While service to country and a sense of duty is huge, most of us would like to be compensated for our military service.
Before Leaving for BMT
There’s a couple things beyond the normal establishment of direct deposit that you’ll want to look into prior to leaving. The more prepared you are, the less you and your family will worry while you’re away. When you’re at BMT, there’s really no chance to deal with financial emergencies. You’re not going to be able to handle any billpay, online or off, nor will you be able to check your accounts. You may have a chance to check the balance on your debit card, but that’s only when you’re on a mini-mall run, which is once every other week, at best. If a dire emergency comes up, your MTI may allow you to make some additional calls, but don’t depend on it.
Find someone to manage your financial and personal affairs. Select a spouse, parent, or another very trustworthy individual. Get this person a Power of Attorney (POA), which can be done for free through JAG on base. This is especially important if you have children or if you’re married and some of your accounts are only in your name and not the both of yours. They have separate POAs if you need someone to take care of your children’s medical and educational needs. Take note that a POA will allow that person to be you, legally, so you don’t want to give that power to just anyone. If anything comes up, they’ll be able to handle anything in your name. Make sure this person you’ve designated has access to any accounts that may need to be paid during your absence (if you haven’t set up automatic billpay), as well as your bank account. I manage the finances in my household, so I made a 45+ page PowerPoint presentation for my husband with all of the necessary information. Yeah, a little over the top, but better safe than sorry! The less you have to worry while you’re away, the better. BMT is stressful enough without having to worry if your home/financial life is in shambles.
After Arriving at BMT
When you go to BMT, you will be paid during that time period according to the regular active duty schedule and chart, which you can access at Military.com. Depending on what rank you’re entering service as (typically E-1 through E-3), as written in your enlistment contract, you’ll get the appropriate pay. You may also receive BAH if you have dependents, and you may have money being taken out if you opted for SGLI or FSGLI. Military pay days are the 1st and the 15th, however, your first pay date will depend on how soon they get you through in-processing. Hopefully the ones you’ve left behind aren’t desperately waiting for that first paycheck so they can eat.
The first paycheck you receive will also be $400 less than expected, as you will already have been “given” this money in the form of a pre-loaded debit card (EZ Pay card). Trust me on this one, you’ll use it all. Don’t bother inquiring about whether or not you’ll be able to withdraw the money. By the time 6th or 7th week rolls around, your cash will be gone.
You’ll use this card for all of your purchases, in and out of the squadron. During your first mini-mall run, you’ll use it to pick up the supplies you need to have your security drawer equipped and looking uniform with the other trainees. Depending on how much you brought down with you to BMT, you can easily spend $150 on that first mini-mall run. I managed to save a little bit of money because I brought my own spandex/compression shorts with me. When you hit the register, you’ll be rung up not only for the goods you’ve aquired on that trip, but also for all of the items they’ve stocked your personal area with at the dorm, including your flashlight, laundry bag, mesh bags, ruler, pens, pencils, highlighters, Sharpie, etc. It adds up quickly, to say the least. We bought the following items on our first trip to the mini-mall. The MTI can’t force you to buy these items, but some are essential to making your personal area pass inspection – damned if you do, damned if you don’t. You’ll also have an option to pick up other miscellaneous stuff. Keep in mind that the selection of hair supplies is limited and all of the squadrons shop at this mini-mall.
- toothbrush holder
- extra mesh bags
- extra brown towel
- extra white towel – this will be the “liner” on the bottom of your security drawer. This is white, so buy liquid products that are clear or white and save yourself the hassle, trust me. If the towel can conceal spills, you’ll be in better shape.
- tupperware containers – for keeping things organized in the back of your security drawer. Get at least two.
- Bath and Body Works body spray – you’ll use this both a body spray and an air freshener. You’ll use this for the impression of a clean environment in your wall locker. If you get the “Fresh Linen” scent, it’s clear – again, for spills.
- spandex/compression shorts
- full-sized bottle of body wash – get the Suave Coconut, which is white.
- toothpaste – get a white paste in the small plastic container with the flip top, not the standard tube. It’s easier to keep clean.
- full-sized bottle of shampoo – the Suave 2-in-1 is a good, cheap option.
- hair products – grab some extra-hold gel, if you didn’t bring any with you.
- stationery – if you want some AF or Lackland-branded stationery to send home.
- stamps – ask for them at the register.
- steno notepad – this is great for notes in class and it slips into your BMTSG folder and satchel. Don’t bother getting the writing tablet (sized similarly), it falls apart.
- pens, highlighters, post-its, etc – grab any study materials you might want for use in class and with your BMTSG.
Ok, enough of the shopping tangent. Point is, you’re going to be working that EZ Pay card. During first clothing issue, you’ll use it to buy your running shoes, which will run you about $70. You’ll use it to pay for your dry cleaning expenses, which add up quickly. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you go through full-sized toiletries in BMT.
Your MTI will be emailed a payroll list, organized by social security number, where you can see the amount of your paycheck. They’ll tell you to be prepared for the first check to see “off,” due to the EZ Pay card amount being taken out, but if it seems grossly off by the 2nd check, you’ll want to bring it to your MTI’s attention. Don’t depend on the payroll list always being there – sometimes your MTI won’t receive the email in a timely fashion, and by timely, I mean a week off.
In summary, settle your affairs before leaving for BMT. Make sure everything is ironed out and that there are clear expectations about who will be managing your finances and the procedures for doing so. Like most everything else in life, the better prepared you are, the better you’ll fare in the end.