The best piece of advice I could ever give you is to SAVE as much as possible before your spouse leaves for BMT. If you don’t have a job that can fully cover your bills for at least a month, and you don’t have savings, BMT is going to be tough on you financially, as well as emotionally.
To use Jeremy as an example, he left for BMT December 15, 2015 and didn’t get paid until January 15, 2016. That first check was approximately $400 dollars. That means that if I hadn’t had a job, I would have been relying on $400 for a month and a half. And to further show how weird BMT pay can be, the next check was $5000. Thankfully for us, the checks evened out by the third one and we haven’t had an issue with pay since (knock on wood). But that’s not the case for everyone.
I can’t even begin to tell you all the times I’ve heard people tell stories about missing paychecks, paychecks that were too small or too big, getting back pay, or even worse, having pay taken back because they had been over paid. Most of these stories come from people in BMT or tech school.
Pay attention to the checks as they get deposited. Know your spouse’s rank and how much they should be getting paid. Know what BAH is for your zip code. After 30 days, you get separation pay. Know these things. Pay attention to them. If you feel like you were overpaid, don’t spend that money.
How much your spouse gets paid every month depends on his or her rank. You can enter the Air Force as an E-1 (Airman Basic), E-2 (Airman), or E-3 (Airman Frist Class) depending on how many college credits you had before enlisting. Ask your spouse what their rank will be before they leave. As far as I know, they will be paid based on the rank they will be once completely BMT. As of January 1, 2016, an E-1 makes $1566.90/month, and E-2 makes $1756.50/month, and an E-3 makes $1847.10/month.
BAH is calculated based on your spouse’s zip code of enlistment, or your zip code if they are different. Usually, BAH covers a region, not just that one zip code. To find your zip code’s BAH, click here.
The last thing you need to know is that your spouse will get separation pay after 30 days. As of January 1, 2016, separation pay is $250/month.
So let’s calculate this out.
Jeremy went into BMT as an E-1. He made $1566.90/month. BAH for our zip code was $3135/month. Add separation pay and he was making $4951.90/month. Divide that by 2 because each paycheck is half of your monthly income, and Jeremy was making $2475.95 per paycheck. (BAH was really high for us because we lived just outside San Francisco and cost of living is insane). So obviously, our first paycheck was really low and our second was really high. That was a good thing to pay attention to just in case it was a mistake.
So why was Jeremy’s first paycheck so low? First of all, every trainee gets $300 taken out of their first check and put on a card that can be used at the BX. They also get uniform fees taken out. The first check covers those first 30 days so there is no separation pay. And finally, we did not receive BAH in the first check, which is why the second check was so much.
I hope this helps to explain how pay in general works and how messed up it can be during BMT. I have horror stories, but the main thing to keep in mind is have savings and pay attention to your pay. If you do those two things, you will be fine.