Military Ball on a Budget…Priceless

My, oh, my.  The ways you can spend money on a military ball are amazing.  I am surprised that our younger troops can ever afford to go to a service ball, with all the expenses.   Thankfully, there are tons of ways to save and you’ll still have a good time.


Okay, there is absolutely nothing I can do about the cost of tickets.  Sorry!


Don’t have the right uniform for the ball?  Please, don’t go spend a couple of hundred dollars on a uniform just for the ball.  Check your base thrift shop, or ask if someone has a uniform you can borrow.  Ask your supervisors if there is an acceptable uniform that you already own.


Ugh, ball dresses.  So expensive, and hard to wear more than a couple of times before you change sizes or styles or something happens to it.  Again, please don’t buy new unless you fall across a super-clearance at a discount store.  Thrift store or consignment shop dresses are just fine, and the price is right.  The last new dress I bought cost about $85 dollars, the last consignment shop dress I bought cost $5.  I would much rather save that money for something useful!  Otherwise, ask around to share dresses.  Facebook has made it so easy to organize a dress swap, and everyone will be delighted.


Safety is first when it comes to driving and special events.  If you need to take a cab to ensure that you get home without incident, I consider that money well spent.  Check to see if bus transportation is being provided by the sponsoring organization.  This is especially great for balls that are some distance from your regular location.


Once again, safety first.  If you intend to be drinking, maybe a hotel room is a good idea.  Or take the bus back to base, and get a room in lodging.  The cost of any transportation and accommodation is always going to be less expensive than an alcohol violation or a collision.

Child Care

Balls are exactly the right time to ask the grandparents to visit, as they get the bonus of seeing their service member all dressed up.  This is also a great time to d0 a  babysitting swap with friends or neighbors, especially if they are in different services or communities.  You take their kids overnight for their ball, they can take your kids for your ball.  The price is right, the care is good, and the convenience is awesome.


This is one area where the cost can quickly get out of hand.  Now, don’t go telling your wife that I said this, but there is no reason to spend a ton of money on a fancy hairdo, manicure, pedicure, etc.  If you have the money in your budget, go ahead and splurge.  If you don’t have the cash on hand, restrain yourself and save up so that you will have the cash next time.  Honestly, you’re not going to remember your pedicure two years from now.  Definitely a want and not a need.


Drinks from the bar at a ball are notoriously expensive.  Try to satisfy yourself with the provided beverages, or at least ration yourself on the expensive items.  This is not the right time to be ordering the fanciest cocktails, as the markup will be stupendous.  I usually reward myself with a nice bottle of something at home later in the evening.

There is no way to eliminate all the costs of military balls, and they are a great way to build camaraderie, honor military traditions and have a little fun.  However, keeping the cost under wraps is a good way to make sure you have good memories when the event is over.

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.
  • H.Moss

    PapA1. What is the real story on Tricare for life.

  • Cristina

    Military Balls can be expensive. As for the uniform, every service member that recieves a clothing allowance annually should have the required uniform for the ball. Most of the balls I have attended make childcare arrangements for those that need it. I know that our command does do fundraisers to lower the ticket price of the ball, but unfortunately most of the service members do not want to participate in the fundraisers and yet complain about the costs of the tickets. The Balls are not a new event for military service members and prior proper planning will allow for each and every service member to enjoy spending time celebrating their service and fellow service members.

  • Cherie

    Check your local ross, 2 years in a row I got a steal on 2 dresses…one was $ 20, and the other was $ 5. Brands new, with no alterations, and cheap…even if you had to adjust it a bit would still be cheaper. Marshall s

  • Cherie

    Sorry,…marshals, tj max, ross, ect..goood deals, but a lil hunting goes a long way. Shes right it all adds up, and quickly.!