You Can’t Always Count on The Exchange

While planning to move overseas, and deciding if we needed to make any particular purchases before we left, one phrase kept coming up, “The exchange will probably carry that.”  Having been in our new home for a month now, our experiences have been pretty disappointing.

It doesn’t seem like we should have to make a lot of purchases while still living in a hotel, but things do come up.  I’ve gained more than a few pounds since I packed my suitcases, so a new pair of workout pants was necessary.  One child has outgrown all her shoes this month, and now the girls are going to camp and we won’t have our camping gear before they go.

Our first stop was the nearby Navy Exchange.  I found two choices for workout pants, both fine but both also more than I would usually pay.  Shoes for the daughter were nearly impossible:  the selection was lousy and the prices were ridiculous.  We finally agreed on a pair that were just OK, and I paid $33 on clearance.  $33 for shoes for a 10 year old?  We can’t afford to live like that!

Fortunately, most of the things that we’ll need for camping (plastic plates, sheets, pillows) were in our unaccompanied baggage, so we had that delivered to the hotel.  Sleeping bags, however, were not.  We looked into renting them from MWR and it would be $12 for the 8 days, plus figure that we will get them back a day late because it is a five hour drive to camp, so probably $14 times four rentals = $56.  Not the end of the world, but a lot of money.  Since two of our children’s sleeping bags are actually children’s sizes, and they are being outgrown, I thought that we could use some of that money to buy two new sleeping bags.  There isn’t enough time to order them online so the NEX it would be.  Except that they were pretty much out of sleeping bags.  We were able to find three fleece sleeping bag style blankets for $10 each so we bought them.  It shouldn’t be cold at camp, they are less expensive than renting, and they are new and therefore clean.  (I feel weird about the rental sleeping bags.)

I am quickly learning that I can not expect the exchange to have what I need, to have a selection to choose from, and to have good prices.  It is quite unfortunate – it seems to me that the NEX should be the “go to” place for American families stationed nearby.  I’ll certainly learn where to shop in town as soon as we get situated.  It seems apparent that the NEX isn’t going to do the job for our family.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • Pouncy

    Ebay is really good for mail ordering things, including things like electronics and beauty supplies that Amazon won’t send to APO/FPO. Ask around the base and you will acquire a list of good websites to order from. We ordered most of our clothes via mail since Japanese sizes were too small for my American curves and feet!

  • I have been worried about this. We are going to Okinawa. Hubby is already there, so I can always send him shopping for me, but I worry about the selection. I went to my parents this weekend and we bought a bunch of clothes for her and a few things for me, all on clearance!