Stretch Your BAH With These 6 Simple Steps

March 19, 2013
by Adrianna Domingos-Lupher, AFC®
Editor-in-Chief, NextGen MilSpouse
Creator, Military Money Chica

If there's one skill you should have in your money-saving arsenal, it would be knowing how to get the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to your BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing).  When you’re stateside, you receive all of your BAH regardless of the amount of your rent, which means that if you spend less than your BAH, you pocket the rest.  If that isn't motivation to live moderately, I don't know what is!  Here are a few things you can do to make sure that you make the most of your BAH:

1. Make sure your rent does not exceed your BAH limit.  Even better? Keep it under!
If at all possible, keep your rent under your BAH limit.  Why?  So you can cover some of your utility bills, too.  If you can cover part of your water, electrical, or gas bill, that’s less money coming out of your base pay.

2. Cutting it close to your BAH limit? Negotiate with your landlord.
If the house or apartment you’re eyeing is just slightly outside of your BAH, don't be afraid to negotiate with the landlord!  The same qualities that make military members are mark for predatory lenders (i.e. regular, salaried pay) make you a desirable tenant.  Many landlords desire military members as tenants because we're typically low risk for non-payment.   It’s also a good idea to have the local JAG (Judge Advocate General) office take a glance over your lease before you sign to make sure everything looks correct.

3. Just because you can secure a larger house, it doesn't mean you should.
Bigger isn't always better especially when it comes to housing.  The larger your home, the more costly your utility bills will be.  And as tempting as it is, stay away from properties with pools, hot tubs, and other time- and money-intensive maintenance features.

4. Age matters. Beware of older properties.

Even though an older property might be putting you under budget, remember that a lot of older properties aren't up to snuff when it comes to energy efficient appliances, windows, and insulation.  If you're looking at an older home, make sure you ask plenty of questions about energy efficient improvements.  Regardless, you can always contact the local electric company and water company to check average utility costs for that property. 

5. Commuting costs money.
The farther away you live from where you work the more you'll spend on transportation.  A longer commute is no joke with today’s gas prices. You can significantly take a chunk out of your budget by choosing to live farther out from base.  There are always exceptions to each rule, but remember that the further you live away from base, the less likely you are to utilize your Commissary, Exchange, and MWR/ITT benefits.

6. Single?  Grab a roommate or roommates.

Split living costs in half (or thirds, or fourths) by grabbing a roommate or two (or three or four)! 

Remember, everything is temporary
You’re not going to live in one spot forever (at least not right now) and you always have the option to continue shopping during your stay.  Make the most of each move and don’t trap yourself by overspending on rent.  Who wants to be house poor anyway?  The less you pay on rent, the more you have to spend on more exciting things like travel and adventure!

Need help saving?  Take the Military Saves Pledge and then visit where you’ll find resources on saving.  Visit us on our blogFacebook and Twitter to learn more.

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