Do You Really Make Money Living Offpost?

In my years as an Army wife , I have heard so many spouses say “you make money living offpost”! I have always wondered why so many people say this, as I have yet to experience it. Here are my experiences as to why…be prepared as there is some math involved and I failed math hehe:

Example 1:

When I arrived in Savannah GA, BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) at the time was $1100.00 a month. Now maybe because I demand a certain type of home, could be the reason why my housing allowance didn’t allow us to bank a surplus of cash. In all fairness though schools and safe neighborhoods were important to me and the area we chose to live in that was closest to the gate had no houses for rent under $1000 per month. Our house we rented  was $1050. So let’s do the math:

$1100-$1050=$50

So after rent we were left with $50 plus factor in we had lights and water and trash to pay for , not to mention gas for the car since we were offpost…where is the extra money?

Example 2:

We lived in Fayetteville NC back in 2006  and at the time BAH for us was $876. Our rent was $655. Let’s do the math:

$876-$655=$221

Add in electric $135 gas for the car $75 monthly and other utilities and there goes that extra $221.

Now that our math session is over, I guess my point in this post is that when making the choice to live on or offpost you must factor in that BAH varies based on rank and zipcode. So your friend who had a brother, who had a cousin ,who had a boyfriend who was stationed somewhere should not be your determining factor in living on or offpost.

Financial Factors to Help You Decide

* Is housing available onpost or going to be available within a reasonable amount of time.

* Gas prices and distance

*How much BAH you will receive

*Factor in utilities such as lights, water and in some areas trash (Utilities that are cheaper or free onpost)

Routes to the post from where you will be living and traffic congestion

*Cost of living in the area you are stationed in and in surrounding area should you choose to live in one of them.

Naturally there are other obvious factors that will determine your decision but this is strictly looking at it from a financial standpoint . If you want more space for your money living offpost can be a great thing but from my experience and in talking to others I have found those who claim they make so much money living offpost usually:

* Have no kids and live in a apartment which is usually cheaper

* Usually get the cheapest apartment which in turn banks them more money

* Do not have the bills that come with having children.

Whether you agree or not I would love to hear your thoughts, if you have lived offpost and did well share as I am sure other spouses would love to hear.

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Hooah & Smooches

Army Wife 101

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43 comments

  1. THANK YOU FOR POSTING THIS! It also depends on the duty station you are at. We are in Fairbanks, AK and our home on post is BRAND NEW, almost 1900 sq ft with a heated oversized one car garage. We couldn’t even come close to finding something off post that is *this nice, *this big, *includes all utilities, *brand new appliances, *mows the grass, etc.
    I, too, agree that the ones “making money” are the ones with either none or one kid, living in as small of a space as they can, DON’T have any debt of any kind, don’t have to pay for kids *clothes, *activities, *food, *extra gas to run them around to their activities, etc. etc.
    The only time I made money living off post was when my husband and I were both Active Duty Air Force in Abilene, TX. Since I had a child from a previous marriage and I was the ranking person in the family, I received the w dep rate of $965. He received non dependent rate of $723, both of us E4 but my DOR was before his. Our rent was $1100 because we also value things like good neighborhood, good schools, etc. Even after utilities we had a pretty good chunk left over.
    Now that he is Army and I am no longer in, we would LOVE to stay on post at EVERY duty station we go to. When we got here, they said it’d be a 6-9 mo wait. So we signed a one year lease off post. Luckily, GOD knew what was best for us and the home started growing mold EVERYWHERE.. under the carpets, on the windows, doors, etc. We were able to break our lease after 2.5 months and who would’ve guessed.. 10 homes were available on post!
    SO, even when housing may say it will be a long wait.. we are willing to wait.. at least 60 days to see. Next time we know.

  2. Brandy Wegscheider

    The only time we had exrea money living off post was in 1998 to 1999 when we had I child and had a cheap apartment in Copperas Cove Tx(Ft. Hood). We then moved onto post at Ft hood and had my second child and we did alot better money wise. Then we got pregnant with my son and moved off post to Belton because waiting list for a bigger house was long and we needed more room and we were stuggling every month. In Carson we lived off post to begin with and also struggled and then we got post housing and was way better off. I knox we could not afford of post so we lived on post gramted we took a 3 bedroom but it was worth it. Here at Benning living on post is worth it because we are closer to his work and if we had lived off post it would take him at least an hour to get to work. For us living on post with 3 kids is much better for us finically. But again its all what works for you and other factors such as rank, bah, number of kids.

