Every year military service members and their families wait to find out what is going to change with their BAH rates. BAH, which stands for Basic Allowance for Housing, is based on your ZIP code. This allowance is supposed to be put toward your housing costs.
If you live on post, you are not going to get BAH but you won’t have to pay rent either. If you live in privatized housing on base, you receive your housing allowance and pay it to the private housing manager each month.
If your BAH rates have gone up you will be making a little more each month. On average they have gone up $54 per month this year, nationwide. However, the amount that the BAH is supposed to cover is down 2 percent.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t find a place within the limits of your monthly allowance, but that on average, BAH is only meant to cover 98 percent of the costs now instead of the full 100 percent that the allowance used to cover.
If your rates have gone down, you don’t need to worry at first. They will not change until you move or when your service member gets a promotion. Then they will be adjusted based on your location and rank.
Now, if the rate that you are supposed to get paid when you change rank is lower than it was before the change, you will be grandfathered in to your old rate. This is good because no one will receive less than they are getting in the previous year unless they are making a change.
I always used to enjoy that first paycheck of the new year when our LES reflected our new BAH rates. We were lucky in that all our time in active duty Army, the rates always went up. This didn’t mean that we would run out to buy a bigger house or spend more on rent but having a little bit extra each month to put toward our bills was always nice.
When buying a house, we knew we wanted our mortgage to stay below our BAH. Luckily we can make that happen in our current location but that might not always be the case. You should keep in mind that off-base rent might be pretty close to your BAH since a lot of the landlords know the BAH rates and charge based on that amount.
If your BAH does go up, put the extra money in savings or use the money to help with your debt. You will be glad that you did.
In the case that your BAH is going down and being close to a move or a promotion, think about how much you will be getting after the change. You might find yourself frustrated because of the change. You might have assumed you would be making more money once you got promoted but sticking to a budget will be your best bet. Make housing choices based on the new amount and you won’t run into any financial problems.
If you are planning a move to a new duty station, check the rates for the next year. When trying to decide on where to live, you will need to know how much in BAH you are going to be getting. Ideally, you should have your BAH cover your housing, including utilities, but that isn’t always a possibility in all areas.
With proper planning, you don’t have to worry if your BAH fluctuates. You can adjust and figure out how to make the new rate work for you and your family.
Is your service member’s BAH increasing in 2016? Click here to find out so you can start planning for any future moves or changes to where you are living.