Sunday, February 12, 2012

Military Monday - Living On-post vs. Off-post

 A lot of new military families have to make a decision when moving to their new duty station about living on-post or off-post.  Based on your needs or preferences, your decision can go either way.  I have lived in both living situations recently and want to give my feedback and experience on both scenarios.

1. Frequency of Health and Wellness Inspections:  Because the government owns the building that you are currently residing in, expect them to occasionally pop their head in to make sure that you are maintaining the apartment/building and are living in a healthy way.  Most health and wellness inspections take about 5 minutes or less if your house isn't considerably filthy and there is nothing harmful about how you live.

2. Closeness to Other Military:  This can be seen as both a positive aspect and a negative aspect.  For example:
A) If you are in a foreign country it is nice to have other Americans that you can easily relate to around you.
B) If you are going through a deployment it is nice to have the support of those that understand your situation thoroughly.
C)If you  have many friends that would be within walking distances it makes visiting so much easier  (A bonus when you can have a few drinks at a friend's house and walk down the street to your home afterward).
D)Here's when the cons come in:  You can't escape the military lifestyle.  If seeing people walk around in uniform all the time is going to drive you crazy because it's just a constant reminder of work, this might be a difficult thing to overcome.
E) If you find that you can't get along with 99% of other military spouses or often found in the center of a lot of drama, living on-post, surrounded by military spouses might not be a good solution

3.  Proximity to work, commissary, PX, etc.:  The proximity issue is a bigger deal in some towns than in others.  For example, when we lived in Georgia, driving to work was a pain because it was about 20-25 minutes away, but yet we had no need to be near the commissary or PX because we lived about half a mile away from tons of shopping centers.  But in Germany, since the shopping experience is different and more expensive off-post, it's nice living literally down the street from the commissary and PX.  Since my husband and I share a car and he has it during the day, I can literally take a 10 minute walk and go to the commissary if I need something for dinner.  If moving to a new town, scope out the location of all the shopping centers on-post and off.

4. Generally Safer Environment:   I say "generally" because there will always be those circumstances where someone goes bad or something terrible happens, but having my fair share of living in bad neighborhoods throughout my life... I feel safer on-post.  There are always MP's patrolling neighborhoods and since living on-post generally gives off the community feel, crime rates tend to be a tad lower.

5. Responsible for keeping up aesthetics:  The military prides themselves in keeping a nice looking community and expects you to do the same.  Although some posts are more lax than others about how kept your lawn is, be prepared to "chip in" occasionally to keep the neighborhood looking nice.  For example, here in Germany, there are 6 apartments per stairwell (2 per floor), and each week we alternate which apartment is responsible for sweeping out the stairwell.  It's a sucky task sweeping 3 flights of stairs but it makes everything look better.  Also, twice a year, a type of "spring cleaning" is held where all the residents pitch in and work on beautifying the grounds and premisses.  Tasks usually vary from cleaning floors and windows to planting flowers.   In Georgia, our apartment had caretakers that made sure everything looked pretty for us.

1. Choose your own home:  One of the things that bothered me when we first moved in was the lack of choices in the housing community.  Especially if your post has a wait-list, be prepared to be showed 1-2 choices and having to take one.  We were only allowed one house to look at and ended up having to take it.  Unless you have a valid reason for not accepting the housing, they are not prepared to offer you another one.  If you live off-post however, you can look at apartments and houses until your heart's content and pick the one that suits your needs best.

2. Possible additional money left over from BAH:  As I'm sure you know, BAH (Basic Housing Allowance), OHA (Overseas Housing Allowance) if overseas, is based on the cost of living in your area and your rank and changes every time you move.  BAH is created to cover the cost of your rent and your utilities.  Your utilities are defined as heat/air, water, garbage, etc., but is not supposed to include bills such as cable and internet.  If you play your cards right though, you can stretch your BAH to cover more than what it's "intended" for.  While living in Georgia, our BAH completely covered our rent and utilities and we usually had about $100 left to put forth to other expenses such as our cell phone bill.  It's extra money in your pocket.
Click her for a BAH Calculator

3.  Responsible for paying bills:  This goes hand-in-hand with #2, you have to make sure your bills get paid.  If you overestimate how far your BAH will stretch, be prepared to pay out of your pocket.  One of the hardest things while living in Georgia, during summer, was keeping utility costs down.  Yes, we came away with $100 extra a month from BAH, but if we ran our A/C at the temperature that our friend's on-post ran theirs... we would be dishing out over what our BAH paid us.  Our power bill during the summer months ran about $150 with us keeping our A/C at no lower than 73.  Yet our friends constantly kept theirs in the 50's and never paid a penny.  You don't get additional BAH, so make it count.

If you have any military questions please submit them in my "contact me" section and I will add them to the list to discuss!

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