Every service member must live in bachelor quarters when involved in basic training and school. However, depending on your rank and the policy of your service, you may at some point have the option of living off the installation. If this option becomes available to you, there are a number of factors to consider before you make your decision. Can you afford to rent or buy a place to live? Would living away from the installation be practical for you in other ways?
Deciding what's right for you
If you are provided with the option and privilege of living off the installation, as you decide what's right for you, keep the following in mind:
- Your preferences and personality - Think about your tastes in housing and evaluate the pros and cons of living on or off the installation. Do you enjoy living close to others in bachelor quarters? Would you prefer the time alone that an apartment off the installation can offer?
- Where you're stationed - If you are stationed overseas and have the option of living off the installation, you might prefer living in a nearby community to have more contact with the surrounding culture.
Advice from others - Discuss issues with friends and family members who have served in the military and lived on and off the installation as singles. Even those who are not service members, but have rented apartments or houses, can give you valuable information.
The pros and cons of living off the installation
There are both positive and negative aspects to consider before deciding to live off the installation, including the following:
- Financial considerations - Even if you are authorized to live off the installation, staying on the installation can be a wise choice depending on your housing allowance and budget. Some commands require you to complete a projected budget before you move off the installation. Be prepared to pay rent or a mortgage payment (if you buy). Compare your basic allowance for housing to the local rental market. Make sure you factor in utilities, such as electricity, water, cable and Internet.
- Providing your own furniture and other necessities - Keep in mind, living off the installation will require providing furniture, dishes and other items for yourself. Finding a furnished apartment may be an option if you don't want to purchase your own furniture. Thrift stores, flea markets and yard sales are good places to find items like kitchen essentials and home decorations.
- Maintaining your home - If you live in a rental, then home maintenance, for the most part, is provided for you. However, if you purchase your home, you are responsible for all upgrades and maintenance.
- Privacy - While you do have the challenge of budgeting your expenses when living off the installation, the greatest payoff might be the privacy you have when you live in an apartment or house.
- Independence - In your own place, there's no one to demand that you make your bed, clean up the living room or wash the dishes. You can leave work behind at the installation and feel a sense of separateness that you may not feel living in bachelor quarters.
- Reassignment or deployment - Owning a home off the installation could pose a problem if you were suddenly deployed or reassigned to a new station. If you're renting an off-installation apartment or house, make sure there is a military clause in your lease, which will allow you to move out without penalty if you receive orders unexpectedly. Your installation legal assistance office can provide more information on leases and rental agreements.
- No rent or utility payments - When you live in bachelor quarters, you can have peace of mind knowing that you don't have to come up with funds to pay rent and most utilities. You do, however, have to give up your basic allowance for housing. Keep in mind that you may have to pay for some utilities, such as cable or Internet service.
- Furnished living quarters - While you may want to buy certain items to personalize your space, you are provided with basic furnishings that might be added expenses in off-installation housing.
- Sense of community - As a single service member, you might be away from home for the first time - much as a new college student would be. Consequently, living in bachelor quarters can allow you to foster relationships you might not otherwise form. You can eat meals with fellow service members, as well as shop, work out or see a movie with them.
- Convenience - Your commute to work is short, and you have just about everything you need nearby. You can take an art class or see a movie - all within a short distance of your quarters.
- Roommates might be a requirement - Whether or not you have a roommate largely depends on your branch of service, your rank and the amount of space available in your bachelor quarters at the time you arrive.
- Room inspections - If you hated cleaning your room as a child, bachelor quarters may not be for you. Random inspections are conducted in the quarters, so rooms have to be kept clean and neat.
- Common-area maintenance - Service members living in bachelor quarters are responsible for keeping common areas clean. This includes hallways, outside areas and kitchens.
- Responsibilities - Remember, if you're living in bachelor quarters, you are subject to responsibilities related to barracks living. Try to keep your room and the common areas as clean as possible, as you never know when you'll be subject to a surprise inspection. Be tolerant of others, and strive to get along with your neighbors. This can make life easier for everyone.