Paycheck Chronicles

From The Mailbag: 2017 Basic Allowance for Subsistence

I like simple letters, especially when they give me an opportunity to impart a little knowledge.

Dear Kate,

Why didn't BAS go up this year?


I'm not sure this reader wanted this much information.

Dear B.S.,

Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS) increases are directly linked to the cost of food.  According to the  U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cost of Food at Home Index, food costs actually decreased 1.9% from 1 October 2015 to 30 September 2016.  Therefore, no increase in BAH.  At least there is good news:  While BAS increases are tied to increases in this index, there is no provision for BAS to go down when food prices decline.


The 2017 Basic Allowance for Subsistence rates are:

Enlisted: $368.29 per month

Officers: $253.63 per month

BAS is a non-taxable allowance to defray the cost of food for the service member.  It is based upon the cost of food purchased at the grocery store and prepared at home.  US consumers now spend more on food consumed outside the home than on food consumed inside the home (2014 figures.)  If your food budget is stretched, you may look to how much you are spending on prepared foods.  It's a big budget leak for me!  A soda here, a sandwich there - it adds up!

As I do every year, I will take this opportunity to remind folks to use their government-supplied meals if they are paying for them. In many situations, service members are expected to eat in a dining facility or on a ship, and they're being charged for those meals whether they eat them or not. If you're paying for meals, please eat them.  I know that it may seem more appealing to go to Subway or wherever, but it's not a great idea unless you have a ton of money to waste.   Maybe give yourself a set number of times you can eat elsewhere each week, and enjoy them as a treat.  This is a simple way to save a ton of money each month.

The BAS (Basic Allowance for Subsistence) rate increases are for all branches of the military: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, and Navy.

Want to learn more?  See Understanding How Basic Allowance for Subsistence Works.

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