A REAL Way to Save Military Families $$

As you might have noticed, I am a little riled up about the proposed changes to the Military Lending Act (MLA).  According to supporters of these changes, the Department of Defense (DoD) has an obligation to help protect military families from their own bad choices, and to help them improve their financial lives.

I have an idea – why doesn’t the DoD look at some smaller, more appropriate changes that will help a broader range of people save money every days?

Like, perhaps, the cost of basic foodstuffs at the AAFES Shoppettes and the NEX Mini Marts.

AAFES ShoppetteThe other night, I realized we were out of milk.  I hate not having milk for breakfast – it severely limits our choices and my people tend to eat more junk when there’s no milk.  We were headed to base for some sort of child taxi-ing duties, so I thought I’d grab a half-gallon at the Shoppette.  Severe sticker shock!

A half-gallon of milk at the Shoppette on our base was $4.15!  That is crazy!  I can buy the same half-gallon of milk at the commissary for half the price, and if I stopped at a U.S. grocery store, I would be able to get a gallon for less than the Shoppette price for a half-gallon.  (Heck, with a good promotion I could get TWO gallons for less than $4.00.)  Even here, overseas, I can purchase roughly the same amount of milk for less than $1.50.

The markup is similar for other groceries at the Mini Marts and Shoppettes.  Now, I understand that the exchanges are funded differently than the commissaries, and that they are trying to make a profit to donate that money back to the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) programs.  And you know what?  I don’t really care about any of that.  I care about the cost of feeding my family, and the exchange system is really hitting people in the pocketbook with their grocery prices.

Listen, AAFES and NEX.  No one is buying groceries at the Mini Mart or Shoppette because they want to.  They’re buying groceries there because everything else is closed, or they live on base and they don’t have transportation, or because they work on a crazy schedule that doesn’t allow them to shop like normal people, or because they ran out of milk.  I think it is awful the way you jack up the prices of food and stick it to people who have limited options.  That’s just not cool.

I would like to see our military leaders look at this situation, and make changes to the amount that AAFES and NEX mark up their grocery items.  This small change would be a real help military families every day.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.