Joining the Air Force can be stressful. There’s a lot that is unknown, you don’t know what it will be like, you don’t know exactly how much you will be paid while in basic training, and you don’t know if you will have any access to your finances during your time in BMT.
So, what do you do? The most important thing when going into BMT is to cancel all subscriptions that you are not going to use and to also automate any bills. If you have a car payment, a mortgage, a family, a phone plan, credit card debt, etc. You will need to automate all of this. You can usually do this online, but you can also call your companies to set up auto-pay to take the money out of your account during your time at BMT.
You are going to make less money than you suspect. Once you arrive at BMT a few things will happen. They will issue you new uniforms and they will also give you a pre-paid card that can only be used on the military installations. When I went through the gift card was about $500. This money comes out of your check, it is NOT free money. You will also be charged for your uniforms, this price will be at least a few hundred of dollars, which also comes from your first paycheck.
Your base pay will be between $1650 and $2100 per month depending on your rank. Like i said, some of this will be spent automatically while you are in basic training. It’s important to ENSURE you have enough money to cover your bills before you start your basic training. If you are not able to pay your bills talk to your recruiter. You may need to try and reduce any payments you have or delay them by talking to the company that you owe money to. Try to see if they can suspend payments until the end of your time in BMT.
It’s also important to note that mess-ups happen with military finance offices and sometimes people don’t get paid when they are supposed to. YOU WILL BE PAID EVENTUALLY the money that you are owed, but sometimes this can take weeks longer than expected. Therefore, it is best to have some money already in your checking account. This will allow you to have some wiggle room if there is mistake with your payment.
If you are married, you will also be getting extra money for things like housing and food. This amount depends on where your spouse is living while you are in BMT.
My recommendation is to cut out all your bills because most people are making below minimum wage while in BMT. Full time work at $10 per hour is $1600 per month. But in BMT you are working well over the 8 hour per day threshold, and you are working 7 days per week. It may be best to sell your vehicles, which would get rid of car insurance costs, and a car payment. Also try to get out of any debt if that is a possibility. Lastly, you should try to get rid of your living location and store your stuff at a friend or family members’ place. Your phone company will also usually suspended payments while you are in basic training. This can save you a decent chunk of money.
I personally joined directly out of High School, so I was fortunate to not have any debt or bills. After the entire BMT process I had less than 2k in my bank account because of the pre-paid card and uniform purchase. It was shocking to be honest and if I had any bills, I would have been super disappointed with what had happened. I will admit I did not research on this process before joining so I really wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into financially. All I knew was that college was going to be free. Your entire BMT experience is mostly paid for. You have paid for food, housing, and you are not given time to spend any money. So, coming out of the experience with no bills and still only having a couple grand was an eye-opening experience to me. It meant that I had to really get good at saving and figure out how to invest my money so I wouldn’t be broke.
After you get out of BMT, if you start as an E-1, you will quickly promote to E-2. This is a nice pay bump. Every year of service for the first 4 you get a pay bump. You get promoted a few times within the first 3 years, which is a good pay bump. By the time you are an E-4 and hopefully out of the dorms, you will be getting paid pretty good money for somebody who is doing a job that you were fully trained for and didn’t require college.
But that first few months we are all quite broke, so be sure to reduce those bills, automate everything, and be ready to have large chunks taken from your check without being notified (I personally was not aware that I had to pay for uniforms, or pay for that pre-paid card).
This article is my personal experience and views. This is not an opinion of the U.S Air Force. Everything in this article could change at any time, the military is constantly transforming its policies. Please do your own research and contact a recruiter to confirm any of this.
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