  3. Stef

    I wouldn’t say we “make money” but we do have leftover money to put towards our debts ( which is why we have paid off 15k since November). I could care less where I live since I am only there to sleep and eat anyways so my husband and I live in a studio apartment. Being debt free ASAP is far more important to me than living in a nice apartment, as long as I’m not being shot at! I think it isn’t smart to depend upon the money you might be getting if you live offpost to “make money.”

  4. Stefanie

    THANK YOU! Most people I talk to haven’t considered everything when it comes to living on or off base! And, when I bring it up, they get defensive or mad about it. Well, sorry, but utilities are a fact of life as well as $3 gas for the car (in most areas) and traffic congestion.

    My husabnd and I are looking at PCSing in about 16 months, and I have said that I want to live on base next time. Just because the chances of us getting a “good” base with a nice area surrounding it is next to nil. And, if we do get one of the “coveted” bases, the traffic around the base is horrible, and I’m not going to stand for an hour or two commute time one way! Ridiculous! My husband only looks at the housing costs in areas and doesn’t consider everything else (like traffic congestion, commute times, gas prices, etc). I guess that’s why I write the checks for the bills! LOL

    Anyway, great post! And, hopefully people will pay attention and not complain as much about their current living situation!

  5. I think you’ll see people “making money” more overseas…here in Belgium, you get about 700 euros for JUST utilities (regardless of rank)! Yes, that’s almost $1000! Even if you’re not frugal, your utilities (including security monitoring) would run 500 euro at the very high end (that stuff is more expensive here than in the US), but still…..that’s quite a savings….you get COLA to handle food and other expenses, so if you play your cards right overseas (and get a home within your OHA, which is BAH for overseas locations)….you can come out way ahead:-)

  6. Robyn :)

    We don’t have kids and I think it costs the same to live onpost as off here at Fort Riley, KS. In a place with the same amount of space, that is. We could probably get a small one bedroom apartment and save some money, but no thanks.

    When we first lived here we lived 20 minutes away in a trailer home. With the cost of heating in the winter and other utilities it was about the same if not more than living on post. Now that we are making more BAH it would probably be less, but I do not want to live that far away, or in that particular trailer.

  7. We have never made money living off post either, but that may be because we have 4 kids and need a larger home. I would think that if you did not have kids or only had 1, you could do pretty well, especially here in the Fort Hood area. As others have stated, however, there are other costs associated with living off post that many don’t take into consideration. We had decided that we were going to try on-post housing at our new assignment, but took one look at the house they offered and went running the other way. We have to be a little more frugal in other areas, but for us it is completely worth the extra money to be in a nicer area in a nicer home.

  8. If you’re somewhere like El Paso (Ft. Bliss), Texas, good luck banking $ from BAH. With all the soldiers being moved here from literally all over the world, all the landlords are jacking up rent, and BAH didn’t get much of an increase for most ranks. We didn’t get an increase at all, but thankfully my husband ranks up this summer, so we’ll finally be getting more BAH than we pay rent. But then there is around a $40 water bill, $100 electric bill in summer, $40-50 electric in winter, and $12 gas bill in summer, and $25+ in winter…

  9. Thanks so much for sharing! My fiancee will be PCSing soon and I will be joining him next year, after our marriage. Even though he has been in the military for a while, this will be my first experience, so it’s always great to learn from the wives of other military personnel!

  10. my husband and i live at fort polk, la. his BAH then was around 850 or so. we had a 2 room 1 bath. Then i was in the military as well so we also got my half. Anyways. We always had issues with our house. there was flooding. 8 times. it never truly got fixed until we moved out. the sink clogged due to the upstairs house washer..twice. plus the upstairs neighbors had an issue with being quiet. we started having to pay electricity. granted they gave you an allowance, but come on. this is LOUISIANA! ITs HOT … we always went over the allowance at least 20.00. and believe me, that place was NOT worth 900$ BAH. My husband deployed. we moved into a nice trailer 2 room/2 bath. 475/month. my electric is about 130/month. water 20/month. yea…i save money. :) And theres no flooding or issues with the neighbors. and i have a HUGE yard.

