- Graduation costs how much?!
Plan NOW! If your son or daughter is just thinking about joining the Air Force, start planning. If they've signed the dotted line but haven't left for BMT yet, start planning. If they're already in BMT, start planning ASAP! BMT Graduation will be here a lot sooner than you think!
1. Plan who goes. Be realistic. Have that all important "sit-down" discussion with your family, hopefully before your Trainee (AB) leaves for BMT so he/she will know what is possible. Really crunch the numbers and decide if everyone in the family will be going, or maybe one or two. Open a savings account for BMT only.
2. Mark your calendar once you know the probable family day/graduation dates so that no reservation errors are made and future date conflicts will be noticed as soon as they arise.
3. Plan your finances. Set up a separate checking or savings account just for your BMT graduation trip. DO NOT TOUCH IT except to purchase flights, hotels, rental cars and graduation spending money. Every week set a goal for how much cash you will put in it. If you reach the goal, great! If you exceed it, even better! If you fall short, then be sure to add it to the next week and save, save, save!
4. Plane, train or automobile?
Research! Doing your homework can save you money and heartache in the long run!
Take advantage of the internet and look at all of the discounts sites (Travelocity, Priceline, Hotwire, Kayak, etc.). Remember, online deals don't always last long, so if you find one, take it if you can! Otherwise, start budgeting. Always try to get refundable tickets or transferable ones if possible, in case your Airmen is recycled (has his/her graduation date changed).
5. Hungry Airmen eat a lot! Your Airmen will eat far more than in civilian life. He/she will also be extremely tired of DFAC food and craving fast food. Be prepared to spend the majority of your time with them at some type of meal. Plan your food budget to be much larger than you would expect. Please remember that they have been without caffeine and sugar, so don't overdo it. It has been known for Airmen to become sick with all the "junk food".
IF BUDGET IS AN ISSUE, CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING SUGGESTIONS:
1. Cut back on going to restaurants, movies and such, just for these few months. Do without that cute pair of shoes. Take the money you'd spend for that and put it into your BMT savings account. You'd be SURPRISED at how much you can save that way!
2. Pay for everything in cash (debit/credit cards make it too easy to lose track of spending). Give yourself a weekly allowance.
3. Just Get There! Don't keep up with the Jones's. Forgo getting the banners and t-shirts you may see other families getting for graduation. Those are great things to have, but they're not mandatory. If you just have to have a banner, make one yourself - they're just as nice and straight from the heart. In the end, your Airman just wants to see you! Once at the base, go to Walmart and buy balloons you can blow up, crepe paper streamers, a funny card, poster board and markers to make a sign. Use them to decorate your hotel room for your post-Graduation Day time together. Have his/her favorite cookies or a bakery cake. That will all seem fantastic to them!
4. Keep that Change! Every time you pay for something, round it to the next dollar, drop it in a jar and then when it's full, take it to the bank and put it in your BMT account. It adds up fast!
5. Sell Something! Garage sales, bake sales, lemonade stands, car wash, dog wash ... go ahead and give it a try!
Get the kids involved, the family, your friends, and really have some fun while making some extra cash. However, do NOT make this your only means of revenue. Also, do NOT do this last minute. If your sale is a bust and you waited until the last minute that could be a disaster. Be sure to check with your local laws and ordinances when it comes to sales.
6. Sell online. Craigslist and ebay could be your best friends if you don't want to go the garage sale route. Look around the house and sell what you don't use/need. It's true that one man's trash is another's treasure! Do a little research to get the price right and don't forget to add in some extra bucks for shipping costs (if applicable). Of course, be safe during the exchange and meet somewhere public with a friend or family member accompanying you! Don't post the dates of your trip!
7. Get Active! Have a sports fund raiser. Run, jump, shoot hoops, grand slams & hole in ones! Run for It! If you or your friends are runners or walkers, consider putting together a running group and run for donations in 5ks and marathons. Basketball, baseball, (miniature) golf tournaments get your family & friends together! Not only will you get in shape, you can raise money in a fun way! Keep in mind there are entry fees to most things, so a sponsorship from a friend, family or local business will help!
8. Party Time. Having a birthday while your Airmen is gone or perhaps a wedding, anniversary or gift-giving-type holiday? Instead of presents, ask your friends and family to chip in for the trip. You can even put together a wish list so they "choose" the item they want to "purchase" for you. Here's an example:
- Hotel for one night --- $80--- total requested: 4
- Meal with my Airmen ---$50--- total requested: 8
- A Day at Seaworld ---$45---total requested: 4 (Airmen plus 3 dependents get in free. If the airman is not married, Seaworld MAY extend it out to the parents) Tickets on base are $45
You get the idea, have fun and put any amount you want. Any little bit helps!
9. Get the Boss Involved! If you're one of the lucky ones with a cool boss, see if he/she will help. If it's a suit and tie kind of place, see if the boss will allow employees to donate $5 or $10 for a "Casual Friday." Everyone who chips in will get to wear jeans to work that day. Or see if they'll throw a small office party with a donation jar. If it would be more appropriate, ask a friend or co-worker to ask for you. How about "Taco Day"? Cook up your favorite meat, warm up tortillas, get the condiments together and you have lunch on a budget and let your coworkers buy their lunch from you.
10. Get to Work! You just might have to work for it...and that could mean a part-time job. Deliver pizzas for a few weeks, clean houses (even it's just your friends' homes!), walk dogs, pet sit, mow lawns, clean windows, plant a garden, bake cakes. Get creative!
11. Just Ask. Don't be ashamed to ask for help. If you have friends and family who can and will help you, let them. If they and you prefer that it be a loan rather than a gift, pay them back as soon as possible, even if it means a payment plan when you return.
12. Say "Thank You". Always remember to thank those who helped with a card or letter. Two simple words, when from the heart, can mean a lot!
This is NOT a time to try to keep up with the "Jones's"! You'll still have the regular bills to pay and if you over stretch your budget, it may take a while to get back on your feet.
Make it instead of buying it.
What if ... you made your own banner or t-shirt? Gather family members who are not able to go and make a sign or a few shirts. You can use items such as butcher paper, construction paper, or buy plain shirts and decorate. Paints, markers, glue, iron-ons, etc. Plaster your hands, sign you names, have fun!
Here is another great idea a 'Banner-Case'* A banner case is when you get a pillow case and use it to make a banner! You can use the markers, paint puff, material paint too. But the great part about this is that they'll be able to take it with them and sleep with it at night.
Have family & friends over to help decorate and sign the back with well wishes. Do NOT use glitter!!! Nice to look at, a PAIN to clean! If it gets on the uniform or in the dorm the Airmen may get yelled at. Be safe. The Banners are used during the Airman's Run and NOT at the Coin Ceremony or Graduation since there is no room to hang or display.
*Banner-Case is the intellectual property of Lorraine Silva.
T-Shirts: Get creative and have fun! Iron on, puff ink (NO Glitter), Markers, embroidery, spray paints, etc..
***Please always be safe when doing anything. Never give out graduation dates or travel plans except to family members and close friend. Before you leave, notify your local police, newspaper delivery service & Postal Department if your house will be vacant.