One of the most popular questions in Facebook Army Wife groups is whether someone should live on post or off post. If she’s asking about a specific Army post, people provide a lot of useful information. But if you want to know which is best in general, the answer is subjective.
Note: I’m going to use “post” and “base” interchangeably in this article. Post refers to Army installations, and “base” refers to Air Force installations, but is universally used for all branches.
Living on post is safe and convenient, but it isn’t always the best value for your Basic Allowance for Housing nor always create the type of life you want to live; it depends on what you value and what kind of life you want.
You Should Live on Post If…
If these points describe you, you will be happy on base.
Convenience is More Important than Value
The biggest draw of living on post is convenience. It’s close to work, close to medical care, grocery store, shopping, schools—pretty much everything you need is accessible on post. It’s a city in itself!
I used to drive off post to go to Crossfit, and cars would be backed up for a mile waiting to get through the gate for PT. And then on my way back at 7:15 I would wait 25 minutes to get through to my house! Avoiding this traffic is a huge benefit.
On top of that, soldiers can theoretically come home for breakfast and lunch, which saves money over eating out.
If you are a person that highly values convenience, you will be happy living on post.
You Don’t Mind Being Around the Army
If you know you don’t really want to have anything to do with the Army, you won’t enjoy living on post. Soldiers and military vehicles are everywhere, you have to show your id at several places, and Taps and Reveille are played over the speaker system several times a day. If you would rather pretend you aren’t military affiliated, you may not want to live on post.
You Have One Vehicle for Both Adults
Because of the benefit of convenience, living on post with one car is a much better option than living off post. I have met a woman 40 minutes from Base with no car and no social life because driving that far to get to know someone probably isn’t going to happen.
Or you can try to keep the car by taking your spouse to work. I had a nanny who was taking her husband to work at 5 am everyday so she could keep the car. That could not be me!
If you are on post with one car, you can take your soldier to work, or at least have more opportunities for friends to come see you since families generally have cause to go on Base from time to time even if they don’t live close, or they can make it worthwhile by stopping by the commissary on the same day.
Hate Thinking About Bills
Some people really enjoy the convenience of not having to pay separate bills each month. Rent, utilities, energy, trash, and lawncare are all included and automatically redirected from the paycheck to the housing authority. Personally, I wouldn’t mind paying those, but some people really like that taken off their hands.
You Aren’t That High Maintenance Person in the Neighborhood
I will admit I’m that high maintenance person in the neighborhood.
If you don’t care about the fine details of your neighborhood like grass being mowed, trash cans being pulled in on time, people not parking on the grass or accumulating junk in their driveways or yards, then you won’t have a problem living on post.
I didn’t have terrible neighbors, but the standards were much lower than I wanted. I had one neighbor who put amazon boxes outside the front door instead of into the recycle bin. I was irritated by non-working cars in the driveway (one neighbor had THREE). And I have definitely pulled in trashcans and picked up trash in other people’s yards.
Military housing does have rules, but they aren’t always enforced. I wouldn’t say the neighborhoods are worse than any civilian neighborhood, but if you, like me, are someone that has really high standards, you may be disappointed.
Compromises and Solutions
I would say I need to live off post but my desire for convenience rivals my need to live out my bougie dreams. I don’t think a prettier house next door could make up for the guilt of making my husband spend an extra 45 minutes in traffic to get to PT EVERYDAY.
Military housing is separated by rank: a private is not going to live next to a Captain, so one solution for me would be to work hard so I can get– I mean my husband could get promoted or commissioned.
Flat-rate houses could be a compromise for someone wanting to save on BAH. There are some places on base that may be, for instance $900/month, then you could keep a little each month. You may have to inquire.
Ultimately, our entire military experience is about compromise. No choice is going to have a perfect outcome in terms of housing or on post. What is important is starting with what is important to you and working back toward your answer from there.