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25 Money-saving Tips for Military Families

Want to protect your hard-earned cash? Military discounts go a long way. Always ask retailers, restaurants, airlines, motels and other establishments, “Do you have a military discount?” Meanwhile, here are 25 other money-saving tips. Go ahead, wave your frugal flag.

Save at home

1. Do-it-yourself repairs and maintenance. Whether it’s painting a room, doing yard work or bathroom repairs, even those with all-thumbs can pull these off. If you’re already a DIY’er you can take on bigger projects. Check out service member deals at home improvement stores.

2. Trade time/repair skill with a neighbor. Swap services or trade time (a Saturday, for example) with a neighbor. You may know plumbing and your neighbor may be handy with a hammer. Trading time with a trusted neighbor can extend beyond home repairs to other ways to help — lawn, babysitting, etc. 

3. Use coupons. Use coupons or join a coupon exchange for home services that require a

 pro.

4. Shop garage/yard sales and second-hand stores. You can get great deals on things like furniture, dishes and clothes.

Save on entertainment

5. Think free outings. Check out the local parks, memorials and art galleries. Take a picnic. Go on a walk, hike or stroll. Have kids? Take them fishing, skipping rocks or to playgrounds. 

6. Have a leisurely lunch. Have lunch out and eat dinner in. Think mid-afternoon. Lunch often is cheaper than dinner. Or when you’re out for dinner, split an entrée and each get an appetizer.

7. Host a pot-luck dinner. It’s cheaper, you get a variety of tastes and you don’t have to do all the cooking. It’s also fun and social.  Tip: Have everyone bring a specific or assigned dish.

8. Seek discounts at amusement parks and museums. Most offer military discounts. Google “military discounts at amusement parks”— you’ll find a bunch, especially at the well-known ones. Same goes for museums. Better yet: Visit the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Digital Library available on Military OneSource to find a range of fitness, recreational and skills development programs, tickets and more — some at reduced rates.

9. Shop online. Sure, you’re already doing it. But you can shop for just about anything online and compare prices. You can also look for online coupons.

Save on clothes and school supplies

10. Look for deals. Shop at your military installation’s commissary and exchangeShoppers typically save more than 30 percent compared to shopping in town. Or shop at outlet and discount stories. Consignment and thrifts shops are good too. And look for deals online.

11. Stock up on basics during sales. When you find good deals on socks and underwear, buy a few extra pair to lock in the savings. 

12. Get the most from your wardrobe. Uniforms also can be worn off duty. Sticking to similar color combinations or buying clothes in neutral colors lets you do more with fewer clothes.

Save with military travel deals

13. Visit national parks for free. National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass is your ticket to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites. A free annual pass is available for current U.S. military members and dependents.

14. Go camping. It can be cheaper and more fun than hotels. If camping isn’t your family’s thing, pick kid-friendly hotels that don’t charge extra for children. Check out Military OneSource’s Best Kept Secrets booklet for more information.

15. Travel off-season, with a group or on a tour. It’s cheaper than going on your own or on-season.

16. Use Department of Defense Lodging services. Military families are eligible to use military lodging around the world, ranging from cottages on the beach to world-class resorts or recreational lodging facilities. Destinations include resort towns, big cities, oceanfront getaways, mountain top retreats and overseas locales.

17. Fly for free. Service members and family can fly free or at very low cost when space is available on military flights. Space-available Passenger Transportation, or Space-A Travel, can be tricky at times but can save you lots of money on flights.

Save on transportation

18. Walk, bike or use public transportation. It’s cheaper and healthier for you and the environment. If you can’t, carpool.

19. Shop for car insurance. If you must drive your own vehicle, compare rates online and consider a higher deductible on collision coverage if your car is older. While you’re at it, keep your car maintained — and DIY, if you can.

20. Buy a used car. A two-year-old car with some mileage can save you thousands versus a new car. Have your mechanic check it out, however. 

Save on utilities

21. Do the basics. Turn off the lights when not using them. Unplug computers, appliances, charging cables when not using them. Visit the Department of Energy’s Energy Saver website. Don’t heat or cool rooms you don’t use. Close your fireplace damper when not in use.

22. Insulate your attic or other unfinished spaces. Use storm windows and weatherproof your home to reduce heat or cooling loss. 

23. Watch the thermostat. Setting your temperature between 68 and 72 degree may be comfy, but it can kill your wallet. Set the air conditioner at 78 in the summer when home (consider running fans instead). Turn the heat to 64 or so and wear extra layers of clothes.

24. Double check your cell phone and cable bills. Make sure you’re not paying for needless services. Also, bundle your phone, internet and cable, if you can. And watch your data use on mobile devices. That can break tight budgets.    

25. Buy energy-efficient appliances. Look for the Energy Star label.

The savings don’t stop there.

These are just some of the ways to save. Remember to present your military ID card at your installation’s Information, Tickets and Travel office for the best deals in and out of town.