December 13, 2018
Staying on top of monthly payments, sticking to a healthy budget, and saving for a secure financial future are challenging enough for civilians. Add in the responsibility, sacrifice, and constant upheaval that can come with life as a military service member, and remaining financially stable becomes an even more complex balancing act.
Fortunately, there are different forms of military financial assistance and support you can take advantage of, as well as financially savvy tips that can help you meet the unique challenges of being in the military. From learning ways to save more on necessary expenses to understanding financial aid and unemployment benefits, here are a few things you should know to help optimize your financial life.
Military commissaries and exchanges help make staying within budget easier for military members and their families. Both provide food and household goods at a sizable discount, allowing service members to save about 30% on food, cleaning supplies, and other everyday groceries. Essentially, the items are sold at cost plus a surcharge or modest markup. Both military commissaries and exchanges require you to use your military ID every time you shop.
Exchanges were formerly referred to by their military branch specific name, such as the Air Force base exchanges or Army post exchanges. The Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) renamed these tax-free military discount stores simply ‘exchanges.’ There are also exchanges for other branches, such as the Coast Guard exchange (CGX), the Marine Corps exchange (MCX), and the Navy exchange (NEXCOM). These stores include a small markup, with the profits going to local and service-wide Moral, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) projects as well as to the upkeep and ongoing costs of running the exchanges.
Commissaries are similar to exchanges, but items are sold at cost plus a 5% surcharge. The Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) has 261 stores available to military members and their families worldwide.
You can shop at these special discount grocery stores as long as you are:
National Guard members and military members of foreign nations are allowed to shop at exchanges but not commissaries.
You can save even more by incorporating some of these money-saving tips into your shopping strategy:
There are a variety of financial assistance programs for active and retired military members. They exist to help you thrive financially, so take advantage of them!
Education assistance can help you manage your student loans and reduce out-of-pocket school expenses. There are also options to share educational benefits with family members in exchange for an additional service commitment. Look into options like scholarships, tuition assistance, and financial aid for veterans through the GI Bill. Here are a few of those options:
There are also daycare assistance programs offered to military families to help reduce the cost of raising kids:
Unemployment compensation benefits are available for former service members. This is a vital service for men and women who need help getting on track once they leave the military and start looking for work or find themselves between jobs. To receive benefits, you must apply through your state’s unemployment benefit program. Just bring your Certificate of Release or Discharge with you, along with your Social Security card and resume. Unemployed spouses who had to quit their job because of a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move can apply for these benefits as well.
Having to move for the military comes with a lot of stress and disruption, but for many service members, it’s just part of the lifestyle. On average, service members move every two to four years! Use these PCS moving tips to help you save money and reduce stress during a transition:
For PCS moves, you are entitled to help with planning your move from the Transportation Management Office (TMO). If you do it yourself instead, the government will reimburse you 95% of what it would have cost for them, based on your authorized weight allowance.
The more you know about financial assistance and which programs are available to you, the better off you will be. Taking advantage of these programs, savings, and benefits can make it easier to stay ahead of your finances today, and to secure a more secure future tomorrow. If part of your more secure future involves having a credit card and building a credit history, applying for a Credit One Bank® credit card can help you get there.
Here are the top dos and don'ts to follow for building or improving your credit, protecting your identity, and guarding personal information from loss or theft.
You’ve spent years taking classes, studying for exams, and gaining practical experience to help prepare you to enter the workforce when you graduate. But are you prepared for the financial realities that await you?
Going to college can be exciting. If you’re like many college students, it may be the first time you’ve lived on your own, which might seem like a dream come true. But it may also be the first time you’ve ever had to live on a budget and manage your money on your own. And the expenses that accompany college living could quickly turn your dream into a nightmare of snowballing debt if you’re not careful.