By choosing to serve in the military, you are choosing a career like no other. The discipline and dedication it takes to work a job like this will challenge you every single day – so it’s only right that your patriotism should be reflected in your salary. As part of your job, you have a unique opportunity to turn your salary into a fund that will far outlive your military career. Here are 11 money-saving tips for military service members.
1. Make Sure You Know How to Save Your Income
If you’re a young person in the military, almost all of your paycheck is disposable income. It’s likely that you are so busy training, eating in the chow hall, and sleeping in the barracks that the money will pile up quickly.
However, once you are off base, saving becomes a challenge. But, as long as you keep your head you should be able to build an abundant savings account. So, how exactly is that possible? With a little planning and persistence.
2. Plan for Your Future
You probably know someone older who has completed their service and got their life set-up and now lives comfortably. It’s actually pretty obvious how this person has achieved this – they just planned well. It doesn’t matter what rank you currently are, by looking to the future you can manage your savings. As you rise up through the ranks, try to live the same way and keep similar habits. Even though it’s tempting, don’t live above your means.
Embrace the idea that by saving now, you’ll be able to enjoy your life later.
3. Pay Yourself First
After David Chilton wrote The Wealthy Barber in 1989, it became an instant hit. That’s because it contained the straightforward and simple wisdom – pay yourself first. Around 10% of your income should go straight to your savings account. The percentage might change depending on your circumstances, but the principle is the same.
If you are at the start of your career you won’t have any debts or large bills to pay, so your savings account should be a priority. Decide how much of your salary you want to save, and what for. For example, you can set up separate savings accounts for property, education, retirement etc. Set up an automatic transfer so that the savings leave your current account without you having to think about it.
4. Invest in Your Education
The military knows that education is a great investment. Even the intense training you completed in boot camp translates into certain college credits. Another educational perk is the GI Bill. It makes it available to take college, vocational, business technical, distance learning, certification tests, apprenticeships, flight training, and job training for veterans and reserves. The Montgomery GI Bill education benefit can be worth more than $69,000, which is a huge investment into your future, and long after.
5. Invest Your Money
One of the best ways to grow your money is to start investing. First, the stock market comes to mind. If you don’t have much experience in the stock market, it’s a good idea to hire a professional to manage your portfolio.
Aside from stock trading, you could invest in a business, start your own, buy property, land or currency. Vacant land gives you the chance to build your own house or investing in rental property is always a smart move. While the military pays your living expenses, a renter pays your mortgage.
6. Use VA Loans
One of the best benefits available to military workers is The Veterans Administration home loan. If you qualify for this loan, you can buy or refinance a home mortgage with a $0 deposit. Just remember to be humble and not jump at the chance to buy a mega-mansion.
A lot of the time, commercial and industrial properties are overlooked as investment opportunities, but these can provide long-term tenants, which provides a long-term payday for you. Your credit score plays a big part in determining if you are eligible for a VA loan, so be smart with your credit.
7. Save on Healthcare
Military work is risky business, so it’s only right that you should receive free healthcare for your sacrifice. The Department of Veterans Affairs offers free hospital and outpatient healthcare which is necessary to “preserve and restore health.” The plans do differ, but primary coverage includes treatment for brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, blindness rehab, radiation exposure treatment, and more.
On top of that, dental treatment is also free for active duty members, as excellent oral hygiene is required to maintain your deployment status.
8. Use Your Military Discounts
No matter where you are currently based across the nation, military discounts are available for you to save money. Many entertainment venues and restaurants offer discounts to military families. Generally, all you need to do to get one is ask.
Your spouse is also entitled to educational support using the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts for scholarships and to receive tuition assistance. Find out what discounts you are entitled to receive and use them. It’s surprising how many companies are owned by veterans – FedEx, Walmart, and Nike to name a few.
9. Focus on the Smaller Things
Once you’ve taken advantage of starting a savings account and are using awesome benefits like military discounts, start thinking about smaller perks.
There are many tiny things you can do to save money, for example, gas is always cheapest on base. So, it’s a good idea to fill up on site to get the best rate in the area. You can also shop at the commissary, which has even lower priced items than Walmart and other discount supermarkets. Commissary must sell at items at cost, and doesn’t charge regular taxes – that’s why it’s cheaper.
10. Get Smart About Tax Breaks
One sweet perk of serving in the military is the tax breaks available. For instance, if you are working in a combat zone you can take advantage of Combat Pay Exclusion, meaning that the money you are earning is tax-free during deployment. You can also deduct the following expenses: Uniform Deduction, ROTC Allowances, and the Reservists Travel Deduction. To find out which tax breaks apply to you, work with a tax expert to save the most money.
11. Use the Help That Exists for Your Spouse
On top of training and dealing with your deployment, your family has to put up with constant relocation, too. Packing up every couple of years and moving to a new place can be a hardship for many families and make it hard for spouses of military workers to find a job. The Veterans Employment Center can help bury the burden, by helping your spouse connect with new employers and find a job that fits the military lifestyle.