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Shopping Tips for Military Soldiers and Their Families 

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Military members and their families face a lot of challenges on a daily basis. Deployment and relocation are stressful, and the lives of the other family members aren’t really easy either. When it comes to the financial situation of military families, there are various benefits to the purpose of which is to try and make their lives easier and less stressful. Government and many private companies and organizations alike offer similar benefits and discounts in order to support military families.

Commissary shopping

One of the benefits of military life is discounted shopping on base. The on-base department stores are called “exchange” and the on-base grocery store is known as the commissary. You can shop at the commissaries if you are a military ID card holder which you have to carry with you whenever you go shopping. In some occasions, your card will be checked when you go in, but you are always required to scan it at the checkout.

Prices in the commissaries are negotiated with manufacturers and they can often change. Sometimes the prices can change every two weeks, but that depends on what the commissary was able to pay for a certain product in that cycle.

You can often find things that are cheaper than usual and you can check everything online. DeCa keeps you updated on the list of products that are on sale at the moment. The list can be accessed on the DeCa website and in order to see it, you have to log in using your first and last name, date of birth, and last four digits of your social security number.

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Coupons are also a good way to save some money while shopping at commissaries. They accept coupons that are marked “commissary” and the regular manufacturer coupons. However, you cannot use both coupons at the same time, nor can you use double or triple coupons like in regular grocery stores. On the other hand, if you manage to use enough coupons so that the store is owing to your money they will give you the money as long as the amount is not more than 25 dollars.

Few times a year, the commissary hosts “case lot sales” which are bulk item sales held in the parking lots. Here, you can find some products for a much better price than usual because commissaries try their best to negotiate really good prices for these events. You can’t always be sure you’ll find products for a much lower price, but it is definitely worth trying.

Military IDs will also give family members access to commissaries. Military retirees, service members, and their families can often save up to 30 percent more compared to other civilian grocery stores.

Exchanges

You can also shop at the military Exchanges. Every service branch has an Exchange system that allows you to shop online or in stores at discounted prices and also tax-free. They often remind people of malls with numerous different shops and services some of which are barber shops, dry cleaning, gas stations, fast food shops, garden equipment stores, and uniform shops. There are also some online stores such as  www.veterannations.com that send all kinds of army print apparel. No matter what your branch is, you are allowed to shop in any Exchange. Another beauty of Exchanges is that they often offer discounts and special deals. Sometimes, if you’re stationed overseas for at least 30 days, you can buy a car tax-free and have it delivered to the US for free.

Family benefits

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1. Health

All immediate military family members are granted access to the healthcare provided by the military. It’s up to the family members to choose whether they want to enroll in Tricare Prime, Tricare Standard, or Tricare Extra. The first option, Tricare Prime, all family members can receive necessary treatment at MTF, or Military Treatment Facilities, or pay some smaller amount of money in order to receive services from PCMs. Families that opt for a Tricare Standard option, have to pay an annual deductible and 20% of all medical care costs.

2. Education

Through programs like Family Educational Assistance Programs, families are being offered job and educational support. Spouses of military members can receive up to 4,000 dollars for trainings or degree programs. Furthermore, there are also numerous scholarships designed for military spouses and dependents.

3. Military discounts

Many organizations offer discounts for the members of the military and their close family. You should always ask about the potential military discounts and you should make sure to always have the military ID with you. When you’re eating out, shopping or looking for some other kind of service, ask about the military discounts.

Steps you can take in order to save money

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This is mainly about changing some of your habits and introducing new ones. As soon as you get used to doing certain things in a certain way, you’ll easily manage to save some money.

  • Track your expenses. Always be aware of how much money you get and how much you’re spending each month. What are the things you spend the most money on? What expenses can be reduced or removed completely? See what spending habits you can change in order to reduce your monthly expenses.
  • Define your financial goals. Make sure they are not too ambitious as once you find yourself unable to fulfill them, you’re going to be anxious and demotivated. Keep your optimism by defining some doable short-term and long-term goals. You can always open an emergency savings account, reduce your debt little by little, or start saving for a family vacation.
  • It seems obvious, but it’s surprising how many people forget to prioritize. Write down what your situation is currently and what you need to invest in. Once that is done, see what is executable and what is urgent. Start dealing with the things from the top of your list first and slowly progress towards the bottom.
  • Shop in garage sales, yard sales, and second-hand stores. You can often find great deals on these sales so don’t underestimate them. You can find dishes, clothes, some appliances, or even furniture that is in great shape.
  • Look for discounts and deals. We already mentioned commissaries and exchanges, but you can also always be looking for discounts in other stores as well. Even some amusement parks and museums offer military discounts.


Peter is a freelance writer with more than eight years of experience covering topics in politics. He was one of the guys that were here when the foreignpolicyi.org started.

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