April 01, 2010
By Caroline S. Tetschner
A dear Navy friend of mine once called me "a frugal German." I took pleasure in that apt description because it spoke of my reputation as an, "economically savvy budgeter," okay... or maybe he just thought I was cheap. In any event, I have learned that by always asking a retailer or business if they offer a military discount, I've saved us thousands of dollars in the 10+ years of our Navy family life together.
And you can do the same.
But there's a little known fact about military discounts -- most of the regular discounts, for instance a standard percentage off for military that is always in effect, are rarely, if ever, advertised. As an example, my husband and I went shopping at a big box hardware store on a recent Friday, in search of a kitchen sink and new faucet. As the cashier was ringing up our order, I casually asked if they offered a military discount. "Yes," he replied and sure enough we instantly saved 10% or about $40 off those two large purchases. Nice savings.
If you are shopping for a specific item however, let's say you want to grab the latest paperback bestseller for your upcoming vacation, these sites offer info on places that discount for military families: Military Discounts at Navy Times
, and and Military Discounts at Military.com
Through these Web sites, I've learned that if you ask, Barnes & Noble will offer a military special of free shipping and 6% off their on-line orders! This equates to at least a 20% savings, since a large part of on-line book sale fees come from shipping charges. And these are just a sampling of the numerous sites out there offering information on military-based discounts.
You'll also find that places you might frequent every day, some Dunkin Donuts
franchises for instance, offer a major military discount. My husband learned this at our last duty station in Great Lakes, Illinois, outside of Chicago. On one of his "O-dark 30" morning commutes, it was his turn to, "get the Friday doughnuts." A new Dunkin Donuts shop had opened just 5 minutes from our house, directly on his route to work. He entered the store in uniform, ordered the boxed dozen and got charged exactly HALF PRICE versus a "regular" dozen. This Dunkin Donuts offered a 50% military discount, and quickly become our favorite doughnut destination!
And simply "by asking," we have received other enviable military-based discounts.
On a recent vacation to Myrtle Beach, my husband and I, our 6 year old daughter and her Grandma decided to spend the day at a locally-owned water park. But before paying the $18/per person entrance fee, I asked if they offered a military rate. "We sure do," said the suburned, teenage girl. She led us up a flight of very steep, rickety stairs into an older building that housed "the office." "Okaaaay... I thought, maybe it's not worth it this time." Upon reaching that last step however, we were kindly greeted at a desk by the company's matriarch, a lovely, 60-something woman, who just asked to see my husband's military I.D. We gladly complied, she okayed our discount to the teenage girl, who subsequently gave us 50% off the regular admission price! That translated to a $36 savings (!) for the four of us, or a few decent southern, home-style dinners at one of the numerous eateries in this resort area.
But keep in mind, that none of the retailers mentioned openly advertised these great military savings at their outlets. Only by politely inquiring, did we get rewarded with often decent savings that went right back into, "Hip Pocket National Bank," as my husband likes to say. He's not German, but I think his secret, frugal side is increasingly surfacing as we sponge up awesome savings like these.
So, DO ASK, and carry your military I.D. with you when it's feasible. In addition to the numerous other benefits you get as a military spouse or member, view your I.D. card as a "constant coupon," that pays back dividends on varied and numerous occasions.