If you are getting ready to relocate with your spouse for their next assignment, one of the first and biggest decisions you will make is whether to live on or off base.
Both have their pros and cons, so here are some key points to keep in mind when making the decision for you and your family.
Living on Base
1: Money saver
When you live in a house on base, you are saving money in a variety of ways. You save by only owing for rent whatever your service member’s basic allowance for housing is. You save by having life’s conveniences like the commissary, px, gas station, library and medical clinic—all within a small radius, which means spending less on travel.
You save by paying less for housing utilities such as electric and water. The downside of living on base is that you don’t get to choose the house you will live in—the base housing office chooses for you, which can be a gamble. You could end up on a street with multiple other families from your spouse’s squadron (score!) or you could end up on the other side of the housing community, away from people you know. At some locations, base housing also doesn’t offer the latest and greatest in household appliances or flooring, but if you like saving money, it’s a great option.
2: Convenience is key
If you reside on base, you are in the middle of all the action. You are close to your spouse’s squadron, so you can take them a surprise lunch whenever you’d like. Your spouse has a short commute to and from work each day. The same conveniences that save you money are the ones that make your life easier, too. If it’s raining outside and you feel like reading a good book, you can buzz on over to the library in no time and fulfill your craving. Being “right there” has more significance than you may realize.
3: Front row seating to on-base events
Throughout the year, most bases will host a few events for everyone in the military community to enjoy—whether that be a summer music concert or a holiday crafts fair. If you live off base, you can still join in on the festivities, but if you live on base you are already right where you need to be. Sure, you are just a drive away from the on-base events when living off base, but why not be just a walk away?
Living off Base
1: Choose your home/improvements
When you live off base you can rent or buy any house in the area (on the market) that your heart desires. If you want a house with a swimming pool, you can purchase one that comes with a pool or you can pay to have one installed. There are no rules when it comes to making improvements on your home if you live off base, unlike living on base where for some locations you can paint the interior walls of your house, but they have to be painted back to their exact original color when you move out. Getting to pick which house you live in and perform any improvements you wish is one of the best parts of living off base.
2: Be closer to downtown
Living off base can usually mean living nearer to the main attractions of the town. Bases aren’t usually going to be located in the heart of the town, so if you want to be close to the mall, restaurants and entertainment, off-base living is where you will find it.
3: No on-base schedule
Off-base residents will never have to worry about the 24/7 goings-on on base. For example, on the weekends, some bases may close a gate that is usually open and open a different one for getting on or off base. Or, there could be an exercise happening on base that requires a detour for base residents. When you live off base, the on-base schedule is not of a huge concern to you as a milspouse.
There is no right or wrong answer when choosing whether to live on or off base during your spouse’s assignment. However, keeping these points in mind will help you make a more informed decision. Ultimately, it’s all about what matters most to you and your family at your new location.