urchin: Wow, MW wrote a book for you! She has lots of good points!
The first thing that jumps out at me is you say "DP," not "DH." If you aren't married, you would be missing out on LOTS of $$$. In fact, if you aren't married, your DP might not even be authorized to live out of the barracks for several years. If your DP got stationed at an overseas installation (I don't mean deployed to a war zone) you would not be able to go too.
And yes, officer vs enlisted makes a huge difference. The "breaking point" for enlisted seems to be at E5, IMO. Trying to support a family on just a military income below E5 is difficult at the least.
MW, I was going to dispute your statement that "many (most, all?)" enlisted families qualify for WIC & food stamps, but you may be right. I can't tell what income counts for food stamps, but for WIC, housing allowances are excluded. I'm also not sure about BAS, but if that's excluded as well then a family of 4 qualifies for WIC for all ranks E6 & below, and E7 before 10 yrs of service. An O1 with any time in service or an O2 with 2 years or less would also qualify. Keep in mind, however, that because of the excluded allowance(s) military families that qualify for WIC can actually make significantly more than non-military families that qualify.
Here's a link to the 2009 pay table
. And you can look up BAH (basic allowance for housing) rates here.
As far which branch to choose, look at what your DP wants to do in the military and where you would like to be stationed in addition to the culture of each branch. DH is USMC & we were at an AF base for 7 months: Yes, AF is way cushier than the USMC.
I have to disagree w/MW on the commissary benefit. If you shopped really
smart, you might be able to spend the same amount on the same stuff off base, but you'd have to hit all the sales, use coupons, bulk buy, etc. They say commissary savings are 30%, and I find that to be true. The exchange, though, is not usually a real bargain. You can find deals there, but it pays to shop around.
Originally Posted by MarineWife
My dh was 31 when he signed the papers to join and almost 32 when he went to OCS. Before that he was an accountant and part-time personal trainer and I worked as a Patent Examiner for the United States Patent and Trademark office. Our combined income was over 100K. When he joined he took at 20K pay cut and I quit my job, losing about 70k in income. In spite of that, my quality of life is much, much better in many ways. I don't have to deal with the stress of working, which I absolutely despise. I am able to stay home with my children and homeschool them. With responsible budgeting we are able to afford everything we need. I was just looking around my house yesterday amazed that this is my house. I never thought I'd life in such a nice place and it's all due to my dh.
But he's making way more than 30k/year now, right?
Were you ok financially w/the pay cut immediately, or was there a turning point for you, too?