} for even more savings!  A great place to start clipping is over at Coupons.com Also, be sure to check out how you can use Reverse Couponing to Save Money! And, I also wrote a guide on Couponing 101: How To Use Coupons – A Beginner’s Guide, so be sure to check it out, too!

Visit Frugal Coupon Blogs
Type in “frugal blogs” in Google, and you’ll get over one million results. Frugal blogs have gained enormous popularity in just the last few years, thanks to the downturn of the economy. Suddenly, it’s as if frugal living is the hip thing to do! There are blogs that cater to free things to ones that cater to discounted savings on top designer items. Some of my favorite blogs have coupon matchups with the weekly sales circulars, detailing what coupons I need and where I can find them. Take notes on what stores have “free” products after store rewards and coupons, and print out the stores coupon policy in case you have issues when you present your coupons. Two of my go-to coupon blogs include MyMilitarySavings.com and The Krazy Coupon Lady.

Make a List
It’s important to make a list of the things you need when you go shopping, otherwise, your chances of overspending are higher than they are when you buy what’s on your list. Making a list will help keep you on track, plus, it will save you time. Divide your list up between cold and dry items, and if you really know your way around a store, jot down the aisle number next to the item you need. And, before you head out to the store, be sure to “shop” in your pantry to make sure you don’t end up buying what you already have.

Have a Budget
Create a spreadsheet with Excel, or keep a notebook of your monthly budget. Start with your take-home pay each month, and then write down each bill you have to pay. If you get paid twice a month, jot down the bills you can pay with each paycheck. Once you have the bills squared away, allot yourself a monthly grocery allowance. It may even be worth it to withdraw that amount you have allowed yourself and put it on a pre-paid card, that way, you know you won’t be able to overspend when you go shopping.

Military Discounts
This is definitely one perk of military life that you’ll want to take advantage of. Several stores and restaurants offer military discounts, such as Lowe’s and the Home Depot {10% off purchases}, and even some car dealerships offer incentives as well, such as GM’s Military Discount. It doesn’t stop there, however. Some insurance companies offer military discounts, too, such as Geico and USAA. Do some research online to see if your favorite store offers a military discount, and even email them or give them a call. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

Childcare Discounts
With monetary assistance from NACCRRA {the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies}, you’ll be able to save significantly on daycare expenses. Look into their military program at their website here, and find out if your daycare is partnered with NACCRRA, or call 1-800-424-2246. They do participate with on-post childcare, however, you may want to have a backup, as there can be a waitlist for on-post care. For married soldiers, the spouse must be working, looking for work, or attending school in order to be eligible for this program.

Collecting Unemployment
If you are a working military spouse and your husband has received orders to transfer to another duty station, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits because your decision to leave your job was not any fault of your own. You will need to check with your states unemployment agency to see if you may qualify. You’ll also need to apply and fill out a lengthy questionnaire as to why you quit and attach a copy of your notice-to-quit and spouses orders. If you are approved, depending on your states unemployment guidelines, you will need to show proof that you are looking for work each week.

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