One great thing about the military is the transparency in salaries. Everyone knows how much money everyone else makes, and two families of the same rank living on the same base will typically make the same amount (not accounting for a different number of dependents). There’s no pretending to be wealthier than you are, and less temptation to spend money to keep up with the Joneses.
However, as a military family, you’ll be looking to save money wherever you can. There are a lot of areas you can save on (takeout, toys, clothes), but here are eight things I never regretted spending money on:
If you haven’t taken advantage of the massive military discounts offered by Disney World, run to your nearest Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) office. You can get theme park tickets at over half off the regular price and Disney resort rooms at up to a 30% to 40% discount. I took my kids to Disney World when they were ages 3 and 4, and it was one of the best memories we ever made together.
For the opposite side of the coin, check out Victoria Kelly’s previous article:
9 things I wish I’d saved on as a mom on a military budget
I love taking my kids to the movies. The whole experience, from getting the popcorn to watching a movie together on the big screen, is so much fun to do as a family. I recommend buying candy ahead of time if you can, to save on movie snacks, but I don’t regret any money I spent on movie tickets. Why? Because there are so many distractions while watching movies at home now. It’s a great lesson in being present in the moment to sit in a dark theater and focus on one movie for two hours. Most theaters also have military discounts, especially if you don’t go during prime time.
Some parents might disagree with me, but I think iPads are worth the money. First of all, they last longer than any other tablets, and they’re easier for kids to use. I tried the LeapFrog tablet, a Fire, and a Sprout, and none of them had the features of the iPad. My kids have had the same ones for four years. I recommend iPad minis because they’re cheaper than regular iPads, and they are easier to hold and pack in bags. I do limit screen time and regulate what my kids can watch (I took the oh-so-popular “Roblox” and YouTube off my 6 and 7-year-olds’ tablets and kept just Netflix and a few games). Apple offers a 10% military discount on all products.
SUV / Bigger car
Before I became a mom to four after I got remarried, I was a mom to two – and drove them around in a three-row SUV. I have never regretted having all that space. As a military family, you’ll not only be moving a lot, and need that trunk room, but you’ll be buying/swapping a lot of secondhand toys and furniture with other families and will need space to transport big items like bikes and desks.
Having a pet that moves with you can be very comforting to kids who are moving often. And if you only have one child, it’s especially important to have that built-in playmate. Also, having a dog helps kids make friends in a new place. Lots of my kids’ friends like to come over to play with the dog, and it gets kids outside and active.
The Greenbrier Resort
The iconic Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia is just a four-hour drive from DC and a five-hour drive from Fort Bragg and from Virginia Beach. They offer a 20% military discount on rooms, which means that if you go at the right time, you can get a room in this luxury resort for just over $200. The family-friendly hotel has so many amenities for kids, including horseback riding, scavenger hunts, a toy store, an ice cream shop, a ropes course, an indoor and outdoor pool, a kids’ club (so parents can relax alone) and more. This was worth every penny for the experience.
Children’s museums and zoo memberships
These are well worth the money for young kids (and moms who are tired of being stuck inside). As we emerge from COVID, check out the museums and zoos near you – most will have activities that are especially geared toward kids.
Starting a 529 account
Starting to plan and put away money for college from age 0 will save you so much in the long run. Try one of the 529 savings calculators online to see how much. I’ve put as much as I can into my kids’ accounts, but I still wish I had put more when they were even younger.
Read more from Sandboxx News:
- Budgeting for military families: Tips that make a difference
- 7 Tips to make military housing cozy on a small decorating budget
- Getting through your first military deployment as a couple
- A primer on saving for retirement
- 8 military charities dedicated to helping families like yours