The problem: military family income is often low, leaving little room for extra expenses. Why you should keep reading: You’ll find some excellent little-known resources that provide food, furniture, bikes, and more to military families!
Did you know about all these opportunities at your base? Of course experiences vary at different locations around the country. But here are some of my favorite organizations that provide free resources to military families.
17 Unique things military families get free
Christmas Trees: A program called Trees for Troops gives thousands of free Christmas trees to military bases every year. The program is sponsored by the Christmas Spirit Foundation. The pre-cut trees can be picked up on base, and are a great way to enjoy some cheer, especially if your spouse is deployed for the holidays.
Christmas Gifts: Local churches sometimes adopt my husband’s military unit. These groups work hard to generously provide gifts for military children. They are typically distributed at the unit Christmas party. Whether it is a toy, a stuffed animal, or an ornament, kids love receiving their own gift.
Groceries: Many military families qualify for WIC vouchers from the government because of their low income. WIC gives us free vouchers to use for fresh produce, milk, cheese, peanut butter, juice, wheat bread, and cereal every month. Using WIC saves us 20% on groceries.
“Military kids can qualify for WIC vouchers and free school lunch to save you a ton on groceries!” ~The Seasoned Spouse
School Lunches: Because of low family income, military children often qualify for free or reduced lunch at school. This depends on the average income levels around your duty station.
Bikes: Some military families can’t afford to give their child a new bike for Christmas. But with help from the USO’s “That’s my Ride” Program, you can! Volunteers assemble thousands of bikes to give to needy families.
Quilts: During a parent’s deployment, military children can receive a free, personalized quilt from the ASYMCA. It will have the child’s name, and pictures of them with their deployed parent! The program is called Operation Kid Comfort.
Art Supplies: Every December, the program Art4Healing donates these great boxes of art supplies to our on-base school. Every single student receives one! It has paint, markers, pastels, crayons, pencils, and lots of paper. My kids love them, and I let them be artistic!
Backpacks and School Supplies: At the beginning of the school year, local church groups donated school supplies and backpacks to military kids on our base. One group donated through the base Vacation Bible School Program, but another group called Operation Homefront hosted a giveaway with backpacks for hundreds of military families.
Appliances and Furniture: It isn’t easy to find large items for free, but most bases have thrift store or on-base yard sale page where military families can share things with each other. Our base is also lucky to have a program run by generous volunteers from the local Rotary Club. They collect furniture and appliances from local stores, and give them away to military families.
Clothes and Shoes: Several times throughout the year, the local Assistance League has a massive giveaway of clothing and shoes for military children. Families must register in advance for the event. Every child receives 2 free outfits, a jacket, and a gift card to Payless Shoes! I almost cried when all 4 of my children got back-to-school outfits for free.
Diapers & Baby Wipes: Local volunteers often collect canned goods and baby items for military families. Free diapers are provided by the local chapters of the Assistance League.
National Parks Passes: Did you know military families get free admission to all National Parks? They do! These passes usually cost over $100, but military families can enter for free. Just show a military ID at the park entrance. You can also camp overnight at National Parks, (usually with a reservation in advance). Our family has camped at National Parks to save money during a cross-country PCS move.
Ball Gown: Most military units have an annual military ball, which is a formal event. Military families look forward to this night out, when the service member wears their finest dress uniform. But military wives don’t need to buy a new ball gown every year. I have never bought mine! I either trade with a friend, or get one from the base ball gown giveaway. On our base, these are sponsored by the ASYMCA or the Bells of Freedom.
Museum/Zoo Admission: Through the Blue Star Museums program, military families can receive free admission at museums throughout the country! Often, you can enter by showing a military ID at the door, but it is smart to check the specific website first and see if you can print tickets in advance. In the past year, we have visited the Zoo, Sea World, and the Children’s Museum– all for free! You can also check with your ITT office on base for local discount tickets.
Care package materials: During deployment, many military spouses send care packages. The cost of filling and shipping is expensive enough. Did you know you can get the packaging materials for free from the USPS? You can order your free package online! Visit my Care Package Pinterest board for tons of decorating ideas.
Swim lessons and Classes: On most military bases, children can take swim lessons for free, or a low price. Youth Sports offers a variety of sports throughout the year. Check with your base MWR office for a schedule. There may also be military discounts for community programs off-base.
Homecoming Banners: The best part of a deployment is Homecoming! You can welcome your hero home with a FREE sign from Build-a-Sign. They offer signs and banners to military members for free. You will only pay for shipping. Visit the Build-a-Sign Troops website to design your custom banner and upload a photo.
Do you have these free programs on your base? What interesting things have you received for free?