What I Wish I Knew Before Living Off Base
This is where I admit that living off base might not have been the best option.
When my husband and I arrived in Hawaii, we knew we wanted to live off base. We wanted to pocket a few dollars from our BAH, plus we liked being in control so we went to almost 20 rentals in search of our perfect Hawaii home.
By the way, just so we’re on the same page, BAH stands for Basic Allowance for Housing. Every month, the Military provides us with an amount that we can use toward our housing. If you live on base, they usually take all your BAH but spare you the costs of utilities. On the other hand, if you live off base, you decide how to spend your BAH money.
The upside of living off base meant that we could pocket more money. So we chose to stay in the house we’re in now. But over time and after much discussion, we’re slowly realizing that we might not be extending our lease once it ends.
Here’s what we wish we knew before we lived off base:
1. That Pricey Sewage Fee
When we first got to Hawaii and were meeting with property managers, all of them were going on and on about how cheap our water bill would be if we stayed in their listing. “It’ll just be $50 at most.” This is something most if not ALL of them echoed.
We knew utilities could be expensive in Hawaii so this is something that threw us off guard. I mean, $50/month for water? That was perfect for our budget!
But see, this is where I’m slowly reminded of how people will often hide things in order to make a sale. The one thing the property managers forgot to mention was the sewage fee.
So picture this, we were loving our new home and started to fill it with all these nice things. Our water bill arrives and we open it thinking how much of a steal our water expenses would be. & when we finally see the bill, the statement total was at $100!
I get it, although $100 may not be as much, it was double what we expected for our utility expenses — something that we really tried to factor in when deciding on living on base or off.
2. Central AC Isn’t Always More Expensive
This may have been an oversight on our end. We specifically looked for houses that had window-type AC units because we thought that a central AC unit would increase expenses more, since it’d be cooling the entire house.
Long story short, this was false. Old window-type AC units can actually increase the electricity bill more.
3. My Husband Would Transfer Work Areas
My husband has switched work areas 3 times in the span of 9 months. He’s worked on Ford Island, Pearl Harbor base, over on the seal base, and now he’s on a marine base — which I think he’ll be stationed in for the next year or so.
Our current home has him riding with the traffic jam. This means he’d spend about an hour on the road each going to and coming from work. That’s 2 hours of idle time in the car every day. Since he hates being stuck on the road, he’s worked out a system where he leaves early in the morning, hits the gym, gets a shower in, and then goes into work. It ends up being a win-win because he gets a workout in and doesn’t have to deal with traffic. He leaves at around 4:30am though, so you know, no big.
If we decide to move, there’s one military housing neighborhood that would give him an easier commute. It’s still a little early on, so that’s all I’ll say for now. Moving on!
4. Some On Base Options Won’t Take All Of Your BAH
The recently renovated and bigger military housing options may take all off your BAH, but some neighborhoods will still leave you a good amount of money every month. It all depends on the number of bedrooms that you’d need, of course, but some options will still let you pocket $500/month. They might even give you a check for extra money if your energy consumption is below than the average household.
We still have a few months left into lease so everything’s still pretty much up in the air if we will indeed move. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the house we’re in now. It’s got the vibe I’ve always wanted, it’s in a safe and beautiful neighborhood, and it’s our first home — nothing can ever beat that, especially if you’ve been living in hotels for months on end because #militarylife.
We just have a few more things to think about, like the new baby coming soon, so right now, we’re considering all our options!
Anyway, I hope this post helps you out, guys! Mahalo for reading!