Did you know that overseas military bases will take coupons that have expired, up to six months after the original expiration date.? And that there are groups stateside that “adopt” military bases to help families reduce grocery bills.? Coupons take time, you say. Not worth the effort, too much paper mess and clutter, and so on and so forth. Here’s the basic financial stats on why, as a military family overseas, you should take advantage of these programs.
The average American family of four (two adults and two children under the age of 5 years) spends $861 per month on groceries according to the United States Department of Agriculture (January 2012). Your average E-4 service member with three years of service, a spouse, and two children, makes approximately $30,000 (Basic Pay and Basic Allowance Subsistence. Figure a 15% tax bracket, and your monthly take home pay is around $2125 (we’re ignoring things like exemptions to simplify the math).
Military commissaries are required by law to charge only what can cover costs, which tends to be about 30% less than civilian grocery stores. Now take that $861 and multiply it by 70%; that should get you what the average military family would pay per month if you shop only at the commissary, which is $602. Take that $602 and divide it by the net pay of $2125 per month; you end up with a bit more than 28%. Food costs for the average (young) family of four is over one-quarter of your net pay. Granted, housing is (mostly) covered, and so is medical, but those kids keep growing, that car still needs maintenance to keep it running well, and your pesky family would like to see you every once in a while (especially if you are assigned to multiple overseas duty stations in a row). That’s not a lot of money to do all that (and more!) if you are stationed overseas. Most likely, your spouse does not have a job or is gainfully underemployed.
One of the oldest organizations supporting military families overseas through couponing is the Overseas Coupon Project. For close to years this group has been a liaison, coordinating overseas military bases with smaller community organizations stateside to provide both expired and unexpired coupons. Bases list themselves with the OCP, and request to be “adopted.” A group signs up to adopt, and start sending coupons directly to their base. OCP maintains the listing, but not the relationship between adoptee and adopter. Same thing with GrocerySavingsTips.com. They maintain a page on their website also giving information on how to help, which bases are in need of adopting.
Another organization that helps send coupons overseas is sponsored by the website The Krazy Coupon Lady. They have already adopted several bases, organizing and mailing coupons they collect from their readers around the country. Expired Coupons for Overseas Military advertises their program through Facebook; “like,” clip, and mail those coupons!
So how do you help?
Start a coupon clipping group of your own and adopt a base. This is a long-term, time-involved commitment. Even the smallest of bases have hundreds of families.
Help an organization that has already adopted a base. The Krazy Coupon Lady has adopted several bases and accepts coupons from its reader to send overseas; same with Expired Coupons for Overseas Military.
Get your base on the lists. Don’t see your base name.? Check with you Family Services, your Family Support Center, or whatever it is your branch and base has named your family social service organization and find out if they are on a different adoption list from what is offered on this article. If not, ask to have your base participate.
Ask people and organizations from your hometown to adopt your base. Are you overseas yourself, but not adopted yet.? Start a letter writing campaign or ask your local friends and family to start “beating the street” and talk directly to those in your community. Churches, high school community service organization and civic groups are a great place to start asking. If they are unable to help, ask them to give names of other resources that may be interested.
When clipping and mailing coupons, be sure to keep organized. Divide your coupons into two groups, food and non-food. Make sure you coupons are not stores specific; while your local grocer may accept a competitor’s coupon, the base commissary will not. Printable coupons off the internet are hit and miss; send them, but remember to cut them out (do not send whole sheets of paper). Do not send coupons that are more than one, possibly two months past the expiration date; it takes time to coordinate, pack, mail, unpack, and distribute all these coupons.