Despite the differences between each military branch, they all have something in common: the E-1 service member. Also known as: private, airman basic, seaman recruit, fresh meat…
E-1s are the babies of the service. Many of them are just out of basic and AIT, and likely not far out of high school either. They probably (definitely) don’t know what they’re doing yet, but can you blame them?
When you’re 18 and you get your first whiff of self-earned money, you might not spend it so wisely. With a fresh enlistment bonus and their first real paycheck in the bank, let’s take a look at some of the things E-1s buy that they really shouldn’t.
A big bottle of powder labeled “Kaged Muscle” or “Pump” may not be the best way to spend $30. Pre-workout supplements are overhyped and overpriced, and most people who take them don’t actually know what’s in them. While they’re not expressly bad for you, they’re definitely not the most important aspect of a workout.
Bottom line: unless you’re a dedicated bodybuilder, you can skip pre-workout.
Beer is a gateway to alcoholism, makes you fat, is bad for you, blah blah blah…
Yeah, no. I get it. There’s nothing wrong with having a beer or two, plus, it’s pretty much military culture. But you don’t need a cold one in the fridge to keep your buddies around, and you probably shouldn’t be buying a pack a day. Most E-1s aren’t even old enough to legally drink it.
8. Hot pockets
This should be a whole other article. One titled “10 Things E-1s Buy For Super Cheap Because They Spent Their Money Elsewhere.” It would include hot pockets, ramen, and everything else that microwaves in under five minutes.
7. Huge H-D TV
If you’ve ever been in the military, you know what barracks life is like – and it doesn’t include a whole lot of personal space. But there’s always that guy whose TV takes up about half his room, and nowadays, there’s probably a lot of that guy.
I won’t go on a rant about video game addiction in service members (though it is a problem), but I will say: you can find a better use for the $800+ you’re thinking of dropping on that 70” TV.
Fun fact: Did you know the military actually recruits people using video games?
6. Bad tattoos
The military is no stranger to ink. In fact, they love it. I would venture as far to say that the majority of service members and veterans have at least one tattoo.
“Bad” tattoos, whether they’re bad because of the artist or the content, aren’t the end of the world. They make funny stories and hopefully they’re in a forgettable place. But no one really wants a crappy tattoo, and a surefire way to get one is by just walking into the first tatt shop you see.
Whether you’ve just finished basic or you’re toasting your first assignment, don’t make getting a tattoo part of that celebration. Think about it; this is something that will be on your body the rest of your life. Taking a little time to research the tattoo and tattooer won’t kill you.
Ok, let’s be real. Does anyone really need a motorcycle? Let alone an 18-year-old?
This is one of those “toys” that seems fun and cool but is actually a huge safety hazard, not to mention waste of money. There’s countless stories of road accidents after a long night on CQ, or after you’ve been out having fun with buddies.
It’s one thing if you’re a practiced and safe motorcyclist with a legitimate love for the open road. But E-1s, you shouldn’t buy a motorcycle if:
- You’re trying to impress your friends
- You don’t think you need to take safety classes
- You don’t actually need a vehicle
4. Hotshot car
Is it just me, or is there an inordinate amount of muscle cars on post? I can’t tell you how many guys get their first paycheck just to turn around and spend it on car mods. Or to buy a car that’s really not within their means. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
Here’s a couple ways to tell you shouldn’t be buying a car:
- Your interest rate is above 10%
- You’re spending 20% or more of your monthly income on a car payment
- It looks really cool, but doesn’t actually work that well
If you really need a car – and a lot of people don’t when they live on base – you need to remember that a car is a tool, meant to get you from point “A” to point “B”. Insurance is already expensive enough as a young person; don’t dig yourself into a hole for a car.
One good look into a pair of puppy eyes is enough to sink most people. And when you suddenly find yourself with money in your pocket, it seems all the more reason to buy a companion.
You have to remember: dogs are not temporary. They are not disposable. And they are basically like having a non-speaking, furry child. While a dog can be fantastic for a lonely vet or a soldier with a dog-loving family, they don’t work the best with young and single service members.
As an E-1, you’re very likely to get an overseas assignment or have to deploy. That makes having a dog complicated, because most of the time you can’t take them with you. Not only that, but dogs need constant care; you can’t be gone for an eight-hour shift and then go out with friends after.
If you don’t have the time to commit – and please remember, in the military, they own your time – then do not get a dog.
2. Wedding ring
Military members, on average, get married over five years earlier than their civilian counterparts. There’s a lot of reasons why, but ultimately it boils down to this: the military rewards you when you get married.
You need to think long and hard about marriage if you’re doing it to:
- Move out of barracks/live with your significant other
- Collect BAH or higher COLA
- PCS with your significant other
- Share any military benefits with your significant other
Military perks do not make a happy marriage. In fact, the military lifestyle often adds more stress on relationships. You should be marrying someone because you absolutely believe that you will be with them forever. For most E-1s, that’s not a promise they can or should be making.
1. Big Ol’ Divorce
Unfortunately, half of all marriages in America end in divorce. When you factor this in with how quickly many service members get married, you’ve practically got a recipe for divorce. And early divorce, at that.
Divorce is emotionally taxing. Your relationship is coming to an end, often in nastier ways than you ever could have imagined; that’s not a fun feeling. But what some people forget is just how expensive getting a divorce is.
Did you know that you can lose some of your military benefits to an ex-spouse? Even after you are divorced. You can also be kicked out of base housing while it happens, and lose “shared” assets that you paid for. If you have kids, it’s an even bigger nightmare for everyone involved.
As an E-1, sucking it up and living in barracks can be a quick way to save up money. Even better if you aren’t spending all your money on cars, video games, and beer. And once you’ve got a solid foundation and a higher rank, then you can think about settling down. For now, just enjoy being an E-1.
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