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Increasing Income In the Military

by Tracy Latona |

Most people who join the military join in their late teens or early 20’s. Money is not a topic of concern at that age, whether it’s because they have newfound freedom of choices, they’re young and dumb and it’s not on their radar yet, or they just don’t know what they don’t know. After a while, they find that they’re in over their heads financially because of their decisions or life circumstances. They feel stuck, because let’s face it; the military doesn’t exactly pay well, especially for enlisted.

What if it didn’t have to be that way?

I want to start off this article with a strong recommendation of checking your unit’s policy on moonlighting. Some units may allow it, others may forbid it. Don’t get into trouble.

When my husband was in the Army, we were broke. I mean, so broke that our account was so negative the bank froze it and I had to feed us out of a change jar for a week, broke. It was right after the 2008 financial crisis, and in 2010, there were 10 applicants to every job posted; and most jobs didn’t hire military spouses. It took me FOOORREEVVEEERR to find a job, and even then, it was retail at $8.00/hour. 

I see a lot of soldiers in a similar position. The tough part is, when you’re on active duty, there’s not much you can do to increase your income, except get promoted, or go to college and become an officer. Both take a lot of time, and when money is tight, it doesn’t feel like you have time. 

So, what are some ways to increase your income while in the military? 

The obvious answer is to see if you are allowed to get a part time job. Keep in mind that your active duty status comes first. If that’s not something that your unit will allow, here are some other thoughts:

Turn your skills or hobbies into cash. My husband had a battle buddy that loved to work on electrical systems. He also vaped. He made homemade vape boxes (I don’t recommend this unless you know what you’re doing, but it’s a real life example). He sold them for $100 per box. And since he saw a need, had the skills to fill it, and created something that solved the problem, he raked in several hundred dollars per week. Look/listen for a need, and if you can solve that problem, you may be able to solve your cash flow problem.

DoorDash/Uber/Instacart. You get to set your own schedule and go at your own pace. Just be sure to talk to your insurance company first; some will drop your coverage for this side gig, others may raise your rates, or it may not affect your insurance at all. I’ve heard of Instacart shoppers who do it all day on the weekend and make $700 for the weekend. I’ve DoorDashed and made enough to cash flow our Basset Hound’s surgery.

Start a side business. Are you tech savvy and can build computer programs? Or do you enjoy YouTube videos and know how to make them better? Starting a side business where you can control the flow of clients and business can help generate more income. Be mindful of investing or going into debt when you’re already feeling broke. Move at the speed of cash.

Budget. Yes, the dreaded “B” word. When you take control of your money, give it a mission, and track your transactions, you really do feel like you got a raise without actually increasing your income. Having a mission for your money, and sticking to it, is the most powerful system to create financial freedom. 

The military can tie your hands when it comes to increasing your income, but thinking outside the box and getting creative can help bring in extra money. What ideas do you have, or what have you done if you were in this position?

Tracy Latona  

Golden Rose Financial Coaching  

(502) 665-1127