Undoubtedly, military service can provide service members and their families with incredible benefits, such as health care and insurance, the opportunity to live in foreign countries, as well as advanced training and career stability. But then again, military families also face unique challenges, including military spouse unemployment, financial hardships, high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder in active duty service members, lack of adequate and affordable childcare, and year-long waitlists for housing.
There is one problem for military families that is often hard for civilians to believe: food insecurity.
Food insecurity is the inability to afford or access adequate meals to thrive. According to research done in 2022 by the Military Family Advisory Network, 1 in 6 military families are food insecure. In addition to the rising costs of goods and services, military spouse unemployment can cause a family unit to experience financial hardship, leading to food insecurity.
Here are the top 5 ways that have helped me make extra income for my military family:
1. Save Money on Groceries: Couponing and Rebates
The rising cost of goods and services has forced many spouses, both employed and unemployed, to seek some kind of savings when shopping for groceries and other everyday items. I am one of these spouses.
While I am far from what would be considered an “extreme couponer,” I have found that taking a few minutes to check for coupons both in-store and online means my grocery haul can actually last me until my next paycheck. At times, I could even make a few extra dollars by combining the savings from the coupons and the money back from the rebate apps. This combination results in not just savings, but money makers.
Learning to coupon can take a little time and a bit of research. I found it helpful to follow a few groups on social media sites, such as Facebook and Tiktok. There, I learned how to save on items I was actually going to use. Here are some apps I’ve found quick and easy to use:
My Top Coupon and Rebate Apps
- Fetch Rewards — This is by far my favorite rebate app because it’s very simple. All you do is scan your receipts and get rewards. Every receipt gets you at least 25 points. You earn additional points for purchasing specific brands. Once you reach as low as 5,000 points, you can redeem them for online gift cards to countless sites, such as Amazon, Walmart, Target, Autozone, and more. You can even connect your email accounts so when you make online purchases, they are counted as well.
- Coupons.com — Before going into the store, I peruse this app for items I am planning to purchase to activate them. After making my purchases, I submit my receipt and scan the barcodes of the items. My savings are then sent directly to my PayPal account.
- Ibotta — This is another great cash-back app to use for everyday groceries. Just select the store where you plan to shop, add the items with rebates, submit your receipt after shopping and accrue savings. Once you reach the rebate minimum ($20), funds can be transferred to your bank or collected in the form of a gift card.
2. Utilize the Internet and Work Remotely
If working a traditional job out of your home is not feasible for your family, one option is to work for a company remotely. Since the pandemic hit, virtual work has become part of the new normal. Many companies found that a business could be run from home, cutting overhead costs. Some examples of virtual positions include: virtual assistant, customer service representative, virtual scribe, data entry clerk, scheduling coordinator, and technical support specialist.
3. Get Creative and Crafty
Another way to earn additional income is to be creative. I have found that our military community is so loving and giving. Spouses would more often than not support another’s business. Many spouses have honed their creative skills, invested in themselves and started printing, crafting, and woodworking from home. I have gotten many custom designs done by other spouses for items such as sweatshirts, coffee cups, and tumblers. The demand for these custom items is high and can be very lucrative.
You can also get crafty by using design apps like Canva and posting them on sites like Amazon, which handle the printing and publishing of these designs on items such as journals, folders, and planners. The best part about this kind of work is the ability to provide a product without having to invest in an inventory first.
4. Become a Freelancer
I personally have found success in freelance writing. It works for me to take on a job at times that are convenient for me. It gives me autonomy over my work and the pace at which I complete jobs while still contributing additional income to my family.
Through the Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA)’s Military Spouse Writing Program, I’ve been able to share my experiences as a military spouse, provide encouragement to fellow military families and give an inside look at the unique challenges of military life. It’s also allowed me to fulfill my childhood dream of becoming a professional writer.
The nature of freelance work is being paid on a per-job basis. The difficulty, rate, pace, and type are determined by the freelancer. Many have found success taking on many small task jobs, such as those of a part-time assistant helping with billing and scheduling or a writer taking on a job to edit others’ work.
5. Lend a Helping Hand
Another great way to help make ends meet or build savings is to offer a helping hand to your community, usually through social media. At my current installation, there is a Facebook group called “Spouses Store Runs” where spouses can either offer their services to the group or look for someone to do a specific run for them.
During my stint as a stay-at-home mom, this group was a godsend for me. The mere thought of bringing my wild rambunctious toddler on a grocery store run gave me hives. So, I utilized this group often and would simply send my runner a list. The services had flat-rate fees for on-post as well as off-post runs, plus a tip can be given at the spouse’s discretion. I’ve seen spouses offer or get runs for anything from grocery pick-ups and take-out food to work or airport drop-offs and even Ikea trips.
Personally, I earned extra income by helping other spouses out through the tried and true method: babysitting. Lack of childcare is a real issue that contributes to military spouse unemployment, so babysitting can provide that additional support military families need.
Also on social media, specifically Facebook, I found a few groups for babysitters in my area and offered my services. The income I made from babysitting helped my family immensely and I was able to serve fellow military spouses at the same time.
Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way
When a military spouse becomes unemployed, it can be daunting thinking of how you can contribute financially to make ends meet. But there is hope and there is something you can do. It might take some self-reflection, planning, and real talk with yourself and your service member on what you can handle and what will work for your family, but you’ll figure it out. Luckily, you don’t have to do it alone!
The ASYMCA offers supportive programs and services, such as food pantries, baby bundles, and childcare to help offset debt and assist families who may be experiencing financial instability. Learn more about the ASYMCA here.