11 Money Management Tips for Military Members

By Timothy Moore · January 24, 2023 · 7 minute read

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11 Money Management Tips for Military Members

Are you a member of the military? Whether on active duty or a veteran, in the Reserve or National Guard, you have unique opportunities to improve your money management. Taking advantage of things like military discounts and special mortgage loans are smart ways for military members to prioritize their finances. What’s more, there are additional actions military members and their families can take to protect and grow their finances.

Read on to learn how to budget and grow your money in the military, including:

•   How to save money in the military

•   How to snag discounts

•   How to shop wisely on base

•   How to access tax breaks

The Importance of Saving Money in the Military

Saving money is always a good thing when planning for your future. Members of the military — whether single, in a relationship, or married with kids — may especially benefit from making some careful money moves now. That way, you may be in top financial shape after the final deployment ends.

Recommended: 5 Ways to Achieve Financial Security

11 Tips for Military Members to Manage Their Money

Wondering how to save money while in the military? We’ve got 11 tips that you may find useful if you’re a military member thinking about your financial futures.

1. Creating a Budget

Having a monthly budget is a good way to track your expenses against your income. While it may be tempting to spend all of your paycheck each week during deployment, you might want to consider funneling away some money into savings or retirement to help achieve long-term financial goals and build wealth. A budget can help you do this, whether you use a journal, a spreadsheet, or an app to keep tabs on your money.

Budgeting for beginners can be overwhelming, but it’s an important step. Seeing your finances laid out in a clear budget makes it easier to determine how much you can afford to set aside from your paycheck, whether it’s to pay down debt or build your savings.

Recommended: Why You Should Pay Yourself First

2. Opening a Savings Account

As part of your budget, it’s a good idea to open a savings account, if you don’t already have one. You can set aside money here for everything from a down payment on a house after your service to a new car to a wedding. If you intend to leave money in the account for the duration of your deployment, it’s especially wise to find a high-yield savings account that pays high interest on all your deposits.

3. Automating Your Savings

Once you have a savings account, you might benefit from automating your savings, if your financial institution offers this. When you set up automatic transfers from checking to savings, the money gets whisked away before you see it sitting there, connected to your debit card, and tempting you to spend it.

Recommended: What Is an Aggressive Savings Plan?

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4. Avoiding Overspending

An important reason to create a budget is to avoid overspending, especially with credit cards. When you build a budget, you’ll be able to identify how much you can safely spend each month while working toward your goals. Whether actively deployed or in between deployments, it’s a good idea to rein in any unnecessary expenses and recognize common reasons for overspending.

Before making a major purchase, you might try the 30-day rule: Wait a full 30 days to see if the urge to buy the item passes. If it does, you’ve avoided an unnecessary expense.

5. Utilizing Military Resources (Like Military Discounts)

How else to save money in the military? Many retailers, restaurants, and services offer discounts to members of the military, usually if you provide proof of military identification. While military discounts may seem small, they can add up over time. They are especially helpful when making larger purchases, like a new car.

Some businesses extend military discounts to spouses as well. If you are deployed with a spouse back home, make sure your partner knows to ask about military discounts when shopping as well.

Wondering how to find the best military discounts? One route is to check out Military.com’s discount page and subscribe to their deals and discounts newsletter.

6. Shopping on Base

Shopping on base is a great way to scale back your expenses as a member of the military. For example, gas is typically cheaper on base, and you can usually get great discounts on groceries by shopping at the commissary because it doesn’t charge a sales tax.

Recommended: Feeling Guilty About Spending Money?

7. Investing in Education

If you want to pursue education after your service, check out the GI Bill. This bill can help veterans pay for college, graduate school, and training and certification programs. Head to the VA website to find out how you can take advantage of this education assistance and potentially save money by being in the military.

You can also see if you qualify for military student loan forgiveness.

8. Taking Advantage of Veterans Administration (VA) Home Loans

Buying a home can be a stressful experience, from saving for a down payment to getting approved for a mortgage loan to making an attractive offer fast enough to actually get the house you want.

As a servicemember, veteran, or surviving military spouse, you likely have unique access to a Veterans Administration (VA) home loan through private lenders.

When you purchase a home using a VA home loan, you typically don’t need a down payment, you’ll get a low interest rate, you won’t have to pay for private mortgage insurance, and closing costs are limited. And this isn’t a one-time deal: You can use a VA home loan for multiple homes over the course of your life.

9. Getting a Life Insurance Policy

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI). In fact, if you qualify as a servicemember, the VA automatically signs you up (but note – it isn’t free!). You can update the life insurance coverage as you see fit, change your beneficiaries, and extend coverage beyond your service, all by logging in with your CAC or DS Logon.

Learn more on the official SGLI page . But remember: SGLI is not your only life insurance option during and after your service. You might find better terms by shopping around for other life insurance policies.

10. Learning About Tax Breaks

The IRS offers unique tax benefits to members of the U.S. Armed Forces. These include tax breaks, tax deadline extensions, free tax help from volunteers, and more. If you’re unsure of how your service affects your tax situation, browse the free IRS resources or work with a certified tax professional.

Recommended: Tax Write-Offs for Young Adults

11. Planning for Retirement

Retirement may seem like a long way off, especially if you have just enlisted. But it’s a good idea to start planning for retirement early to maximize your income in retirement. A popular option for members of the military is the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), a federally sponsored retirement and investment plan. This plan is akin to an employee-sponsored 401(k). Some members of the military supplement this coverage with other retirement plans.

Banking With SoFi

Ready to start saving money while in the military? You can open an online bank account with SoFi to make budgeting, spending, and saving happen in one easy-to-access place. It’s not only more convenient — it’s more rewarding, too. SoFi Checking and Savings accounts offer a super competitive APY and no fees, which can help your money grow faster.

Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

Is it easy to save money in the military?

Saving money while in the military can be easy if you take advantage of several helpful military programs, including VA home loans, military discounts, federally sponsored retirement plans, and even cheaper gas and groceries on base.

What expenses do military members have?

Members of the military may incur the same expenses as the average person, including housing, food, and clothing. However, in addition to a servicemember’s paycheck, the Department of Defense also offers allowances that members of the military can use for basic necessities, which can help lower daily expenses.

How much do military members earn?

Members of the military make different amounts depending on their rank and years of service. However, servicemembers’ full payment includes not only their basic pay and military benefits but also military allowances, which go toward the cost of basic necessities like food and housing. Military members, whether servicemembers or officers, can earn additional pay through the Department of Defense’s Special and Incentive Pays program.


Photo credit: iStock/YakobchukOlena

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Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

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As an alternative to direct deposit, SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

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