Everyone knows of some dummy who bought the newest, most expensive, flashy car straight out of Basic Training. This is the example of what not to do as soon as you start earning disposable income. These people barely have enough money to put fuel in their cars, much less spend money on adventures. Same goes to brand new phones and crazy expensive data plans. Don’t be too proud to use a slightly older phone on a pay as you go plan. Just by searching around I cut my bill from $75 a month to less than $25 for unlimited calls, texts, and data. Think about which pointless costs to cut, and cut them. Save your bank account and arteries by eating at your Dining Facility rather than Burger King.
Take advantage of the US Military’s programs. Check out the Information Tickets and Travel office and Outdoor Recreation for awesome inexpensive trips. They are usually inclusive of transportation and it saves a ton of money. Plus, you won’t have to find a designated driver or navigate through a strange country. One excellent advantage is that they take payments, so if you are bad at saving money for a lump sum, just pay a little bit over time. Another option is to check out your base’s Passenger Terminal for “hops”. This means free airfare to take you where the plane goes. The only issue tends to be getting back, so make sure you’ve got a few extra days of leave or money for a commercial airline’s fare back. If you’re stationed in the US and can get a Hop to Baltimore, there is a rotator that flies to Germany 5x per week. Voilà! You just saved upwards of $1400 to get to Europe. Once you’re on the continent you want to be on, it tends to be extremely inexpensive to travel around.
Budgeting is what I credit my ability to roam the globe with such little money. I’ll break down my pay check from living in the dorms since the information is online anyways.
Income: $1700 including Base pay and COLA (monthly)
Healthy Food: $100
Fun Money: $300
There is no secret trust fund here, just a separate travel account. I bought my car in cash with my savings so I eliminated that money hole. It would be even easier to save money if you didn’t buy a car as long as you had some transportation to get you to and from work It is possible to travel on even less than this, but make sure you’re still saving money just in case the government freezes and you’re left without a pay check. Do not get into debt! AVOID CREDIT CARDS!
When travelling take advantage of inexpensive options. Bring food with you, book a private room in a hostel if you don’t like the idea of spending the night with 15 complete strangers. They do exist and are are much cheaper option than a hotel room. Apartment rentals tend to be cheaper than hotel rooms and sometimes have cooking utensils. Be flexible if you are booking airfare. Make a list of places you’d like to see and search www.skyscanner.com without a destination entered (but enter the airport you will be leaving from!) for the dates you have available. It will give you a list of all the places you can go in order from cheapest to most expensive. Find the cheapest one on your list and go!
It is a viable option to get a second job to earn more money. Make sure to notify your Chain of Command to make sure you aren’t breaking any rules. Find something you’re good at and try to capitalize on that. I’m a health nut/gym rat so I use online personal training to earn a bit more money for travelling further away.