If you are just starting your military career, you will most likely be spending the first few years living in the barracks. Depending on your branch of service, you may also be an onboard ship for a few years. For you to live off base, you may need to have a rank of at least E-4, E-5, or even E-6 in some branches. It depends on the occupancy rate of that specific base; the higher the occupancy, the higher your rank should be for you to live off base.
When you live in barracks or dormitories, you will most likely have to share rooms, living spaces, and bathroom facilities.
How Do You Live Off-Base?
As you move up in your rank, you will begin to have better housing options. This may start with having your own room at first, but then, later on, you may have the option to live off base at government expense.
So, what happens if you are entitled to live off base? The great thing about the military is that they will provide you with a Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), which will cover the cost of living, including a monthly food allowance. You will receive your BAH in your paycheck every month, and you will be able to use it to cover your rent and utilities. The government will pay up to a certain amount for your housing, giving you the freedom to choose the home that suits your needs.
If you are a single member authorized to find off-base housing, you will be given housing options that fit you. The higher your rank, the more likely you will be able to choose what type of neighborhood you want to live in, such as rural, urban or suburban. As for those with families, the BAH will be higher because it has to cover the cost of living for all dependents (i.e., the spouse and children).
Now that you know how to live off base let’s explore the pros and cons. The biggest benefit would have the ability to pick the type of house you want. You can identify the size and features you want in your home. You can experience the local community and pick the type of environment that fits you. Furthermore, you will have more of a work-life balance because it can feel as if your work is separated from the home. The downside of this is that you may have to be on a waiting list just to get an opportunity to live off base. You will also have to pay out of pocket if your BAH does not cover all costs.
Consequently, there are advantages and disadvantages if you live off base. What is important is that you consider your situation and determine if the good sides are significantly better than the bad.