  11. Shaunna

    You are lucky you have the choice. At Wainwright there was a year wait to get on post. They encourage officers to live off post. Its not true that you cant get anything off post for under your BAH. We are going to have a new 3 bedroom house 5 minutes from the gate for $450 under our BAH and utilities will run us about that maybe less. We will be able to own a house on an acre for the same as those living on post packed in like sardines.

  12. marie

    thanks for posting this. i just had this discussion with someone not too long ago and i totally agree with what you said.
    i have lived in an area where the BAH was $1,300, but my rent was only $550. why was it so cheap? i moved into a TINY 2bedroom home with my son to get out of a horrible situation. it wasn’t amazingly awesome, but it wasn’t the most horrible place to live. i also rented from my sister so it was a nice quiet neighborhood and she lived next door to me. so when i married my husband, i were making BANK off of BAH. that is not something typical for a family with children though. rental homes in that area were $900+ a month. i lucked out because i was renting from family.
    this time around, our BAH while living off post (before my husband’s promotion) was $816 and our rent was $725 a month for a 3bedroom home. that left us with $91. that is DEFINITELY not enough to cover the cost of electricity, gas, and water. not to mention we were living about 20miles or more from post and gas is close to $3.00 a gallon. we chose to move on post. do i think the housing here is worth what they take from us in BAH? nope. i sure don’t. most of the communities are pretty run down and are in the process of being remodeled or demolished to make space for newer homes. BUT i did like that my husband was able to come home after PT and for lunch every day for the 2 months before he deployed! that right there was worth the move. :)

  13. I agree there are a lot of factors. Also take into consideration the hassle you may have getting things fixed off post. Tenant rights vary state to state and even when something is your “right” you may still have to expend a lot of time and effort enforcing your rights with your landlord.

    Some posts may have more updated housing than others…and what is available at the time for your pay grade may be more or less house than you need and want.

    Thanks for stopping by the weekly linky at my site!

  14. THANK YOU for posting this!!! We’re PCSing to our first duty station soon and we’re trying to figure out if we would rather live on or off-post! This will definitely help us to decide :)

  15. AggieArmywife

    My husband’s BAH for Ft. Hood is $1,017 ,we live in Cove and the only problem we’ve had is our water line break outside our apartment so we paid $120 for water that month but our landlord split the bill with us. In utilities, we pay around $278 which includes $30 in gas for my car since I am the only here at the moment. We pocket $230 which goes to paying off debt while my husband is gone. We pay $510 in rent which is better than what we would have found in another area.

  16. Marcie

    Thank you for posting this! I’ve heard from so many wives that they would never live on post and that they make boatload living off and I sit and wonder how!? I think it does have alot to do with whether you have children or not and how you choose to live. Sure, I could rent a 600sq ft apartment for $500 and bank the rest of our BAH but that would be awfully cramped and we’d all be grumpy… Instead we have always chosen to live on post. Sure the houses are oddly layed out, but we have enough space for everyone to sleep and play as well as a yard for the kids to roam- for us, a yard trumps saving money and being cramped any day!

  17. Megan

    BAH = $1290
    Mortgage/Insurance/Taxes = $790
    Water = $40 (max)
    Electric = $200 (max)
    Total Banked = $260 (or more)

    We’re only 3.5 miles from my husband’s unit and 6 miles from my school. We DON’T live in a cheap apartment and we ARE parents. I would NEVER live on post.

  18. Megan

    Almost forgot, we do live in a very nice neighborhood and definitely didn’t pick the smallest or cheapest house to buy. It has a HUGE lot, completely remodeled inside, and is less 5-10 minutes from everything.

  19. Crystal Mil Spouse

    My husband is stationed at McChord in WA. He brings in $1635/month for BAH. We were able to buy a house off base that’s three times the size of on base housing and our mortgage is $1400/month. The leftover $235 doesn’t cover all of our utilities and extra fuel costs, but when we decide to sell all that money comes straight to us. So in the long run we will make money living off base and the military is making our mortgage payments for us.

  20. Pingback: Do You Really Make Money Living Offpost?

  21. Great discussion!

    We’ve never lived on base and I prefer not to, mainly because I don’t like sharing common walls or apartment type living. I like to have a little privacy and it gives my husband a different scenery from work. Living off base also gives you a chance to have more living space and to get to know the civilian community better. I would only entertain the thought of living on base if we PCS overseas.

    I think the issue isn’t necessarily if you make money from living off base, but what are the benefits of living on and off base. Each person has their own costs they have to count up and that makes the difference.

