by Amanda Marksmeier, Guest Contributor
“Sorry, we only offer discounts to service members.”
As military spouses we have all heard this statement.
I find it ironic. My husband and I are partners in life, we share everything including a bank account. The money I use when making a purchase is as much his as it is mine.
Furthermore, the reason he is not with me is because he is either deployed, in the field or gone for training.
I don’t believe we as members of the military community are entitled to military discounts, but it is nice when a business offers a military discount to military spouses.
When the United States was engaged in two wars with the scars of 9/11 still seeping and American pride swelled within us, military discounts were a way to honor service members and their families. As the wars drag on and disappear from national headlines, the military community fades from the forefront of the minds of American civilians.
Unless you have a personal connection to the military you are unaware of the challenges and sacrifices of military families. So, allow me to share a few numbers with you.
The military spouse unemployment rate is estimated at 16%; the national unemployment rate is 3.9%. Sixteen percent doesn’t sound like a lot, but it equates to 104,000 out of work military spouses. This number does not reflect spouses who gave up their job search or are underemployed.
The average income for a service member is between $40,00 and $52,000 annually. The U.S. average annual household income is approximately $73,000. For those doing the math that is a difference of $21,000!
But military families don’t pay for housing or health insurance, right?! No, as a matter of fact we pay for both necessities. While military families can live in base housing it is not free.
Service members receive a housing stipend or basic housing allowance (which is included in the $52,000) but for families that choose base housing this money is recouped by the housing offices to cover living expenses.
Military members pay health insurance premiums just like everyone else. Granted our premiums are much lower than other insurance premiums but we pay them nonetheless.
Here are some more numbers to consider.
The average military family will move six to nine times. The government pays for the move, right? Yes and no. The government approves and pays to move our household goods up to a certain weight which is based on the service member’s rank, not how many dependents are in the household. They will also cover travel expenses such as gas, hotel stays and meals depending on the distance traveled.
What they don’t cover is the cost to ship a vehicle because your newly licensed teen is not experienced enough to drive across the country.
Another expense that is not covered is the three weeks of hotel fees because base housing is unavailable when you arrive on post.
A huge out-of-pocket expense for moving military families is food. For families living in a hotel or an empty home awaiting household goods, their only option is to eat out.
I know what you are thinking, no cooking or dirty dishes, sign me up. I am here to tell you, besides the cost, which can easily average $100 or more a day for a family of four, eating out gets old quickly.
My goal in sharing this is not to gain sympathy or “poor mouth” but simply to provide information by the numbers.
Many military families struggle financially, so a military discount not only helps their bottom line but boosts morale and gives a feeling of appreciation.
I have been a military spouse for almost 13 years and I am grateful for every moment of it. Military life has taken me many places and introduced me to amazing people. It is a life I chose but that doesn’t mean it is easy or cheap.
Our family has lived in six homes. My husband has been deployed for more than 60 months and has been away for far too many field exercises and trainings to count.
When I am offered a military discount on my purchase it makes me feel like someone is acknowledging and appreciating the commitment I made to my husband.
What are your thoughts on service member-only military discounts?
Amanda Marksmeier is an Army wife and mother of four. She works as an employment specialist assisting the military community in achieving their career goals. Amanda is also a contributing writer for a quarterly employment journal and has written for several military affiliated blogs.