My experience with military finances so far has been a lot like when that one neighbor asks you to dog-sit for the week while they’re on vacation: you are happy to do it, not sure how much exactly you’ll get paid, and worry they’ve completely forgotten to pay you as it was weeks ago. But then he gives you thirteen dollars and a BOGO for Subway and you realize it was all worth it.
By the way: this topic was specifically requested from a reader of the site! Getting ideas from you guys is awesome, keep them coming!
Money Management Pre-OCS
Before going to OCS (or joining the military in general) try to consolidate any recurring expenses onto one credit or debit card. Having to only worry about one account login will save you tremendous pain down the road. Think of any recurring subscriptions that you can cut ties with for the next few months (Spotify, Netflix, etc.) and consolidate the payment method.
Personally, I forgot about a $4.99 Apple Store subscription that went unpaid for three months and, consequently, my credit score took a massive hit once I was able to check it in CandiO phase.
In short, things to keep in mind before shipping:
- Close out all non-essential subscriptions
- Turn on auto-pay
- Have a close friend/family member monitor your bills for the few months you’re gone
- Take cash to OCS so you don’t have to worry about charging a card
- Know your bank/credit card’s two-factor authentication requirements
Money Management At OCS
When you get to OCS you will have access to a computer in your hatch but won’t have access to your cellphone to authenticate your ID for online banking. If possible, the Navy recommends disabling two-factor authentication so that you won’t need your phone in order to gain access. My bank, Chase, didn’t allow for this and I know it was the case for many others as well. Depending on the class team, your class can route a chit to gain access to your phones to log in to the computers to authenticate.
Anything you are required to purchase while in training will be put on a gift card with the uniform store, so you won’t have to worry about how you’ll pay for it until you have your phone back. With that known, the only expenses you can expect to incur will be to the vending machine candy bars in the basement of Perry Hall during a midnight watch.
When the time comes to pay off the uniform card balance, you’ll have the opportunity to open a military STAR card which gets you like 10% off your initial purchase (~$400 in savings?). Alternatively, many people also sign up for the AMEX Platinum or the Chase Sapphire—both of which waive the membership fee for military and offer signup bonuses which are essentially met when you pay off the uniform card. If you want an extra 25,000 point bonus when signing up for the Sapphire card, you can use my referral and support the website. Or don’t.
Income at OCS
I believe you will start getting paid the day you check-in at OCS. You’ll be paid as a PO2, at roughly $2,000 USD per month. You won’t receive BAH or BAS while at OCS as that money goes toward the luxurious Nimitz and Nay Bed and Breakfast. The one exception to this is if you’re married, in which case you will receive the BAH according to the city in which your spouse is currently residing. Pro tip: if you’re not married, marry the nearest human with a pulse, move to Beverly Hills, and then collect that BAH all of OCS. At that pay rate, who cares if you go to Student Pool for a few months.
While at OCS you’ll be required to purchase more military uniform items than you’d ever want. So, as you’d expect, the Navy gives you a uniform allowance that covers all the costs of the uniforms… I’m obviously kidding, that would make too much sense. You can expect to have about $5,000 in uniform expenses with approximately $4,000 of that covered. All of this assumes my memory is better than it really is, but I believe those numbers are roughly correct.
See what I mean? Do the irresponsible thing and just marry someone for the money.
Random OCS Expenses
Beyond anything mentioned above, you could expect to spend up to an additional $200, depending on how much class “moto” gear you want: shirts, sweatshirts, and class coins were all popular. For reference, I bought one one class sweatshirt, three class t-shirts, and three class coins which ran me a total of about $150. The only other “random” things I can think you may spend money on are the Student vs. Staff barbecue (~$15) and if your class can go to Battleship Cove for a field trip (~$noidea).
It’s almost Veterans Day which means time for me to go get a free meal from Chili’s—the new golf course. Small Businessman Magazine.