  22. Wendy

    I think it all depends on how much BAH your getting…In Colorado we were getting around $1300 per month and I feel we should have lived on-post there since our house payment was $1200 per month then we also had all our utilites to pay out of pocket…We would have saved a TON living on-post there. However here in NY we are getting almost $2700 per month BAH and we have found a REALLY nice townhouse off-post for $1850+ utilities and I have found that even after they are paid we are making anywhere from $300-$500 per month. The biggest problem is that no one in the neighbor hood is military and people are not very friendly with us..we feel like outsiders in a fancy neighborhood…and my kids have NO ONE to play with here…We are now considering moving on-post just so our children can have friends…There are more things to worry about when deciding where to live than money alone…I am willing to give up the extra cash if it means my children can actually enjoy their time here in NY!

  23. armybrat turned armywive

    I LOVE living onpost, all utils. Incld, more money to save because of no utils to pay, we are a big family 5 boys ages 18, 12, 11, 10, 4. We PCS’ed to upstate NY (bah is 1335) fort drum from DC, drum has very little to offer employment wise and entertainment wise. Shopping locally is very limited to a small mall, 2 strip malls across from the small mall, and if you want outlet shopping its. 3hr NE drive to outlets.

    In DC the kids went to Catholic by scholarship that paid for everything, uniforms, trips, lunch, etc. And all the smithsonian museums are free, vehicle inspection quick. You had shopping in bethesda, Georgetown, Va, Md, and DC also all with 30 to 40 mins of each other traffic is bad during rush hour mainly, but I timed my activities going the opposite way of traffic so I wouldn’t get stuck. Oh and sylvan learning center was apart of my boys after school program (which was also included in the tuition) we took advantage of free piano lessons for the kids thru dc parks and rec, free swimming lessons I mean we saved about 20,000.00. By just using the free servicing dc govt offers and all u have to do is be a DC resident. Drum doesn’t offer nearly half this, Lesson Learned, you can save, you can lose and you can break even, but please be diligent and research the best resources for your family needs.

    GOD Military Families

  24. armybrat turned armywive

    Oh yeah forgot this public transportation, I drove to work and had a govt parking space no need to pay for parking, and I would pick my hubby up from work or he would catch the train he loves metro and then we would pick up the kids, fort drum, there is no metro here and maybe two bus lines that cross a 1 to 2 mile radius out in town, we lived in silver spring md and rented a house but we are dc residents. rent was 1400 a month we rec’d COLA and BAH w/ dep. And i earned 42,300 a year salary. When we cane to drum no cola just bah w/ dep and we live onpost its a better bet for the kids and what you pay per kilowat hour for elec and delivery of elec, and also what u would pay for gas is more then what we paid in MD, so onpost works best for us here at drum. But the DC/MD was the best for career wise for me and him, more options and money to be made

  25. armybrat turned armywive

    GOD BLESS Military Families,

    In md we lived offpost b/c of cola and bah, all we needed was one vehicle I drove hubby to work or vice versa, we used the subway and alternated based on schedules, we dropped the kids off at school and would drop off either one for the train to go to work sometimes I would catch the train sometimes he would, we would pick each other up from the metro station and go get the kids from aftercare and my oldest would catch the train to school and home, cause he liked metro too.

    At drum my kids get picked up by school bus which was new for them I would always take them me or hubby, no public transportattion to and from drum, just cabs if you can get one, very little employment opportunities for teens or adults with a degree or without, with a masters or without.

  26. Sam

    Wow. You have a beautiful blog and I can’t believe you put this much effort into the article. Also, you are completely right that the most important things in a neighborhood are the schools and safety.

  27. Patti

    Even when overseas, we saved money living ON Base vs. off. Yes, our rent was less than the OHA off base, and we had the utilities allowance, but with 3 children the utilities allowance never covered all of it. We also were driving to and from base twice a day most days, so our gas bill for the cars ate up any extra that we might have pocketed. Granted we lived on bases that were compact enough to do a lot of walking, though–that definitely helps a lot over suburban commuter living! :) Now that we are back in the U.S., my dh insisted on buying a house, and we are struggling again. :( (Homeowners will know, there’s always something needing fixed, painted, updated, sprayed, etc.!!!) There are definitely advantages to living off post/base, but as a rule if you have children money is NOT one of them in our experience!!

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